Ghana hosts FAO’s Stingless Bee Project

FAOThe Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) is partnering sister institutions to use bees to enhance crop yield and improve the nutritional quality of crops in Ghana and six other countries.

Kenya, South Africa, Nepal, Pakistan, India and Brazil are the other beneficiaries under the project named: “Global Pollination Project”.

It is being piloted in Ghana for replication in the other countries.

Ghana is hosting the project at the International Stingless Bees Centre, (ISBC) at Abrafo, Cape Coast, in the Central Region. It is the first of its kind in Africa, and one of three across the world.

Currently, the ISBC has 12 different types of stingless bees, four of which are commercialised and cultured at the ISBC. The bees’ three major products are stingless bee honey, stingless bee pollen and stingless bee propolis.

Their prices are equated to that of Gold on the world market.

Born out of a travel experience to Brazil in the year 2002, the centre was founded by Professor Peter Kwapong, in 2005, with funding from CSFund, California, United States of America.

“What stimulated my interest to undertake research on stingless bees when l came back to Ghana was because the climate of Brazil is similar to that of Ghana, Prof Kwapong said.

“I was also fascinated by the medicinal value of the products of these stingless bees,” Prof Kwapong, a professor of Entomology at the University OF Cape Coast, told the Ghana News Agency in an interview, at Cape Coast.

He said research conducted on these stingless bees had proven that their honey contained natural sugar, antibiotics, protein and amino acid, which could cure more than 100 diseases.

Asthma, cold, flu, eye infections, chest pains, diabetic wounds, burns from fire are among the sicknesses it can cure.

Prof Kwapong said he had the opportunity in the year 2000 to further his studies in Bee Ecology at the Arizona University, in US.

Whilst in school, he overhead the Americans complaining about their bees dying and the need to protect them. This culminated in formation the American Pollinators Protection Campaign, aimed at conserving the bees.

When he returned to Africa, along with two other Africans from Kenya and South Africa, who undertook the same studies in Arizona, Prof Kwapong decided to form the African Pollinators Initiative.

Today, different Pollinators initiatives have been formed around the world such as the British Pollinators Initiative, Brazilians Pollinators Initiative, European Pollinators Initiative and the Australian Pollinators Initiative, to conserve bees, forest and increase agricultural outputs around the world.

The entire programme is being funded by United Nations Environment Programme-JEF and coordinated by the FAO.

Prior to the establishment of the ISBC, Prof Kwapong, along with three of his postgraduate students – two of which were PhD students and a Master’s Degree student, teamed up and contacted the communities around the Kakum National Park where the bees reside and started training five communities within the locality on how to keep stingless bees.

Having won the interest of the farmers, Prof Kwapong and his team went to the Kakum Park area in search of the stingless bees. When they found them, they brought them to the centre and developed appropriate wooden hiving facilities for them to be transferred to the ISBC to be cultured and commercialised.

“Initial works on the bees, however, came with huge challenges and losses but through research, all of these problems have been resolved,” he said.

The ISBC has a record of all its bees, which have been fully established and stabilised, and their products are being harvested.

Prof Kwapong said the stingless bees offered three essential products, which were medicinal and useful to the local communities around.

As a research and development institution, the ISBC provides training for indigenous bee farmers as alternative means of livelihood and also serves as an eco-tourism centre.

Since the inception of the ISBC, it has undertaken many research works into what promote and obstruct the growth of the bees as well as how to develop their products more profitably.

It has passed on this knowledge to the local bee farmers to enhance the way they keep these bees in order to generate more income to sustain their livelihoods.

Meanwhile, many local and international researchers come to the ISBC for various research work on Stingless bees.

As a result, the Centre is able to get data or information to improve its activities.

As part of the training that Prof Kwapong and his team provide to the farmers, they teach the farmers best farming practices to conserve the forest by way of avoiding deforestation, bush burning and improper application of pesticides, which are major threats to the bees and other wild life.

The ISBC also educates farmers and the public on the importance of bees to forest conservation.

The Kakum National Park ISBC, which are a few meters apart, work hand in hand to provide visitors or tourists fun and in-depth knowledge of the eco-forest and the essence of the bees to food production and forest conservation.

The most spectacular thing about the bees at the ISBC is that they feed on cassava hedgerows.

“They can swarm your face and hands as a defensive mechanism to ward you off their territory but they don’t sting,” Prof Kwapong said.

Another way in which stingless bees are distinctive from the conventional bees is that they store their honey in pots instead of combs. The stingless bees are very friendly and they can be visited in their colonies at any time of the day.

Unlike stinging bees’ the honey produced by stingless bees are lighter in viscosity and doesn’t taste too sweet because of the raisins they add from plants.

Prof Kwapong said if the Government and policy makers would take up some of the best farming practices they are teaching their farmers for mainstreaming it into Agriculture as a policy, Ghana’s Agriculture would take a new leap.

Source: GNA

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