Afghanistan Department of Agriculture, PRT work to expand beekeeping in Konar province

United States Government Press Release / December 27, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan – Surviving primarily on subsistence farming, many Afghans teeter on the edge of malnutrition and starvation every year. In Konar province, one of the most violent provinces in the country, an American provincial reconstruction team (PRT) is working with the Afghan government on a unique solution to help feed its people: bees.

The Konar Department of Agriculture has a number of small beehives throughout Konar Valley, and has been working to expand the reach of the pollinators. Not only do they hope to breed more bees, they also hope to build more beehives to be distributed among more farmers. This is where sugar comes into play.

With the help of Provincial Reconstruction Team Konar and the United States Department of Agriculture, the Afghan government has been distributing sugar to existing beehives to increase their population. More than 300 pounds of sugar have been provided by the Afghan Government to local beekeepers and farmers. They expect that the bees should be ready to help with the spring pollination of crops. With the help of the bees, they hope to increase the yields of crops in the immediate area by at least 10 percent.

The idea is not as far fetched as it may sound. Bees are a booming business in North America. According to the University of Georgia’s website beekeeping is a $9 billion industry in the United States. Bee hives are bought, sold, and rented out across the country.

In Canada if a blueberry farmer hopes to increase profit he can get a return of $41 per every dollar spent on renting bees for pollination and an apple farmer can get upwards of $192 per dollar. The Konar Government hopes to get a similar return for their investments.

Through pollination, bees have been known to increase the crop yields by as much as 25 percent. Other plants, such as almond trees, must have a pollinator to even produce. During the California almond season, renting a bee colony can cost a farmer as much as $180 for the season.

Bees also produce raw materials for the Afghan people to trade and barter. Honey is an obvious product of successful hives and is especially valuable in this environment because it is one of the few agricultural products that do not have to be stored in cold temperatures. Honey can be easily consumed, sold, or possibly exported to nearby provinces.

Beeswax is also a valuable commodity. Commercially, it is a primary component in candles, cosmetics, polishes and pharmaceuticals. It is the hope of the Afghan beekeepers to one day export these goods to other countries.

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