One of the highly profitable enterprises with strong pro-poor credentials, and is much less labour and capital intensive is beekeeping – far more than other many enterprises you can think of. This activity with huge potential for very poor people and the unemployed youth is not being accessed or taking advantaged by the these same people.
Despite Ghana and most African countries having one of the best climatic conditions suitable for beekeeping and honey production, the country imports more than 600 tonnes of honey worth millions of cedis every month – 7200 + tons a year.
Data from the Federation of Ghana Bee Keepers Association (FGBA) showed that although about 70 per cent of the Ghana’s vegetation supported beekeeping, more than 60 per cent of honey consumed or for manufacturing purposes were sourced from foreign markets, including Burkina Faso.
According to the federation, the situation was mainly attributable to the increasing demand for honey on the local market and failure on the part of local producers to match the demand.
It attributed the failure to the lack of adequate resources and inputs at the disposal of local industry players, owing to the absence of credit schemes and policy direction to propel them to produce in commercial quantities.
Bees for Development Ghana (BfdG), an organization championing the development of the beekeeping sector, also attribute this failure to lack knowledge and skills on beekeeping.
BfdG since 2017 are trying to train as many people as possible but they lack the financial resources to meet the increasing demand for knowledge and skills acquisition as well as start up kits.
Currently, BfdG has five livelihood projects running across the country reaching 1000 direct beneficiaries – working with cashew farmers in Bono and Bono East regions, citrus farmers in central region, honey hunters in Eastern region, school children in Bono, Bono East and Eastern regions, Diplomatic missions in Accra.
This, perhaps, summarises the extent to which Ghana’s beekeeping and honey industry has been neglected over the years in spite of the sector’s lucrativeness and huge economic potential.
The FGBA has estimated Ghana’s honey potential to be at 500,000 tonnes per annum, worth about $1.5 billion.
Local players have for years failed to fully exploit this huge potential, accounting for only 5000 tonnes per annum due to limited capacity.
With the increasing demand for honey in Europe and Asia, whose bees are endangered due to environmental challenges and industrialisation, the competitive search for organic honey in other areas has increased drastically.
In 2011, the European Union (EU) certified Ghana to join other African countries accredited to export honey to the EU market.
This implied that the international market for honey had expanded and Ghana was expected to meet the supply gap by increasing the volume of trade and quality of production.
Eight years after the certification, not a single ton of honey from Ghana has entered the juicy EU market, with local producers even struggling to meet the local demand, according to the FGBA.
Following a big demand for honey in Turkey, a Turkish company, Helal Aricilik, arrived in the country in 2014 and had requested a total of 150,000 tonnes of honey per shipment regarding a broker deal with the Ghana Exports Promotion Centre.
Due to capacity challenges, the demand was slashed to 25,000 tonnes per month, a decrement that has since not been met by local producers over same capacity issues, leaving the opportunity to hang for years.
The beekeeping sector has the potential to deal with the unemployment situation in Ghana. In an interview with a final year student of the Valley View University, Techiman Campus, Stephen Adu told us, “beekeeping is 100 percent profit on investment”. He believes every unemployed youth should start beekeeping immediately.
He said “I always tell my friends and young people I meet to start beekeeping. I have just invited one of my friends who did his national service at University of Cape Coast to come and learn beekeeping from me. He is currently with me here in Tuobodom.”
“I currently leading over 40 cashew farmers in five communities in Bono and Bono East regions to keep bees … I am managing almost 200 colonies. I have also personally trained another friend at Sunyani and he currently managing 15 colonies,” Stephen added.
Total neglect by Government?
In 2017, the Ghana Bee keepers Association requested for a GH¢1.62 stimulus package from the government to implement its five-year development programme to revamp the ailing industry.
Under the programme, the association intended to inject about 480,000 new beehives which would have translated into 3.6 million kilogrammes of honey over the five-year period.
According to industry players, the request had since not been honoured by authorities, leaving them to rely on their scanty investments to produce on a smaller scale.
In an interview, the Executive Director of the FGBA, Mr. Solomon Wakemeh, said the federation had since 2014, trained over 2000 people in beekeeping but none had adopted the profession because “we have not been able to provide them with the necessary inputs”.
“It is surprising that a country that is struggling with teeming youth employment has failed to take advantage of the abundant opportunities in this sector, which can offer employment to hundreds of people,” he stated.
Fortunately, Bees for development Ghana can confidently say almost 100 percent of people they have trained so far are keeping bees. From our investigation BfdG has the best model when it comes to project implementation which we believe need more support to do more. We urge every organisation, institutions or individuals who are interested in investing in the sector or who want to support them [BfdG] to reach out to more people to contact them immediately.
As the government intends to industrialise and add value to the country’s resources through its One-District, One-Factory initiative, it is important that attention is given to the honey production industry.
There is also the need for intensive research in the area to ascertain the worth of the industry to guide the enactment of a comprehensive policy to revamp the sector.
It is noteworthy that it would be difficult to convince investors to channel resources into the sector if there is no comprehensive value for money analysis available to win their trust.
myaimreport.com urges policy makers to reach out to Bees for development Ghana since they have the expertise when it comes beekeeping.
Finally we believe this the time to invest heavily into the beekeeping sector to take advantage of the huge opportunities in the sector and also deal with the unemployment problem in the country. Ghana has a competitive advantage to produce more and earn more foreign exchange from export of bee twin products, honey and beeswax.