Ademola Adesina is the chairman of the Nigerian Apiculture Platform, a federal government initiative aimed at increasing bee-product and pollination services. In this interview with Fatima Muktar, he explains the potentials, the reality and challenges of the honey value chain in Nigeria.
PT: What are you doing to harness the potentials in the Nigerian honey value-chain?
Adesina: There are numerous potentials in beekeeping not just for value-chain, not just for honey, but right from the production. In the beehives is a chain of medicinal produce from royal jelly to the bee wax that are even more lucrative than the honey itself but very few of our farmers want to take advantage. Just the input supply in the honey value chain has potential for job creation. Tailors will have bee suits to sew, the carpenters will have hives, the fabricators will have processing equipment, the candle makers will have candles to produce and so forth.
A significant value in the chain is the pollination of crops it provides to the farm which leads to production of quality seeds and bountiful harvest. The pollination aspect is very crucial. In fact, 85 per cent of pollination of crops is by the bees. So, that is why we cannot relegate the bees to the background. When you speak of agriculture, it is incomplete when you have not mentioned apiculture.
PT: How lucrative is the bee wax?
Adesina: When you look at the honey, it sells for about N2,500 per kilogramme (kg) and the wax sells for about N3,500 per kilogramme (kg). It (bee wax) is used in the textile industries, it is used as shoe polish, it is used in making candles. The advantage of burning beeswax made of candles cannot be overemphasised, because when you are burning beeswax candles, the smoke goes up to react with the suspended viruses, it makes them too heavy so they remain suspended and then fall to the ground. So, by burning bee candles, you are actually purifying the environment.
PT: How do you maintain the organic quality and natural character of honey during processing?
Adesina: These are some of the technicalities that we must try to control. When you look at foreign honey, you see it very clearly that it has undergone certain processing, either by heating, so that the viscosity reduces and in the process certain things have been destroyed. But here, we only filter the honey without applying any heat. When we first started, we had no choice than to apply heat, but now we have gotten to a stage whereby we can filter without applying any heat. We have sourced the equipment we can use to filter the Nigerian honey.
PT: How long does it take for beehives to get ready for harvest?
Adesina: It takes four to five months for a beehive having 25 frames and we are able to harvest twice. From one harvest, (we are) able to get 12 kilogrammes of honey from a beehive box. When you harvest twice a year for the first cycle, you will be having 18kg of honey. For subsequent cycles, there would be some advantages of more bees colonising the hives than what you have and you can get 19kg to 20kg. If you multiply that by N2,500, you will see how it will bring you massive income.
PT: Globally, what is the place of beekeeping in achieving SDG 1, no poverty, and 2, zero hunger?
Adesina: We are able to get people employed across the chain thereby eradicating poverty. European Union sponsors bee projects for Africa. The project cost 13.4 million Euro. It is still ongoing because we are at the point of developing the policy of beekeeping in Africa. The EU believes that if they can divert the attention of different nations away from what they are looking up to right now and focus on beekeeping, then poverty will be drastically reduced, more jobs will be created, income will be enhanced. That is what the government also saw by launching the Nigeria Apiculture Platform, so that people will get more enlightened as to what beekeeping can do for them, and we have more beekeepers, more honey, and more bee wax.
About 90 per cent of rural dwellers are farmers, and we are able to encourage them, to keep one or two boxes of beehives in their farms, for pollination. We allow the bees to pollinate the crops, we have bountiful harvest, the quality of your crops will be enhanced, food safety will be guaranteed and you are now having additional income from honey and other beehive products, so we are able to eradicate poverty, disease, and hunger.
PT: Nigeria currently produces less than 3 per cent of potential capacity, what are the factors impeding the production and how do you hope to surmount it?
Adesina: Statistics have shown that Nigeria consumes about 320 tonnes of honey every year but the production is a little bit over 20 tonnes. More people are now becoming health conscious. More now want to consume honey than previously and the result is that we now have exorbitant prices causing increase in the prices of honey.
So (some) beekeepers now see it as an avenue to encourage themselves to produce honey locally and break down prices because there’s a market for it. Even by the volume of turnover we have, we are yet to meet local demand. We need more beekeepers, there is room for more beekeeping activity in the country. The vast vegetation and the climatic condition of the country is such that you can produce honey from anywhere in this country.
Our method of production is still not meeting the international standard, not until we move away from the traditional beekeeping to modern beekeeping, we will not be able to meet the standard expected for the export.
PT: What is the relationship between the platform and the beekeepers, and how do you build their capacity?
Adesina: It takes a lot of sacrifice to run a platform. The first activity that took place was the API EXPO 2016 where all stakeholders in Africa and outside Africa came to display what they are made-up of. The group display widened the scope of the knowledge of showing people as far as beekeeping is concerned. That birthed the platform and people began to register. The Nigerian Export Promotion Council is also taking a step forward, to see how they can get the Nigerian honey registered with the EU so we will be able to export our honey to EU countries. We don’t have accreditation right now so it is a bit difficult to export our honey to the EU. All the processes are in place to see how the Nigerian honey can be accredited for export because we have all it takes.