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Why let our honey go to such waste?

24th January 2012
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Editorial cartoon

Reports that over 40 per cent of the natural honey harvested in Tanzania goes to waste owing to problems with preservation are, to put it mildly, sad and dismaying.

Considering the decades of experience the country has in beekeeping, it is hard to understand why it should be producing a lowly 3.5 per cent of the honey and beeswax it is capable of producing – that is, a yearly 4,800 tonnes of the former instead of 138,000 and 324 tonnes of the latter instead of 9,200.

The situation is especially distressing in that we have in place national policies on a wide array of sectors related to the natural resources our country is endowed with, from forestry to fisheries, wildlife, minerals, the environment, beekeeping itself and the like.

Official records show that the beekeeping sector in Tanzania was for decades managed without a policy since 1949 when it was established as a department under the Agriculture ministry.

But we have since March 1998 had a policy in place, initially prepared as part of a much more comprehensive National Forestry Policy and also having a direct link with the National Environment Policy.

We are told that the plan has always been to modernise beekeeping practices, with a view to maximising honey and beeswax production, and boosting export earnings from the sales of the two items but while ensuring environmental sustainability.

It is also noted that the continued existence of the non-stinging or stingless honeybees, which are famous for producing high quality honey hugely popular for its medicinal values, is threatened by factors like chemical poisoning (especially pesticides), land clearing for agricultural and industrial development, and increased world market demand for honey.

Like all national policies linked to development sectors, the policy on beekeeping is in part meant to help combat poverty and deprivation in order to improve people’s welfare, and to ensure the country maintains an environmentally sustainable development path.

So, it is confirmed that beekeeping could play a much bigger role in Tanzania’s social and economic development and environmental conservation than has happened until now currently.  It is a proven source of food, and it provides raw materials for the production of medicine and for use in various other industries.

 

The sub-sector is without doubt a dependable source of source of employment, thus providing much-needed income to the people as well as supporting ecotourism and serving the country as a foreign exchange earner. 

 

Now read this, from the government’s own website: “International markets for honey and beeswax are highly competitive in terms of quality.  In 1991 Tanzanian honey won by 100 per cent the Quality Test for organic Honey in UK.”

One wonders why we have failed to build on the superb record and, in the process, capitalise on the noticeable rise in local and international demand for the two products recent years have witnessed but are instead letting the industry crumble under the weight of problems we could have solved or prevented with relative ease.

It’s already years late, but the relevant authorities need to spare the nation further blushes by put things back on track.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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