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  We are here: News - Bee Buzz | Bees a lifeline of agriculture

I first came across the word bees in my kindergarten at about five years in one of the nursery rhythms that has stuck in my head up to now. However, the song was only praising the sweetness of the honey of the bee. I also learnt in my early primary years about pollination in plants by insects. At that time I didn't actually know that bees are the workhorses of the insect world. By transferring pollen from one plant to another, bees ensure the next generation of the fruits, nuts, vegetables, and wildflowers we so enjoy. Albert Einstein is quoted to have said, "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left." Majority of fruits, nuts, vegetable varieties, that we eat require some insect-usually bees-for pollination.

The populace across the globe; from Africa to Europe, America to Asia and so forth engage in tilling the ground and planting preferred plants. We know that the soils must be fertile, the climate conducive and farmlands must be well tended for crops to grow. However, for many of these crops seeds and fruits can only form with the priceless work of the bees.

African Development Bank Group reported in may 2013 that agriculture contributes close to one third of the continent’s GDP and employs 65 to 70 per cent of its population. This makes agriculture without doubt, a critical lever in efforts to create more inclusive growth in Africa. The sector has enormous transformative potential. Africa is endowed with a wide diversity of agro-ecological zones, creating vast potential for agricultural products in both domestic and external markets. Sub-Saharan Africa has about half of the world's uncultivated land as well as vast reserves of untapped water, making it suitable for a large expansion of the sector, particularly as global and continental demand for food and agricultural products soars.

According to Kofi A. Annan, the board chair for Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), in the Africa Agriculture status report 2013-the world faces a major agricultural challenge. He stressed that over the next few decades, we must find ways to deliver nutritious, safe, and affordable food to a growing global population that is projected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. Stress on our land and water, increase in soil degradation, salinization of irrigated areas, migration of youth to urban areas, climate changes, are among the many risks that are negatively affecting the agricultural production potential in many countries around the world. The need for a comprehensive solution to global food and nutritional security is urgent.

The environmental stresses are also taking a toll on the life of honeybees whose principal role is not in the production of honey and beeswax, as is commonly supposed, but in the pollination of agricultural crops for the production of seed and fruit. Without these insects to effect pollination, many species of plants will not set seed or produce fruit no matter how well they are cultivated, fertilized, and protected from diseases and pests.

Until recently honeybees are starting to receive the attention they so much deserved before even man came to live on planet earth; for his life wouldn't be possible without the guarantee of perpetuation of flowering plants (his main source of nourishment) which the honeybees faithfully enforce. Of course this has happened due to reduction of wild bee colonies as man clears the wild for modern habitation and other economic activities.

In the west for example, the burden of pollination has been increased to such an extent that wild bees are no longer adequate or dependable, particularly where agriculture is highly developed. In many places the depletion of wild pollinators is so acute that honeybees have to be brought in especially for pollination, and so in practically all agricultural areas honeybees are now the most numerous of the flower-visiting insects. However, this is not so in Africa though we seem to be headed there if the current trend of forest cover clearance persists.

In Africa, a renewed focus on agriculture has been evident in policy and development agendas across the African continent. The good news also is that increasingly knowledge has been generated on the inter-linkages the honeybees have with a flourishing agricultural sector. More and more national agriculture / natural resources ministries and development partners are waking up to the call to support domestication of bees and developing policies for the beekeeping sector. The private sector is also investing more and more in beekeeping though primarily for the primary bee products (honey and beeswax). These are good steps in the right direction since each passing day the wild bee colonies are disappearing.

Finally African countries are giving greater priority to agricultural development. The African Union (AU), through its New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), is providing leadership and support via NEPAD's Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). Through this program AU is encouraging countries to develop investment plans and to allocate at least 10% of their annual national budgets to agriculture. If a portion of this budget is directed to bee causes, this will be commendable and well deserved tribute to our partner in well nourished lives - the honeybee.

REFERENCES: Africa Agriculture Status Report 2013, Focus On Staple Crops by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA); Developing African agriculture for the continents inclusive growth by African Development Bank Group (www.afdb.org); The Dependence Of Agriculture On The Beekeeping Industry by United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Administration Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine — A REVIEW Prepared by the Division of Bee Culture

 
   
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