Extreme poverty is still a reality for Pakistan and it hampers the empowerment and living conditions of rural populations. Thanks to the diversity of the local flora, beekeeping is one of the leading sectors which may help bring people to prosperity through mobilizing the local potentials. However, due to insufficient diversification, unstable environmental conditions, and lack of technical capacity, people tend to use traditional/inefficient methods in honey production, which affects individual beekeepers as well as the whole ecosystem.
Towards a Solution
Pakistan has great potential in honey production and exports. There is a need to improve the technical knowledge and skills of small-scale beekeepers, increasing the income of beneficiaries, promoting the transition to ecological honey production the advanced training to Pakistani honeybee scientists and the sharing of these experiences with Pakistani beekeepers. That would culminate in the establishment of an advanced Honeybee Queen research laboratory and the transfer of the Turkish model to Pakistan. The TIKA Apiculture Research Development Program for Income and Rural Employment in Pakistan emerged from capacity-building needs in beekeeping, which is believed to have great potential for improving livelihoods and exports in the country. Key activities of the programme included:
- 142 unskilled and unemployed women from the Chitral Region were trained and were donated honeybee hives to produce honey in 2018. To make the production process efficient, technical expertise by Pakistani scientists was also provided helping the women to manage the honeybees and improve their livelihoods.
- In order to develop a quality honeybee research environment in Pakistan, three scientists from the National Agricultural Research Institute, the country’s leading institution in agriculture, were sent to Turkey for learning advanced beekeeping techniques. They participated in experience-sharing programmes in honey quality analysis, pests and diseases, artificial queen insemination, and bee floral resources. Through this training project, Pakistani experts learned new techniques, methods and scientific applications, transferring Turkey’s scientific experience and knowledge to Pakistan.
- According to the scientific reports prepared by Turkish and Pakistani experts together, since the overall aim of the program is to increase the quality of Pakistan’s honey production, there was a need to establish research centers in which quality testing could be done. Therefore, a new honeybee research laboratory was established in Islamabad and equipped with modern technologies. Additionally, modern Turkish beehives were donated in order to enhance honey yield and colony productivity.
- A new training program for 100 local beekeepers has been launched in 5 cities to transfer Turkey’s experiences in apiculture. Three scientists who received technical training from Turkey will be the master trainer further teaching the new methods. Besides training, Turkish style beehives will be provided for each participant and honey production and quality will be monitored right after the training.
The project provided a dramatic increase in the technical knowledge and skills of small-scale beekeepers. For instance, the training in Chitral Region provided skills for women who started to produce their own honey for selling in the market, creating jobs, improving livelihoods and women economic empowerment, contributing to SDG Goal 1 (No Poverty) by ensuring significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources. The establishment of an advanced honeybee queen research laboratory and the domestication of beehives based on the Turkish model helped in the transition to ecological honey production and the promotion of green economy in the region, contributing to SDG Goal 2 (No Hunger) and SDG 12 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).
It is pertinent to mention here that inclusiveness was very crucial to make the project efficient/sustainable and valuable efforts of all partners (Pakistani government, women in Chitral, Pakistani scientists, and Turkish experts) contributed to the work towards achieving the SDG(s).
It should also be noted that the government of Pakistan has launched a program called 'Billion Tree Honey Initiative' in which trainings will be provided for small-scale producers and honey quality research laboratories that TIKA has already set up in Islamabad. Similar research laboratories will also be established in other parts of the country. The project is sustainable because it is directly compatible with Pakistan Government’s agricultural policy, improving its chances of replicability.