Bees crucial for ecological balance

A bee-keeper checks a honeycomb. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Data indicates that Tanzania is the 14th country for beekeeping worldwide and the 2nd in Africa, with the capacity to produce over 138,000 tons of honey and 9,200 tons of beeswax annually.

One of the sweetest products on earth is honey. Traditionally in Tanga, it was a must product in the house; among its many uses, it was for applying to a wound if one was hurt. In the good old days, in the rural setting, almost every household had a beehive somewhere in the forest or woodlots. It was a cherished tradition to harvest honey from these hives occasionally. However, as children, we used to be warned to keep our distance from those hives because a provoked bee could deliver a painful sting.

In Dar es Salaam, various people are selling honey labeled 'Asali Kutoka Tabora' translated as 'Honey from Tabora', although they could be from elsewhere. But I can assure you honey from Usambara Mountains and Tanga region as a whole can be ranked the best. Yes, always your mothers' food is the best. And someone good enough will take bee honey and other products from to the world. Sorry, a story for another day.

As kids, little did we realize just how vital bees are to the well-being of our Mother Earth as far as the ecological balance. Later we learnt that bees are responsible for pollinating countless plant species that make up the rich tapestry of our geographical landscapes. Food security is attained and the little heroes play a crucial role!

We never appreciate many things, like the hard work done by bees. They are the silent architects of biodiversity, ensuring the survival and propagation of flora that sustains their species and countless others, including human beings. Every time a bee delicately flits from flower to flower, collecting nectar and inadvertently transferring pollen, it facilitates fertilization and birth to new life.

Yes, although we have other pollinators like birds and butterflies but bees are considered the most active and efficient one. No wonder in 2018, UN General Assembly declared May 20th as the ‘World Bee Day’. The purpose is to raise awareness about bees and other pollinators as they have been declining despite their great role in the ecosystem. Let’s promote activities that will protect and enhance pollinators and their habitats.

In Tanzania, The World Bee Day celebrations is held in Singida between May 18 to 21, Acting Assistant Director of Beekeeping Development Daniel Pancras highlighted the importance of promoting pollinator-friendly agricultural practices that protect bees and other pollinators while ensuring the resilience, sustainability, and efficiency of agri-food systems. The theme for this year is “Bee engaged in pollinator-friendly agricultural production.”

Data indicates that Tanzania is the 14th country for beekeeping worldwide and the 2nd in Africa, with the capacity to produce over 138,000 tons of honey and 9,200 tons of beeswax annually. Yet, the fate of these humble creatures hangs in the balance. Modernization and the ever-expanding human footprint have taken a toll on our natural landscapes, encroaching upon the habitats that bees depend on for survival. Pesticides and harmful chemicals, unleashed in the name of progress, poison the air they breathe and the flowers they rely on for sustenance.

As inhabitants of this magnificent planet, we have to protect bees and their invaluable contributions. We must rally behind initiatives promoting sustainable agriculture, safeguarding natural habitats, and banning harmful substances that endanger these active pollinators. Our geographical heritage, ecosystems, and very existence depend on it.

As Tanzania aspires to be a global food security hub, the beekeeping subsector's elevation is imperative. Recognizing the crucial role of bees as pollinators and the immense benefits of a thriving beekeeping industry, Tanzania must invest in raising awareness, conducting research, providing support and resources, and fostering collaboration. As a nation, we should work hard to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future, and the sweet hum of bees should harmonise with the abundance of our agricultural landscapes.