As discussed in a recent article, Pam Gregory’s visit to Northern Sudan pointed up some of the challenges for beekeeping in this region, and in particular selection of the most appropriate Apis species for apiculture. Although Apis mellifera is not naturally present in the area, Apis florea (the Asian, or Dwarf Honeybee), is spreading rapidly along the irrigated areas beside the Nile. These wild colonies can provide a small but useful quantity of honey (around ½ kg annually) and beeswax at no cost. During her visit, Pam proposed a system to enable people to care for and benefit from these small, wild bees.
The main part of the project would be a demonstration apiary for Apis mellifera (the Western Honeybee) using low cost methods and designed to be productive in other ways too. In hot climates bees must have trees to thrive and produce honey and careful choices of bee trees will give an additional harvest of fruits, seeds, oils or fodder. Once satisfactory methodology has been developed it can be scaled up and provide bees (and trees) for more apiaries.
This will not be an easy project to bring to fruition but if successful, a number of wider benefits could accrue. If effective beekeeping methods can be proved and disseminated this would significantly increase knowledge of beekeeping and honey production in desert areas. In the longer term, the desert conditions may provide a barrier that prevents bees from spreading from other areas allowing a less aggressive indigenous bee (Apis mellifera sudanensis) to be produced in this area. This would form an enormous advance in Sudanese beekeeping.
If people can successfully produce honey, for the nutrition of their families and neighbours and to gain cash, they will not only benefit economically but also gain in self-esteem and in the respect of others, particularly when they come to share their experience and knowledge. Sabah Abdelwahad, (guide and interpreter for Pam’s visit) will undertake the project management, and hopefully also use the new information it generates in her PhD studies. We are all looking forward to success.
Of course, we do need funds to make this work, and we are pleased that staff at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have donated money in support of the Sudan project, in lieu of a gift to an FCO colleague who is just about to take up a new position in Juba, Sudan.