Conservation & environment

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Conservation & environment

Bees are some of nature's most fascinating creatures, they are also incredibly important. Their intimate dependency relationship with plants makes bees a crucial component of successful ecosystems the world over. As primary producers, plants are fundamental to life. Plants provide the basis of the food chain for all creatures as well as providing shelter, protection and nesting sites. People utilise plant based natural resources for food, fuel, shelter, useful materials and commercial gain. Plants maintain watersheds, prevent soil erosion and are a factor in climatic stability. Pollination is therefore essential for agriculture and environmental management and a variety of pollinators are required to maintain reproduction across a broad spectrum of flowering plant species. In their turn the pollinators require protection of the plants on which their life depends and the habitats within which these plants grow. The greatest threat to pollinators is unrestrained habitat destruction, degradation or pollution.

Beekeeping can play a role in the conservation of forests and natural systems. The flowers of forest trees are the primary food of honey bees in many parts of the tropics. For example miombo forests in east and central Africa support many hundreds and thousands of bee colonies and traditional beekeeping is widespread and successful throughout the miombo zone. Yet miombo woodlands are under threat from land conversion and the charcoal industry and deforestation is rampant. Beekeeping provides local communities with an economic incentive to protect the woodlands and, where they have the opportunity to do so, local people can be encouraged to engage in conservation projects. 

Image©Primo Masotti

When bee farmers preserve or protect established forest they also preserve fragile soils from erosion and land slippage, they support natural watershed management and become a factor in the protection of forest biodiversity. Indigenous tree planting or agroforestry techniques designed to maximise a honey crop can also help to establish new forest areas or encourage the uptake of environmentally sensitive methods of multipurpose agroforestry or farming. Beekeeping projects often link beekeeping training with environmental training and tree planting.

Bees are under threat and need to be conserved. They are threatened by habitat destruction and killed by environmental pollution, pesticides in particular. In some parts of the world indigenous bee species are threatened by the importation of alien species which compete for food and dilute their genetic integrity.

North Western Bee Products is a successful honey trading business in Zambia, exporting honey to the UK. Every jar of honey sold makes a contribution to the beekeepers family, to the survival of their way of life and the preservation of the forest on which they depend. For forests to be preserved it is essential that local people benefit from them by obtaining economic harvests. Successful, non-destructive economic exploitation of an environment will lead to producers gaining a voice in the protection of their local natural resources and equally importantly, a say in the development of government policy which has to balance the needs of a range of sometimes conflicting land users.

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  • Language English
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  • Author Bees for Development
  • Publisher Bees for Development
  • Published Date October 2016
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