Hope Zoo HeadStart Programme gives boost to beekeeping businesses

Hope Zoo HeadStart Programme gives boost to beekeeping businesses

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

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In an attempt to get more people into the buzzing beekeeping industry, the Hope Zoo HeadStart Programme is providing fresh capital for businesses to grow and develop within the local sector.

The programme, which mainly targets community members living along the borders of Hellshire Hills, is being undertaken in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and provides seed capital for members who want to start in the beekeeping industry.

“If you are an unemployed and unattached youth who is thinking of using the forest in the ways we have mentioned, we can help you to develop an alternative income,” said Orlando Robinson, project consultant for the Hope Zoo Iguana HeadStart Project.

Gregory Lynch, senior plant protection officer at the Apiculture unit at Bodles Research Station, in underscoring the potential of the industry, said that beekeeping is a lucrative venture which also presents a viable alternative income for participants.

Referring to statistics garnered in the last four years, Lynch said that honey production increased by over 200 per cent, moving from 117,548 gallons in 2005 to approximately 247,000 gallons. In 2017 it was also projected that the total swarm would make some 288,000 gallons of honey with farm gate earnings of just under $1.8 billion.

These amounts, he said, is not enough to supply the Jamaican marketplace. “We are always undersupplied. We always need more,” he stated.

In 2017, it was reported by the agriculture ministry that there were some 3,000 beekeepers and 48,000 registered beehives in the industry. The local beekeeping industry has many layers including honey producers, wax producers and sellers of bee stock, offering value-added earning potential in mead (honey wine), sauces, face scrubs, soaps, candles and other products.

“There are also persons who participate in equipment making — the boxes (hive bodies), bottom boards, the covers and frames. So, there are several different areas you can tap into,” Lynch said.

He said that while there were some educational level barriers to entering the industry, the ministry has been providing assistance in this regard so as to get persons ready for participation. “We can train persons as young as eight or nine years old. Over four days— the ministry offers basic training modules to show them how to produce the honey in both a theory and practice.”

“We later encourage the farmers to join the active bee farming associations in each parish. There are smaller groups outside of the associations that we do group continuous training with, because we want to keep the farmers engaged,” he added, noting that Government currently help these farmers to find markets for their honey.

“A new farmer can start off with five to 10 colonies and by applying the best practices within a year or two, they can move it up to even 30 colonies. With 30 colonies, you are looking at maybe $700,000 to $800,000 worth of bees generated from even a small amount of $200,000 within a year. That is not including the monies to be made from the honey produced. Altogether, the honey, plus the bees, you are looking at over $1,000,000 [in earnings] just from starting out with $200, 000,” he explained.

He further noted the main advantages of beekeeping as being one that is not time-consuming also allowing bee farmers the additional time to engage in other business ventures concurrently.

Through the HeadStart Programme being offered, only community members who are forest users along with their life partners and children 18 years and older are those deemed eligible to access training.

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