Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, beekeeping
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, launched the national beekeeping programme in Islamabad on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. Image Credit: PID

Islamabad: The Pakistan government is encouraging farmers and livestock owners to take up beekeeping amid the global loss of honeybees.

The ambitious honey initiative aims “to boost honey beekeeping in a more natural way as an alternative source of livelihood for poor and marginalised households and additional income for farmers”, besides ensuring food security and sustainable environmental conservation, Special Assistant to PM on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, said at the launch of national apiculture (or beekeeping) programme in Islamabad.

Supporting potential beekeepers

Recognising the importance of bees to the country’s food security, forests and national economy, the government has announced to offer support to the potential beekeepers, especially young people, to adopt modern beekeeping. Under the initiative, people will get training from Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) and support such as interest-free loans and buy-back mechanism.

Pakistan beekeeping facts
· Over 10,000 Pakistani households involved in beekeeping.
· Around 12,000 metric tons of honey produced each year.
· There are four species of honeybees in Pakistan including Apis dorsata, Apis cerana, Apis florea and Apis mellifera.

Green jobs

“More than 80,000 local green jobs would be generated through ‘Billion Tree Honey’ project” that intends to market 70,000 metric tons of honey to generate an income of around Rs43 billion, Amin Aslam said. The country will invest in apiculture (or beekeeping) and introduce training on modern beekeeping techniques to improve crop pollination, help sustain forest ecosystem, boost crop yields and offer a new source of income for farmers. In December 2020, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan launched “Billion Tree Honey” initiative to protect forests, create green jobs and improve the economy.

Beekeeping in Pakistan

More than 10,000 Pakistani households are involved in beekeeping mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab region, Dr Rashid Mahmood, director of Honeybee Research Institute, told Gulf News. The country produces an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 metric tons of honey each year of which only a small proportion is exported. Pakistan’s honey exports were roughly 1000 metric ton during the last year, Dr Mahmood said. The government’s new honey initiative aims to vastly increase honey production and export by introducing modern beekeeping gear, training on the latest techniques, standardisation and certification of the product and intensive marketing.

Why is beekeeping important?
· Bees are essential for pollinating plants and crops, which in turn provides us food.
· Decline of bees would not only affect food production but the entire natural ecosystem.
· More than 75 per cent of the world’s food crops rely to some extent on pollination.
· Encouraging beekeeping is crucial to help increase the bee population.
· There are more than 20,000 bee species around the world and only a few are honeybees.

Reverse the bee decline

The drastic decline in honeybee population globally poses a threat to global agriculture and our future. “While bees are our most important pollinators, unfortunately, their populations are in decline,” which means it could lead decline in food productions, rise in food insecurity, hunger and poverty levels, said Amin Aslam. Factors contributing to honeybee losses include climate change, habitat loss, abandoned farms, parasites and disease and pesticides, he informed.

To reverse the honeybee decline, Aslam suggested controlling the use of pesticides, restore organic farming, environmental conservation, boosting forest cover and mitigating climate-altering carbon emissions.