Interview with Nebart Mtika, Environmental Education Supervisor at LWT, about our bee keeping project.
How did the bee keeping project come about?
Our bee keeping project started in June 2014, developed as one of the solutions to the environmental challenges we are facing, that in turn helps the local communities by generating income. It also aims to teach local communities and school children the importance of conserving bees – how they contribute to the health of people as well as their integral role in ecosystems.
Who is involved?
Lilongwe Wildlife Trust developed the initiative and secured adequate funding from Born Free Foundation and a Global Friends Award to be able to implement the project in partnership with the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary community group, who manage the programme. LWT have previously worked alongside the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary community group in afforestation, fuel briquette and permaculture projects. They have been trained in business management and bee keeping to enable them to possess the skills and knowledge needed in order to run a successful business.
How does it work?
We have hung 10 beehives in the wilderness area of Lilongwe Wildlife Centre and we now have bees occupying the hives. In three months’ time we hope that they will be ready to harvest for honey. Once the honey is harvested, it can be used to feed the group, with their fantastic health benefits, and the surplus can be sold to neighbouring communities and also through the gift shop at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, giving the group a form of income from it.
What has the project done for the awareness of bees?
We have modules taught through LWT that aim to heighten the importance of bees. So, when school group come to visit the centre they we can explain how vital bees are to the environment and food production. Many people do not realise their active and pivotal role in the pollination of a majority of Malawi’s crops, and it’s very rewarding to witness the changing attitudes once they have learnt. We teach these modules on school visits to, to further increase awareness.
Why do you think this is important?
If people do not understand, the bees may head towards extinction due to the use of pesticides and fumigation. Honey is extremely beneficial to human health and a sought after product, and our ecosystem simply cannot function without the work that bees carry out. They are highly active pollinators that activate the production of crops in gardens and in agricultural practices across Malawi. Without bees our biodiversity is in grave danger.
What can people do to help?
There are things that anyone can do to help. Farmers can avoid the use of bee-harming pesticides and the general public can find alternative removal methods for any bees nesting in roofs or gardens. LWT have recently teamed up with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fumigation International Malawi to encourage people to do just that, and are promoting a bee removal service that is actually cheaper than extermination. Through this campaign we hope to spread further the importance of bees and instead inspire people to protect them, as their value to our ecosystem is priceless.