This is one of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) supported initiatives for alternatives to opium production. The video is reported by British Forces News which claims that the initiative is sponsored by Anglo-American. I am not certain whether to be concerned that the US and British military have gotten involved in the agricultural sector but the critical bee situation outweighs any ulterior motive there may (or may not) be. To quote Sami Grover,
“Of course it goes without saying that the “official line” of either the Afghan government on opium production, or the British Army’s reporting on outreach efforts, should not be taken completely at face value.”
However, military involvement that doesn’t seem to be part of any kind of war is also a good thing, but I digress. Each student who attends the beekeeping course held at the Gereschk Agricultural College in the Helmand province gets a starter kit upon completion which consists of a hive and various tools. As reported, there are 17 hives at the College at present and once the number has been built to 75, a cooperative will be established to sell the honey, I’m assuming to process and distribute it too.
One of the other initiatives involves wheat production, and in this case the wheat seed and fertiliser and technical assistance is brought in by the Food Zone, the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team‘s biggest programme. Apparently the farmers are allowed to perpetuate their own crop season after season and only those who have not previously been part of the program are eligible to receive the seed and fertiliser.
These initiatives are all in support of Provincial Governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal‘s programmes intended to eradicate poppy production.
In South Africa we produce about 2000 tons of honey per year with a national demand of 3000 tons means we import from various producing countries, but most obviously from China. China’s honey production is another story for another day. The bee industry is valued at about R4 billion per annum which includes pollination services to crop production, as stated in SABIO‘s (South African Bee Industry Organisation) Environmental Impact article. A similar initiative could well be established in South Africa to mitigate the need to import 1000 tons, as a means of employment and poverty alleviation and perhaps a step in the right direction of bee conservation. Bees Without Borders is an international organisation specialising in education and training, they have done some amazing work and are worthy of patronage. For more about the work they do, access the New York Times article about founder Andrew Coté and his father Norman.
For information about the need for bee conservation, go here.