Too good to export? Jamaicas honey stays at home
In The Courier No. 116, the CTA published an article on the
utility and value of beekeeping by the International Bee Research Association.
This article shows how the advice can be put into practice.
The buzzing of insects is not incompatible with life on a
sub-tropical island. But bees in Jamaica? Long associated with more temperate
climates, beekeeping became the object of a Ministry of Agriculture study back
in 1981 which went to the Administrative Staff College for a theoretical
projection, and by 1983 became the object of a feasibility study. The long
gestation period is due at least in part to the complexity of Jamaicas
social and economic problems and to the need to harmonise rural development,
youth employment, import substitution and good management in the framework. Thus
the Ministry of Agriculture was joined by the Ministry of Youth and Community
Development in a detailed project presided over by the Planning Institute of
Jamaica. A grant- under Lom funding- was sought in 1985 and became effective
on I February 1987. The sum involved was ECU 805 000 for a pilot project
covering four parishes. A West German consultancy, Atlanta Consult, provides the
Beekeeping is not new to Jamaica. The area chosen for the pilot
project- the parishes of Clarendon, Manchester, St Elizabeth and St Catherine-
was selected precisely because there is a history of small-scale beekeeping and
because the area has the right sort of vegetation for bees. Indeed, one
component of the project, research, has underlined two major advantages for
beekeepings future on the island. Firstly, the botanical survey has
demonstrated that Jamaica is home to a wide variety of plants which bees seem to
like, many of them not yet identified. Of course the verses of childhood depict
the bees flitting from flower to flower but poetry cuts little ice
in the marketplace. For a long time, monofloral honeys (honey gathered from a
single floral source, such as heather) are more highly valued, and the project
has stimulated the search for a monofloral source.
The second major advantage for Jamaicas beekeepers is the
relative absence of major pests and diseases affecting bees. Indeed, apart from
American Foulbrood (normally a disease associated with overcrowding in the
hive), none of the worlds major diseases have yet appeared in Jamaica. The
project, however, has not rested on the islands laurels in this regard,
but is organising seminars and training courses for beekeepers to enable them to
spot and resist pests and diseases should they occur.
The project, whose headquarters are at Mandeville in the parish
of Manchester, is aimed at creating and reinforcing a number of smallholders,
rather than establishing an industry . Two main types of
client exist; the small beekeepers, with an average of 45 colonies, whose
beekeeping is complementary to other, more lucrative, agricultural activity, and
small commercial enterprises with an average of 70 to 90 colonies.
Project co m portents
In order to achieve the objectives (increased honey production
through better management with regard to beekeeping and economics) the project
includes various sub-programmes:
- an extension programme for new and established
- a credit programme funding the purchase of hives and other
- a programme providing training (by the extension specialist)
for beekeeping extension officers and youth trainers,
- a research programme
concentrating on practical subjects that have immediate application to
- a marketing programme targeted at possible markets
and market channels for honey and other bee products, - the organisation of an
islandwide Beekeepers Association,
- training young people in
beekeeping through trainers and the facilities of the Ministry of Youth and
Community Development (under the supervision of the project),
assistance for training beekeeping officers, and monitoring the extension
service and initiating a research programme.
The extension programme
There are four beekeeping extension officers, one in each
parish. Extension work is mainly done through non-residential courses either at
the four demonstration apiaries within the project area or at apiaries of
The beekeeping extension officers visit beekeepers on a regular
basis, in order to
- assess their work progress,
- monitor the use of loans,
- help to solve problems and provide information on an individual basis.
The project has now about 350 beekeepers enrolled. This means
that nearly all the beekeepers in the project area are co-operating with the
At the moment the project is preparing beekeeping pamphlets as
well as establishing a library of audiovisual materials including videofilms and
synchronised slide sets. These are produced in co-operation with the Learning
Resource Centre of the Training Division of the Ministry of Agriculture under
the supervision of the extension specialist.
The credit programme
As has already been said, the credit programme was designed to
help beekeepers to purchase the necessary equipment. However, most of the
beekeepers had difficulties in providing adequate security. This led to a slow
take-up of the loans. The project management decided to search for alternatives
and after evaluating the credit programme, came up with a new design based in
principle on ideas and proposals made by the consulting firm, Atlanta Consult,
in their project proposal and on a design outline made by the extension
The new design envisages active participation by the
Beekeepers Associations and the establishment of a revolving fund scheme
to eliminate the problem of inadequate security.
The training programme
The extension specialist set up initial training in beekeeping
for the beekeeping extension officers. This course lasts for seven weeks and
includes theoretical as well as practical aspects of beekeeping. Four officers
within the Ministry of Agriculture were trained to become beekeeping extension
After the initial training course, follow-up courses are
provided by the extension specialist in order to update and evaluate the
knowledge of the officers. These follow-up courses are carried out on a
bi-monthly basis lasting for three days each. Emphasis is placed on practical
matters as well as on the economic side of the beekeeping business.
The beekeeping extension officers in return also provide
training to general extension officers, who should have a minimum knowledge of
There is also a part to be played by MYCD personnel in teaching
young people beekeeping. Various obstacles however (restructuring of the
Ministry, Hurricane Gilbert ) made it impossible for the MYCD to
stand by its obligations to the full. The project is now seeking a better design
for this part of the programme.
The marketing programme
The marketing programme assessed the possibilities of marketing
honey and other products from bees inside and outside Jamaica. The actual,
production of honey is estimated at 1000 tons per year. The local market is
absorbing most of it as the demand is nowhere near satisfied yet. Exports
of honey are only sporadic. In addition, the local market fetches a better price
than the world market. Beekeepers therefore are not willing to produce for
Other products from bees are not significant at the moment.
There is, however, a tendency towards the production of products such as
propolis, beeswax, and royal jelly. The project is actively supporting these new
The Islandwide Beekeepers Association
The project assisted in organising the establishment of the
Islandwide Beekeepers Association. After initiating associations in the
project area, preparations were made to give the beekeepers an opportunity to
meet and to set up a steering committee to prepare the launching of the
islandwide organisation. This islandwide Association was founded in September,
1989, in the presence of the Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture,
the Hon. Desmond Leaky, himself a beekeeper.
The management board of the Association has met several times in
the meantime and prepared the memoranda and articles necessary to register as an
association. Furthermore, they planned several projects to improve their
financial basis. The project is funding the association, trying to assist them
in their daily work.
In the future, the Association will play an important part in
the further development of the project. The project seeks the co-operation of
the Association with regard to the credit programme and the extension work.
Ministry of Youth Training Programme
The training programme of the Ministry of Youth and Community
Development has been curtailed to some extent as there were substantial changes
within the Ministry itself. Furthermore, Hurricane Gilbert (on
September 12, 1988) struck down most of the facilities the MYCD was planning to
use. Others were needed as temporary shelter for refugees.
It was only possible to train two officers who are now teaching
beekeeping to youngsters. A first training session was held and 34 participants
Nonetheless the project wants to change the design of this part
of the programme, including the existing efforts in training youths in
The extension specialist trained the extension officers and
established the extension service, as well as preparing the necessary extension
materials, especially the audiovisuals.
The research specialists initiated the research programme and
were always on hand if there was any question to answer or problem to solve.
The project has submitted to Ministry of Agriculture a request
to extend the project for 18 months on an islandwide basis. The time would also
be used to develop a second phase programme and prepare the necessary documents.
This proposal was completed in the light of a positive
evaluation of the project in September, 1989. The evaluation revealed that the
project has established a viable and effective extension service, with a pool of
wide knowledge and experience in beekeeping. It was also assisting in organising
the beekeepers. All in all, the project had a positive impact on the beekeeping
industry as such. This is why the evaluation mission recommended the extension
of the project.
The project management believes that beekeeping is a small but
very efficient enterprise and business. It helps a lot of people in rural areas
in Jamaica to make a better living. The project through its extension service
assisted in improving the living conditions of farmers by teaching them better
and more advanced methods of beekeeping. It hopes now to continue on an
islandwide basis. Will it always be true that Jamaicas honey is too
popular at home to warrant an export drive? Perhaps the extension of the
programme to the rest of the island will give the outside world a taste of