Savai’i holds key to organic honey industry
Savaii could hold the key to establishing a thriving organic honey industry in Samoa, says beekeeping expert, Stephen Suti Agalo.
Mr. Agalo is from the Solomon Islands and was in Samoa over the past two weeks conducting a series of workshops and trainings in Upolu and Savaii with Women In Business Inc. (W.I.B.D.I.) staff and beginners from the organic certified villages.
The workshops aim to build capacity and enable trainees to share their knowledge and support areas needed to create a sustainable honey bee industry.
Mr. Agalo, while inspecting hives and calculating the level of honey that can be sourced from Savaii, was encouraged by what he discovered. During the harvesting module of the training in Asau, Mr. Agalo and his trainees extracted about 70 kilos of honey from just a few hives at the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopaoo Natanielu Mua’s, family cocoa plantation.
“What I have found out now and my conclusion was that the potential of Samoa as a country with all the abundance of flowers, plants, fruit trees and vegetables - all these things that provide the pollen for the bees is in abundance here in Samoa. From an economic point of view, money is just dripping from the trees,” Mr. Agalo said. “Particularly in Savaii where there are organic certified villages and in the western end where there is less rainfall than the rest of the country. These factors combined could see high turn around in the production of honey and I truly believe that there is amazing potential for organic honey production that hasn’t been seen before.”
Beekeeping and honey production is widely known as one of the easiest commercial interests to pursue because of the minimum amount of work required after the needs of the bees are met properly with Mr. Agalo adding that farmers only need to check on the hives every two weeks.
According to Mr. Agalo, it is paramount that trainees learn the importance and the skills of rearing the queen bee to ensure that hives can be multiplied at a fast rate to harness the favourable environment found in Samoa for the bees.
“As a beekeeper, you would be looking at the health and the capacity of the queen bee that is in the hives because the queen lies between one thousand to three thousand eggs a day,” said Mr. Agalo.
“To provide for that capacity, you need to understand the biological connection that the queen has and use that potential to increase economical benefitting outcomes. More bees, more workers, and more workers mean more outcomes - the outcome that you are looking for is the honey.”
With 30 years’ beekeeping experience, Mr. Agalo and his wife have been instrumental in the small but now thriving bee keeping practices in Simbo, one of the islands in the Solomon Islands.
According to Mr. Agalo, part of the project’s success started with the friendship W.I.B.D.I. extended in 2012 when the Samoan organisation helped the isolated island by donating its first 15 Nucs (nucleus colonies) and beekeeping starter kits to help replicate W.I.B.D.I’s system of strengthening village economies.
“My wife, Esther, made a partnership with Adi at W.I.B.D.I in 2012, and it was very generous for them to help her with her vision to help the women in Simbo. Adi was familiar with the Solomons as well as the women of the Pacific and what they are thinking.”
Since the beekeeping initiative in 2012, the honey production in Simbo went from 50 litres in 2016 to 1,780 litres in 2017. This year they raised their production numbers to 1,085 litres and sold that amount of honey for SB$279,000 (T$90.9) with all the profits going directly back to the families keeping the bees.
“W.I.D.B.I. helped us with the 15 Nucs and we have broken it up to 229 hives and next year we are going to double that because we now have the patience to work from and we will be able reach up to 400 hives. We will be able to produce two tonnes of honey a year and that it is quite a large amount of money for an island like Simbo, which has 2000 people and it is less than 2 square kilometres.”
For the couple, sharing their beekeeping knowledge to help improve the living standards of their people and the people of Samoa is a real labour of love and to this day, they do not own a single hive preferring a communal approach to their work.
“I have a passion to train and facilitate trainings for people out of my passion of beekeeping and that is what Esther and I are living on at the moment - just sharing our expertise. We are not living from what we are doing with beekeeping because we believe that when you share your expertise, your resources, God is going to bless you.”
Mr. Agalo is currently working on putting together manuals on the theory and practice of beekeeping to help support the revival and strengthening of the industry.