Our first activity geared towards introducing alternative livelihoods on Kia Island was marked by the beekeeping training held at Batiri Agricultural Research Station in the “friendly” North of Fiji. In partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture- Northern Division, four community volunteers (Conservation Ambassadors) and two C3 staff participated in a 2-day training in basic beekeeping. Mr Bimlesh and Mr Dharmennd from the Agricultural Research Station taught several topics in Apiculture including the various roles of the Queen, the drones and workers within a bee colony; how honey is formed and kept within a hive; facts about hives and functions of each part; the maintenance of bee hives; and pests, diseases and safety precautions to follow. The training also included a practical session in the field, where participants were given the opportunity to visit and see different hive sites, wear beekeeping suits and practice the removal of frames and bees. The trainees learned about how to approach the hives, how to use the smokers, how to extract honey and even got to sample the sweet produce.
Post training we purchased basic equipment- bee suits, boxes, bee colonies, a smoker, a hive tool and sugar- to trial the project on a small scale on Kia with the help of Conservation Ambassadors and village youths. Our first set of bee colonies are earmarked to be ready in early 2014 and we are excited to begin the pilot on Kia thereafter.
Beekeeping was selected as a potential alternative livelihood activity by the Kian community and has great potential for growth as an industry in Fiji. At present there are 10 000 honey-producing beehives in operation with each beehive producing an average of 25 kilograms of honey per year at F$17.50 per kilo with the likelihood of generating a gross annual income of over F$21 million at full capacity operation.
We are so grateful to our friends at Ozone Global / One Percent for the Planet and the Pacific Development and Conservation Trust for their generous contributions that have made the training and pilot beekeeping project possible.