Welcoming bees to farms and orchards boosts harvests through pollination. Honey, beeswax and propolis store and sell well. Beekeeping makes the difference that sustains farmers and their families.
Farming for export brings in cash. But all too often it uproots local farming, threatening food security and biodiversity. Growing nuts or fruit for distant markets is risky. Smallholders have no say on the price.
They have made a big investment. The revenues they were projecting at the time of planting are out of reach by when they gather their first harvest.
Orchards need upkeep, so there is less labour and land to grow vegetables and staples. Many small orchards add up to vast monoculture plantations – where, in the absence of nature’s checks and balances, pests and disease can devastate livelihoods at scale.
BfD work in Ghana reduces the risks and problems associated with cashew and citrus farming – increasing yields, diversifying farmers’ income and strengthening livelihoods.
Looking back on a long history as a major exporter of cocoa, Ghana has continued to develop its offering of agricultural commodities to the world.
Cashew trees were introduced in the 1960s. 15 metric tonnes of nuts were exported in 1991, 3571 in 1997, and about 110’000 in 2018. It has been a success story, with an ever more important part for bees to play as the stakes get higher.
In 2012, Kwame Aidoo along with researchers and farmers in Benin and Cote D’Ivoire compared yields from cashew orchards with and without bees, as well as before and after their introduction. Nut yields were up to 212% higher with bees.
The results were so encouraging we launched a project to turn cashew farmers into beekeepers in the Wenchi and Techiman municipalities.
BfdG has trained six (6) master beekeepers who are now mentoring over 180 cashew farmers. A total of 185 orchards in the districts are now home to managed honey bee colonies – producing over 4 tonnes of honey a year.
Saving citrus growers
Bees for development is adapting the model to help citrus growers in Abura-Asebu-Kwamankase district of the central region, Ghana. About 10 to 20 years ago, two processing centres for juicing and essential oil extraction had just been set up and running.
Even a relatively small orchard could generate enough cash income to cover health insurance and schooling costs for the average family, and help ensure there was enough to eat year round.
Today the same orchard, and thousands like it, have become a burden. The processing plants shut down 5 years ago. At current prices, revenues hardly cover input and labour costs.
Joshua started keeping bees amongst his orange trees a few years back and now manages 14 colonies. He harvested almost 200kg of golden honey over the past year and had no trouble selling it, making over 1000 GHC.
Citrus blossoms provide plenty of excellent bee forage, and the resulting honey is highly sought after.
With the help of Joshua and other specially trained lead beekeepers, BfD Ghana has introduced 150 citrus farmers to beekeeping – providing an alternative income and mitigating the risks of fruit farming.