ISLAMABAD - The Billion Tree Honey (BTH) has encouraged bee flora plantation to enhance production on modern lines showing gradual increase of 60 percent per hive on average yield within six-month pilot phase. 

Under the government’s flagship Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Plantation (TBTTP) project, the focus has been laid on improving existing honey farming and bee keeping practices on scientific terms for enhanced honey production to benefit from the increasing forest cover under the massive afforestation efforts, a senior official of the Ministry Climate Change told APP. 

He said the country’s existing honey harvest potential was of 7,500 metric tons per annum produced by some 10,000 bee keepers using 300,000 colonies. 

It could be enhanced to 70,000 metric tons of honey produced from the same harvest by using modern bee keeping gears, latest techniques, standardisation / certification of the product and intensive marketing, he added. 

He said as per estimates, marketing of 70,000 metric tons of honey would generate an income of around Rs 20-25 billion and generate around 87,000 green jobs.

The BTH pilot phase that started on March 16, 2021, objectives were improvement in production capacity, quality and earnings of selected beekeepers, training of 35 beekeepers and follow up services until honey harvest and organising the apiculture chain-specific networks to collaborate with BTH.

During the pilot phase, unemployed youth and former beekeepers were targeted for training on latest beekeeping technologies and methods initially. However, the list of former beekeepers and unemployed youth was provided by the divisional forest officers (DFOs) of selected areas, and on the basis of that information, five most suitable persons were selected at each location.

The seven pilot locations for hive placement included Scrub Forest Jhelum, Mianwali plantation, Bhakkar plantation, Ban, Dino Park, PM House, President House, and Bani Gala Islamabad.

The BTH official informed that the selected beneficiaries were provided on hand trainings at each location for colony management and five modern hives along with bees were shifted at each location. 

While elaborating the modern bee hive design, he said these hives were specially designed for BTH pilot phase with improved design; three quarter size, triple story, bottom board was provided mesh for ventilation and brood chamber attached bottom board. 

The beneficiaries were trained to examine the hives and to do necessary colony management. They were also provided follow up services to keep the bees healthy and maintain strong colonies. 

At the end of acacia honey flow, when the bees had ripened the collected honey, the demonstration of honey harvesting activities with standard stainless steel equipment were successfully performed at each location. 

“These activities result in the significant improvement in the capacity, and beekeepers and quantity of honey produced i.e., approximately 8 kg honey was produced per hive which was 60 per cent more as compared to traditional hives,” the BTH official underscored.

To a question, he informed that the cost of a beehive was around Rs21,600 including running cost for six months, while the income generated from the harvest remained 37.03 per cent of initial harvest. 

For providing advance training, a three-day beekeeping workshop was also organised from August 24 to 26, at PMAS-AAUR, in which all the beneficiaries were invited again and imparted detailed training for round the year bee management, queen rearing and pest management.

Under the BTH pilot phase, to ensure improved cooperation in value chain actors for input supplies and making arrangement for honey buybacks, the apiculture chain specific networks were also organised. The trainees at each site were coordinated with hive manufactures, honey traders and concerned officers of forest departments. 

When asked about the outcomes of the pilot phase, the official told that by the end of the project period, the beekeepers were knowledgeable enough to offer their earned expertise to their fellow beekeepers.  

Moreover, modern BTH hives produced 60 per cent higher yield in comparison to traditional hives, where the beekeepers for the first time learnt stainless steel honey harvesting equipment use.