Disappointed citrus farmers in A. A. K. district trained to produce honey from bees

A three-day intensive workshop has been organized by Bees for development Ghana (BfdG) for citrus farmers in the Abura-Asebu-Kwamankese (AAK) district, Central Region of Ghana. BfdG is a charity organization using bees to better the livelihoods of poor people in deprived areas in Ghana.

One hundred (100) citrus farmers from ten (11) communities in the A. A. K. district have been trained in beekeeping to earn additional income for their respective families. The communities which benefited from this benevolence of BfdG includes Ahonfie, Apaakrom, Kroforodo, Asebu Ebu, Asuansi, Egyirkrom, Kwekutu, Musunkwa, New Ebu, Nyamedom and Pra-Ewusi.

One of the most important fruit crops grown by rural people in southern Ghana is citrus, mainly in the form of oranges, lime and lemon. The crop is mainly cultivated in many parts of A. A. K. District where climatic conditions are mostly favourable. Citrus crops are therefore the major sources of income for the rural communities of the district.

There are about 10,000 farmers organized under a co-operative system of management with a total citrus farm size of 46,000 acres in the district producing about 1,288,000 tons of fruits annually.

In 2009, 11,028 metric tonnes of fresh oranges were exported to neighbouring countries of Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Togo, generating US$ 875,000 to the country (MoFA, 2011). The volume of oranges exported however declined by 25.3% in 2010. The corresponding foreign exchange also dropped from US$ 875,000 in 2009 to US$ 654,000 in 2010 (MoFA, 2011).

About two or three decades ago, the crop used to be the major source of income for paying children’s school fees and providing other needs of households. This was because many farmers in the district earned good income from the sales of citrus fruits.

The decline in production has continued in the last decade, so is the livelihoods of thousands of farmers who engage in its cultivation. The drop in citrus production in the district is attributable to several factors.

The major challenge to the producers is the marketing of the fruits. Farmers are offered very low prices such that at the end of the fruiting season their total incomes fall below farm input costs. High cost of farm maintenance in the forms of hired labour for weed control, tree pruning and infestation of fruit flies confront producers.

Berg (2012) reported in a Central Press News article that, citrus farmers in the Central Region’s Abura-Asebu-Kwamankese District see overabundance of citrus fruits as not a gift or blessing, but a burden. As a result many farmers have abandoned their farms or have replaced their citrus trees with low earning food crops such as cassava and maize.

Bees for Development Ghana saw an opportunity in this situation and believed something could be done to better the livelihood of the people in the area. As a result they introduced a project called Citrus, Bees and Livelihood to provide an alternative income for the citrus farmers.

According to the Director of BfdG, Dr K. Aidoo, they were touched by the current situation of citrus farmers in the area and decided to offer some assistance.

He said, “Once I was travelling through the A. A. K. district and I saw heaps of rotten oranges by the road side. When I stopped to ask why I was told there were no buyers for their harvested fruits.”

“Presently, many fruit processing factories in the district which used to buy most of the farmers’ produce have folded up. One of such was the lime oil factory [Fruit & Flavour Ltd] in Asebu which folded up in 2009. Most farmers have therefore expressed worry over the collapse of the citrus processing plants in the district, saying most of the oranges they produce get rotten. This situation has brought untold economic hardships to many families whose livelihoods depended on the citrus crop,” he added.

The participants were schooled on topics like: the bee colonies in natural cavities; wild honey hunting in rural communities; bee colonies in logs near the homestead; development of many different kinds of bee hives; present day beekeeping in the world; resources for Beekeeping in Ghana; importance of bees and beekeeping to the national economy; pollination (Fruit and Seed development); bees and biodiversity conservation and the hive products.

They were also trained on how to build basket bee hives using locally available material for sustainable beekeeping. Many other interesting aspects of beekeeping were discussed and demonstrated for the participants to know exactly what they were going to do at their various communities.

I must say this workshop is one of its kind I have come across in the country. BfdG are doing wonderful job the country in the recent years and need to be commended. They are transforming many livelihoods in Ghana.

At the end of the three-day intensive training workshop, it ended with high hope that the participants were going to make good use of the practical knowledge transferred to them and resolved to dedicate themselves to building upon the knowledge acquired at the workshop.

It is important to state also that participants who had no idea about beekeeping were well motivated and are expected to work hard to start beekeeping after the training.

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