Being sustainable means finding ways to use local resources more efficiently, it also means protecting the natural habitats and diversity of species that share our planet and life all around us. Heifer International South Africa (Heifer) is committed to being part of that effort. Heifer works alongside rural impoverished communities to bring diverse perspectives to agriculture to develop creative and effective solutions to combating poverty and hunger. Heifer works with small scale farmers to produce sustainable farming practices, enabling them to produce food and preserve the natural ecosystem. Practices implemented on farms conserve resources to protect the land and promote biodiversity where they live and farm.
Honey bees are imperative to the food supply. Bees pollinate more than one-third of the world’s crops. These small insects have a big responsibility pollinating the fruits, vegetables and nuts, increasing food security for the family farm. Honey has a good energetic, tasty and nutritional value and contributes to the overall health of the family farm. Bees do not require feeding and only need a source of clean and portable water. Bees can forage in wild, cultivated and even land mined areas as well as in arid areas. Bees are one of the few enterprises that can provide farm families with needed food and income.
Beekeeping has been in practice in the Blouberg Integrated Food Security and Household Farming Project since 2013, the project aims at improving the food and income security of 2100 families in Blouberg Local Municipality, Capricorn District Limpopo Province, with 30 of the 2100 farmers becoming involved in beekeeping. Beekeeping shall provide a positive impact with the overall progress of the Blouberg small-scale farming system. Since bees do not require much land to be owned, soil fertility is not important. They forage on unused natural resources such as nectar and pollen. Beekeeping does not compete for other resources needed by livestock and crops. They complement crops with their pollination of farmed crops and this in turn can increase crop yields. One hive of bees per small holder farmer can produce roughly 24kgs of raw honey as well as beekeeping is probably the only form of agriculture with a positive impact on the natural environment. It is a valuable conservation tool allowing people to derive economic benefit from indigenous forests and other floral resources in a non-destructive way, ensuring local participation in conservation efforts. Usually a honeybee can visit between 50 to 1000 flowers in one trip, which takes between 30 minutes to 4 hours and a colony with 25 000 forager bees, each making 10 trips a day is able to pollinate 250 million flowers (FAO,2009).
Bees provide numerous benefits to the natural environment and play an important role in its sustainability. The role of this small ‘wonder’ is not readily recognized, even though they are needed for the pollination of many crops and for maintaining biodiversity. Bees are quite valuable as they are able to contribute to the successes of agriculture. Without them, farmers would be at a great loss. Since the mid 1990’s bees have being dying of in droves around the world. Colonies have been mysteriously collapsing with adult bees disappearing and abandoning their hives. Colony collapse is likely to be caused by a variety of interacting factors, including pathogens, loss of habitat and increased exposure to systematic and other pesticides. Current regulations do not provide adequate protection for bees, but a groundswell of good citizens and small scale farmers with help from Heifer is building to protect bees.
Join the movement, take a pledge to provide and protect honey bee heaven by donating the gift of honey bees to small scale impoverished farmers.