Arriving at Yambio airstrip I was welcomed first by a honeybee, Brain Mugisha, FAO training Consultant remarked.
Like cassava leave is to the Zande people of Western Equatoria in South Sudan, Honey is the staple food of the honeybee larvae. The rich and diverse vegetation in western Equatoria provides a conducive environment for the honeybee to flourish at an incredible rate. The golden insect is at its natural advantage in the region to produce man’s sweetest food – honey. Bee farming potential in the region is so high, and if well harnessed can lead to an economic turnaround to many people in this part of the country, Mugisha said.
On the 3rd -7th of May 2019, the FAO training consultant conducted a five-day training on modern beekeeping practices and construction of low-cost beehives in Yambio to 25 beekeeping farmers. This training aimed to boost honey production as part of the enterprise development component under the Sustainable Agriculture For Economic Resiliency (SAFER) project. SAFER is a USAID funded and FAO supported development-oriented project implemented by Star Trust Organization in Yambio, Nzara, and Tambura focusing on economic recovery through improvement in agriculture production and productivity. The low-cost beehive is to the farmers a startup package for them to engage in the enterprise. The region is known for its traditional beekeeping and bee hunting practices. Most farmers use traditional techniques to construct beehives normally from the bark of trees whose produces are usually contaminated with foreign matters and also while harvesting most of the bees are killed in the process.
Talking to one of the trainees, Celina Gbama, a beneficiary from the Mborisa Beekeeping group, she was quick to mention the modern beekeeping knowledge that she has got from the training, “we have been trained in better beekeeping methods and techniques, how to produce good quality honey, and I know the threats that my beehives are exposed to, knowledge that I did not have before this training. We have practically been trained to prepare our own beehives that meet modern quality from local materials. And I can assure you that we are going to produce high-quality honey henceforth”. This training has sparked innovation in the minds of most of the participants who now can identify so many local materials to prepare their own hives. Some of the materials used included cow dung, bamboos, and anthills among other local and available materials.
Celina was not the only one to express such optimism, Lidia a beneficiary from Bazumburu, Nabakpa group, expressed with equal excitement how she will be replicating this skill with members of her group and went on to proudly say, “I can now produce quality honey that can even be exported to other countries. Beekeeping enterprise is low investment venture that is going to help us develop the economy of this country easily as we shall be paying our children to better schools”. Talking to other women, Lidia went on to say, “more women should join the beekeeping enterprise because economic empowerment is important to achieve gender equality”.
Adriano Ragohongo a beneficiary from Source Yubu was so thankful for the training. “I have been hunting and harvesting honey since childhood, it has been a source of my livelihood. I pay my children to school through honey. This training is very important for me and my group members, the skills I have acquired are quite unique, there are insects that are destructive to bees now I can identify and control them easily. The beehive that we have been trained to construct is so simple and I am going to take all these skills to train all my group members and members of my community as well so that we can produce enough quality honey for the market”.
Beekeeping is what I know to talk and think about said Mr. Brain Mugisha while inspecting the trainees practising beehive constructions. “I have trained so many people in South Sudan but there is something unique about this team, you can see them yearning for more information, the interest and the ego are just too high. I think this was just the right class and I am looking forward to seeing what they will do in the future. We have done all that is required for the production of high-quality honey. And we have resolved with the group to shoot up production by 5 metric ton come March 2020. By September, talking about the 25 trainees they would have constructed 5 beehives each
Talking of market linkages, Mr. Mugisha said, there are quite a number of market linkages. The constraints are in the low production and compromised quality, given we have addressed these, the market opportunities are so high. Mr. Mugisha believes that should the farmers implement the training properly, this will set the precedence of how beekeeping can work in South Sudan, and how it can impact the economy of the country.
During the closing ceremony, Mr. Waheed Jamshad, the FAO Value Chain expert, dramatized the partnership between FAO/STO and the farmers, by questioning the farmers, showing a handshake to symbolize friendship/partnership or pointing a hand showing begging to symbolize giving everything freely. And the trainees all accepted the handshake as the relationship that is existing between FAO/STO and the farmers. He went further to say if the farmers do not make the first step, FAO/STO cannot take the second step forward.
Mr. Louis Bagare, the FAO Area Coordinator in Western Equatoria, remarked on the training as ideal for the participant because it was practical skills transfer. He acclaimed the product of the honey that came out of the training that it was of better quality than what he knows from around. This was a Trainer of Trainees (ToT) five days training, which is to be replicated to the rest of the group members, he said. Committing the continuous support to the groups he said, FAO will continue working with the beekeeping farmers to enhance their productions and quality of their honey and a follow-up to other counties will soon be planned to ensure that the skills have been replicated accordingly.
At the closing ceremony, was Samuel Simon Zingizo, the Director General for Livestock and Fisheries Development, at the State Ministry of Agriculture Forestry, (SMAF) Gbudue State. “It is the first of its kind to see beekeepers in such great numbers from the two sister’s states of Gbudue and Tambura. These states have high potentials of beekeeping enterprise”, he said. Talking on behalf of the government he went on to say, “it is the priority of the government to change the livelihood of its people, beekeeping is one of the lucrative, and easy to manage enterprise, this skills should be translated into actions so that the farmers can produce high-quality honey that can even attract foreign investors”.
Beekeeping enterprise has a wide range of products, known for both its nutritional value as well as medicinal properties that include, honey, beeswax, propolis, pollen, royal jelly, and Bee Venom.