Story and photo by Cpl. Katherine Keleher
GARESHK, Afghanistan – Beekeeping is the latest buzz in Helmand province, Afghanistan, after a three-day course during which nearly 20 Afghans learned the perks of farming bees rather than poppy.
The course, hosted July 26-28 in Gereshk, took place at the province’s master beekeeping teaching farm.
Attendees received lectures by Afghan bee farmers from other provinces. These farmers had previously received training on bee farming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, British Royal Army and Danish Army.
“The farmers wanted to have bee hives to be able to generate income,” said Don Welty, a senior agriculture advisor with the USDA, and a native of Stafford, Va. “They all know about the impact that bees and honey can make because it is mentioned in the Quran.”
The idea of an alternative crop like bees that would not be harvested and sold by insurgents appealed to coalition forces and the local government. The program began in April.
“This is a great program to help the farmers diversify their farming programs and make additional income for their families,” Welty said. “The goal is to have every farmer own five hives and generate up to $1,000 per year. This would generate much more money than poppy. Once the farmers have alternatives then it is possible for them to move away from poppy.”
The course covered several topics related to beekeeping, including hive preparation, pollination benefits, swarm capturing and queen bee management. The session ended with a hands-on practical application of beekeeping for attendees.
At the end of the seminar attendees were given a starter hive, basic beekeeping supply and a set of beekeeping clothes, Welty said.
Honey from northern Afghan cities such as Jalalabad is sometimes available in the Gereshk bazaar and locals hope the demand will increase with local production, said Abdulla, the master beekeeper at the course.
Coalition forces and local government officials hope to have local farmers begin producing their own honey in weeks to come and plan to provide more beekeeping seminars in the future.
Additional photos here