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The Benefits of Honeybees

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Bee- Image: Forbes

Imagine if all the honey bees in the world disappeared today. We would lose more than just honey. The benefits of honey bees goes beyond providing beeswax and honey.

There are over 20,000 species of bees in the world but it is only the honeybee that makes honey. They are also known for constructing nests for wax, the large size of their colony (each colony has about 60,000 honeybees), and their production and storage of honey.

The honey bee colony consists of the drones, the worker bee, and the queen bee. The worker bees are the largest population in the colony and are responsible for feeding larvae, foraging for pollen and nectar, tending to the queen and the drones and defending the nest for the survival of the colony. Their average lifespan is six weeks.

The queen bee is the only bee that can lay eggs. They lay up to 2,000 eggs a day and can live for up to five years. The queen bee can mate early in life and store millions of sperm within their bodies. The only job of the drone bees is to fertilize the queen bee and they die immediately after mating. Some other facts about honey bees are:

  • Honey bees gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.
  • The average honey bee will make only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
  • If the queen bee dies, the hive can produce an “emergency queen” by selecting a young larva from the previous queen and feeding it a special food called “royal jelly” so it can develop into a fertile queen.
  • The buzz sound from honeybees is made by their wings, which can beat 11,400 times per minute.
  • The honeybee is the only insect that produces food we can eat.

Also Read Interview With Sanne Steemers, A Dutch Chocolate Entrepreneur Connecting Europe And Africa

Benefits of Honeybees

  • Pollination 

One of the main benefits of honeybees are their functions as insect pollinators. While flowers provide bees with nectar and pollen to feed the colonies, bees help spread pollen between flowers in a process known as pollination. Without pollination, plants would be unable to create seeds and this could affect feeding for humans.

Worker bees, whose jobs are to feed the colony, collect nectar. Nectar is the sweet liquid substance that flowers produce to attract bees or other animals.The honeybees’ fuzzy bodies are used to collect pollen.

Pollen is a powder which contains the male genetic material of flowering plants. This pollen rubs off on flowers which they collect nectar from. This pollen transfer makes it possible to fertilize ovaries and enable reproduction. Plants are then able to produce fruits and seeds.

Although some plants are self pollinating or depend on the wind for pollination, most depend on pollinators such as honey bees. Therefore taking away bees would mean a huge decline in the availability of food and fruits.

  • Production of Honey

Production of honey is one of the popular benefits of honeybees. Worker bees collect nectar from flowers by using their proboscis to suck it out and storing it in their stomachs to take to the beehive. While in the bee’s stomach, the nectar mixes with an enzyme produced by the bees, thus converting the nectar to honey.

The bees further drop the honey into the beeswax comb, which are produced by the bees, and repeat this process till the combs are full. For long term storage, the bees fan their wings to thicken the honey and when this is done, they cap the honeycomb with wax and move on to the next comb to start over.

You can use honey in just about any cooking method from grilling to baking. It is also a good substitute for sugar as it is more natural. Some of its non-edible uses include skin treatments and as an antioxidant.

  • Byproducts of Bees

Honey is not the only good thing that comes out of bees. They also produce a natural wax known as beeswax. This happens when the glands of the worker bees convert the sugar content in honey into wax.

The beeswax comes out from the bee’s small pores to produce tiny flakes of wax on their abdomen. The worker bees chew these pieces of wax until they become soft and moldable and then add them to the honeycomb construction.

People use beeswax to make candles, wax wood furniture, polishing, and for waterproofing leather. They also use it in skin care products. Other byproducts of bees include royal jelly, mead, and bee bread.

Did we leave anything out? Let us know what else you benefit from honeybees.

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Agriculture

CAP-F Partners Pledge Support for Private Sector Agribusiness Investments in Nigeria

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CAP-F Partners and NABG Officials (Image: Supplied)

The food situation in Africa is quite dire but full of potential. According to the United Nations Conferences on Trade and Development (UNCTD), between 2016 and 2018, the continent imported about 85% of its food from outside the continent. This cost the continent about $35 billion. What’s worse? This cost is expected to rise to $110 billion by 2025. The impact of this is two-fold; African economies are unable to guarantee food security for the continent and are unable to take advantage of the global food market, which is expected to reach $11 trillion by 2030.

To achieve Africa’s agricultural potential, The Grow Africa Partnership was jointly founded in 2011 by the African Union,  African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD) and the World Economic Forum. Grow Africa’s mission is to increase private sector investment in Agriculture. Grow Africa’s flagship programme is the Country Agribusiness Partnership Framework (CAP-F), a mechanism for establishing effective public private engagement to create agribusiness partnerships in a country. CAP-F facilitates the alignment of private sector investments commitments with public sector policy/infrastructure obligations and provides a mechanism for all parties to hold each other accountable for their obligations. CAP-F’s footprint currently spans 16 African countries.

During a recent CAP-F private sector stakeholder sensitization engagement, CAP-F’s partners, including AUDA-NEPAD, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), pledged to work with multi-stakeholder agriculture value chain platforms to promote private sector investments that can improve agriculture productivity in Nigeria.

In his welcome address, Emmanuel Ijewere, Vice President, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) expounded on the context of a private-sector led agribusiness investment ecosystem in Nigeria. “Agriculture has the credentials to be Nigeria’s most attractive investment option. It is very important that stakeholders across the public and private sectors work together to align their interests and expectations. This is the value that CAP-F brings to the table,” Ijewere noted.

Also speaking at the engagement, Ibrahim Gourouza, Chief Operating Officer of Grow Africa noted that the optimised participation of private sector investors will help build more sophisticated agriculture value chains across Africa. This tasked Grow Africa with the responsibility of creating a private-sector inclusive agriculture investment ecosystem through CAP-F. On the design principles around CAP-F, he noted, “One of CAP-F’s key success factors is that it is owned by countries and anchored on existing structures. With this in mind, in collaboration with stakeholders, we selected NABG as the anchor of CAP-F coordination in Nigeria.”

He noted that Grow Africa is committed to CAP-F in Nigeria in a number of ways. “Grow Africa has provided the CAP-F Secretariat in Nigeria with a business model that has generated close to $500m in private sector investments in Africa across 6 countries and in 5 value chains. This will be an invaluable tool for business deal generation in Nigeria. We will continue to provide technical assistance for the team in Nigeria. While we have attracted funding from AGRA for the CAP-F Secretariat in Nigeria, we will work to expand the partnership support to ensure a more sustainable CAP-F implementation in Nigeria. Finally, we will provide a database of financiers who we will connect to provide sector deals in agriculture in Nigeria,” Gourouza noted.

The CAP-F business model focuses on collaborating with multi-stakeholder platforms across agriculture value chains in the country (existing and new platforms) and the development of business cases to identify investment opportunities in these value chains as well as inhibitors to these investment opportunities. The business model then creates matchmaking opportunities between various stakeholders, which culminates in a term sheet that aligns the commitments and expectations of all stakeholders from those investment opportunities. These term sheets are then taken from commitments on paper to actual investments that are concluded. The final stage of the business model is a mutual accountability and knowledge sharing activity, where updates on private sector investments are presented to the African Union.

CAP-F’s activities in Nigeria are funded by AGRA. In its address, the funders, represented by David Adama, Senior Programme Officer, noted that the engagement with private sector stakeholders is extremely important in driving agricultural transformation in the country. He stated, “CAP-F provides an opportunity for government and the private sector to engage on some of the opportunities that have been identified through the National Agriculture Investment Programme (NAIP) in order to know where private sector investments are necessary. This is particularly important, given the current challenges around public sector investments. AGRA is happy to work closely with Grow Africa and NABG in Nigeria to facilitate this.”

CAP-F Partners is also critical if Nigeria is able to move its millions of smallholder farmers into agripreneurs, who can actually create wealth through agriculture.

 

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Agriculture

Climate change report shines spotlight on Africa’s agriculture potential

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It seems almost incongruous to talk about the opportunity that exists in ensuring the world’s food security by bolstering Africa’s agricultural output when the very pressing and public crisis of climate change could be its undoing.

Particularly in the run up to COP26 and the “reality check” that came with this week’s release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Six Assessment Report, it is clear the entire African continent is “highly exposed” to climate extremes, at a relatively “high level of vulnerability”.

With over two thirds of Africans deriving their livelihood off agriculture, climate change-led crises like droughts, floods and cyclones continue to threaten the continent’s economic growth, employment, and food security. And yet, ensuring Africa’s agricultural resilience would not just help Africa. It’s essential for ensuring global food security. 

What’s more, these climate-led natural disasters have the greatest and most disproportionate impact on small- to medium-scale farmers, comprising as much as 80% of Africa’s agricultural output, from maize and wheat to rice, cassava, and sorghum. 

“The UN Report confirmed that climate change is intensifying the water cycle and affecting rainfall patterns, bringing more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions,” says Malvern Chirume, African Risk Capacity Limited Chief Underwriting Officer.

“These African farmers are the heart of the continent’s agriculture and are at the mercy of climate change events completely out of their control,” Chirume adds.

Established in 2014, ARC Limited provides natural disaster insurance relief to African countries which have joined the sovereign risk pool.

Along with its partners, which provide premium support, the insurer has already paid over US$65m to seven African countries to provide drought relief and address the economic concerns these countries’ most vulnerable citizens face.

Responding to the climate crisis

Traditionally, countries have responded to climate change-led disasters such as droughts or floods by raising funds for emergency relief. This approach is time-consuming and inefficient.

“It takes far too long for African countries to mobilise the immediate resources they need for relief efforts, to save lives and livelihoods. Our role at ARC Limited is to work with countries to prepare them for the risk exposure they have and how to respond swiftly to climate-related food security emergencies. This includes helping them to establish a rainy-day fund which pays out swiftly, before the problem has become worse, and more funding is needed.”

The ARC Limited model, built on parametric insurance (pre-specified pay-outs based upon a trigger event), has been highly successful, says Chirume.

“We have to date paid out close to $65 million dollars in claims. When one considers that every dollar in insurance pay-outs saves US$4 dollars, this makes the cumulative economic impact around US$240 million. With those funds, we’ve helped more than 5.9 million people whose livelihoods have been affected by climate change impacts,” Chirume explains.

While parametric insurance against natural disasters has enormous potential for the agricultural sector, it has a further economic impact. Because agriculture makes up such a significant portion of the continent’s economy, a downturn caused by a climate shock will echo through the broader economy of any nation affected.

This can bring an economic downturn, a lack of funding for key infrastructure and services at government level, and a loss of jobs as farmers struggle to recover. There is also evidence of migration away from areas experiencing drought, which can have a long-term impact on the regional economy.

Organisations such as ARC Limited have an essential role to play in this way in protecting agricultural value chains and the economies of and employment in Africa. “Our role is to help mitigate and manage the risk, building resilience and ensuring the African country is able to bounce back sooner after a natural disaster,” says Chirume.

With the negative impacts of climate change increasing and their potential to devastate the agricultural sectors and food security of African countries, it has become more important than ever to put sustainability at the heart of interventions.

“Creating an environment that limits the impact of climate shocks on the agricultural sector is about more than just securing economic transformation. At the heart of this investment is the need to ensure basic food security for the continent and the world,” says Chirume.

In its Sustainable Development Series, the World Bank says the African continent could play a leading role in ensuring food security for the earth’s estimated 9 billion people by 2050.

According to McKinsey, Africa’s full agricultural potential remains untapped. It determines that Africa could produce two to three times more cereals and grains, which would add 20% more cereals and grains to the world’s current output of 2.6 billion tons.

Given Africa’s productive potential, the continent could be a key contributor to feeding the world in the future. But to fully realise that potential will require overcoming many obstacles, including how it deals with the impact of climate change on agriculture and food security.

“We need broader collaboration between private and public sector to solve the climate change disaster response problem our continent faces. The problem is so big, that all of us have a role to play,” says Lesley Ndlovu, ARC Limited CEO.

With the support of the United Kingdom and German Government, ARC Limited has been equipped to help the member states of the African Union reduce the risk of loss and damage caused by extreme weather events affecting African populations.

“But there’s so much more work that still needs to go into reaching as many people as possible to help build the resilience of local communities and ensure they have the means to bounce back whenever they are impacted by a natural disaster,” concludes Ndlovu. 

 

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Agriculture

World Poultry Foundation (WPF) launches video series to help Africa’s farmers improve poultry production

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With poultry increasingly a focus for emerging farmers across Africa, the US-based World Poultry Foundation (WPF) has released a series of training videos to help farmers reduce waste and optimise profits.

Feed accounts for up to 70% of the costs of raising poultry, so proper feeding techniques enable farmers to reduce waste, cut production costs and raise healthier birds, says WPF. Water is equally important in poultry farming, with proper water management crucial for healthy birds.

WPF’s training series, with four videos dedicated to production, explains how farmers should store feed, proper feeding of poultry and how to prepare and manage zones of comfort to encourage proper brooding for chicks. The videos also explain the importance of litter in helping to prevent common diseases to improve production and returns.

World Poultry Foundation CEO Randall Ennis says the video series has been developed to address the most common challenges faced by emerging poultry farmers across Africa. “By applying best practice poultry farming methods, farmers can significantly increase their production, their incomes, and the nutrition available to their families and communities,” he says.

The training videos, as well as free checklists and worksheets, are available here

 

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