Bees and their products are common in almost all countries of the world and provide sustainable livelihoods to many small-scale and commercial beekeepers and businessmen.
Beekeeping (beekeeping) is the practice of managing honeybee colonies to collect honey for its own consumption and marketing, pollinate crops and collect other products produced in the hives, including beeswax, propolis, pollen and royal jelly, Mr. Zaid. Tekle, chief beekeeper at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), said. There are thousands of subsistence and commercial beekeepers in Eritrea.
Like other communities around the world, Eritrean communities have a long history of collecting honey from the wild or traditionally managed colonies. Honey was so expensive that in the Feudal period tax was paid to landlords in the form of honey.
Commercial wax bee breeding in Eritrea began in a more integrated way after the country’s independence. After the 1998 initiative, a healthy and practical study was started in areas where bee production is suitable for practice. Farmers were introduced to modern and economically efficient beekeeping methods.
MoA launched a campaign to increase honey production in the country by helping farmers with equipment for beekeeping startups. The aim was for each family to have its own bee colony to produce for its own consumption and sell the surplus on the market. In the initial phase, the project faced several setbacks.
After 2000, experts in the field of beekeeping started to be trained and a significant leap was experienced in the sector. The number of beekeepers is increasing after the training and extension services provided to many farmers by the bee breeding centers of the Ministry of Agriculture in different regions of Eritrea. In the last two decades, commercial beekeeping has been developing in Eritrea, both in terms of quality and quantity. According to the MoA, about eight tons of honey is harvested annually in Eritrea.
The MoA specifically encourages beekeeping because hives can be placed anywhere without sacrificing land that can be used for cultivation. Bees collect nectar and pollen wherever they can find it, including wastelands.
“The purpose of bees on our planet is not only to produce honey, but also to cross pollinate and protect nature,” said Mr. Zaid. Only bees use nectar and pollen as a source. Pollination in plants contributes to their maintenance by increasing seed production, increases agricultural production, helps to protect and sustain natural biodiversity. Generally, a honey bee can visit 50 to 1000 flowers in a journey that takes between 30 minutes and four hours. A colony of 25,000 foraging bees, each making 10 trips a day, can pollinate 250 million flowers. All valuable agricultural resources cannot be harvested without bees.
According to Mr. Zaid, there are more than 20,000 bee species in the world, all belonging to the Apoidea superfamily. Most lead a solitary life. However, a few species are social and lead a community life in a colony. The most common “domesticated” honey bees have no more than four to five subspecies known to produce honey, making them well worth protecting. In addition, Apis is the only genus in the subfamily Apinae, common in Eritrea and among its species, Apis mellifera is of the greatest economic importance. These species are widely recognized around the world and most studies are done on them. Among them, Apis mellifera, A. m. scutellata, A. mellifera Yemmentica, A. serrna, A. dorssata, flore. These subfamilies have been found to have certain behavioral and morphological characteristics, and their variations have some implications for beekeeping practices. The MoA regularly conducts research and studies on the species best suited to Eritrea and promotes them to farmers.
According to Zaid Bey, Apis mellifera, one of the honey-producing bees, has been introduced in most parts of the world. This species is of African origin. Another species with economic value in Eritrea is Apis serana. It migrated from the Middle East and can also be found in Europe. This type is limited to these places. Apis dorsata is another bee species found in southern Asia. The fourth species is known by the taxonomic name of flore. Flore is found in Afghanistan and Iran but has migrated to our country in the last seven years. It lives in trees and caves and is difficult to keep in hives.
There are also stingless bees in our country. The bee species known locally as Teqeray is one of them. The species A. mellifera Yemmentica lives on the eastern plains of Eritrea as far as Yemen, but A. m. scutellata is mostly found in the highlands. The most commonly grown bee species in Eritrea are known by the local names “Teqeray” and “Tsgenay”, representing Apis mellifera mentcosa and A. m. The Yemenitica subspecies of the honey bee. Regarding their behavior and morphological characteristics, Mr. Zaid said the former nests on the ground and in large tree nests. It is said that the honey collected from this species is very low compared to the latter. A quarter kilo of honey can be collected from a colony of this species, so Eritrean farmers prefer not to keep Apis mellifera mentcosa. The traditional and most widely cultivated bee species in the highlands is A. mellifera, which is the source of most of the honey in the market.
Eritrea is one of the largest honey-producing countries in Africa and has a favorable climate for beekeeping. The southern region has the most favorable agricultural ecology for beekeeping. A study by MoA revealed that the Tsaeda- Qelay, Endagergish, May-alba, Tserona, Hazemo, Deqi-lefay, Hademti, Mayaini, Qelay-bealtiet, Segheneiti, Ala, Adi-felesti and Areza environments in the Southern region are suitable for beekeeping . However, deforestation that could harm honey production at the national level and the use of chemicals on farms remain a cause for concern. Trees make good places for bees to live and provide wild bees with nesting sites, ample food and shade. For this reason, the protection of existing forests and the enrichment of the environment with various wild vegetation are of great importance for the development of the sector.
Overall, approximately 18,000 traditional and 17,000 registered bee colonies (zero start in 1991) are located in modern frame hives in the country. In addition, there are an estimated thousands of unregistered hives in rural areas. These honeybee colonies are cultivated by over 10,285 farmers across the country.
An increasing number of beekeeper associations are putting their products on the market. An organized way of carrying out the activity is to allow farmers to master market prices, share their experience and provide quality products. Zaid said the MoA regularly conducts research on the behavior and adaptability of certain species in order to increase honey production both in quality and quantity, thereby helping farmers become more economically strong. Based on the results of its research, MoA trains farmers on management and colony separation, inoculation methods and techniques, proper hive construction and seasonal bee colony management practices. The adoption rate of modern beekeeping has been significantly improved after skill development training and appropriate hives have been made.
The content and color of honey is affected by the type of feed the bees extract. Honey can be consumed in the form of table honey, or it can be used to make candies, canned fruit, fruit juices, cakes and baked goods. there is long
It has a very wide usage history. In our communities, a respected guest is given honey and a traditional staple food, “Kicha.” It is also used to make drinks such as Brzi and mies (mead), a drink made from siwa and honey.
Like other bee products, honey is delicious, nutritious and contributes to the overall health of families. In many societies, bee products are used as traditional medicine. Honey is a beneficial source of high carbohydrates and contains a rich variety of minerals, vitamins and others. It improves physical performance, helps develop resistance to fatigue and increases mental efficiency. Bee brood and adult bees containing reasonable amounts of protein are consumed in many countries and are considered catering in some.
Many bee products are of good value in local markets and can be easily traded. Honey requires little input and has good cash value for its weight. Honey is also easy to transport to distant markets. If properly extracted and processed, it can become non-perishable, enabling the product to be sold well beyond the main harvest times. This can provide a steady income for the farmers.
Beekeeping is a fairly easy activity to start, and it can benefit disadvantaged segments of society such as women and the disabled. Also, others such as traders and beehive manufacturers benefit from a strong beekeeping industry. Therefore, beekeeping has the potential to create employment opportunities and help reduce poverty.
In Eritrea, various forms of beekeeping have been practiced for many years in many rural areas. One of MoA’s future goals is to improve honey production by establishing associations, conducting research and training farmers. By promoting beekeeping as a business and improving existing skills, smallholder farmers can develop their knowledge and capacity and increase their productivity.