Bee Keeping in Samoa Training
Samoa Women’s Association of Growers (SWAG) held their third Bee Keeping training on Saturday, 18th November at Tanoa Hotel with members attending.
The training was delivered by I’umalo Clayton Simamao of R & J honey, who has been part of the industry for the last six years. The focus of these trainings include Bee Keeping 101 and Honey Extraction. Simamao is experienced in wild colony removal, bee hive installation, honey harvest and colony split. He passionately shared about his journey as a bee keeper, the dangers and rewards of working with bees and how important it is to think of safety before embarking on one’s own bee keeping journey.
Bee keeping is a fundamental part of the eco systems. Bees play a major role in maintaining bio diversity, ensuring the survival of many plants, ensuring the forest regeneration, sustainability and adaptation to climate change and improving the quantity and quality of agricultural production systems (FAO, 2021). It is challenging and ongoing success depends on consistent hard work. Hive location, accessibility, available resources and training are some of the barriers to beekeeping.
Simamao also shared his extensive knowledge and experience on extracting honey and how to protect your family and house from robbing bees. Bees will go to wherever the honey combs are. We learnt that in order to have a thriving bee keeping community, we must learn about sustainable practices, the importance of maintaining healthy hives and the critical role beekeepers played in preserving the bee population. Other topics included the type of honey bees found in Samoa, number and types of active hives in both Upolu and Savaii, the right time to harvest honey, precautions when harvesting and demonstration of honey extraction.
Samoa has an estimated 354 to 400 active hives. There are 50 to 60 Bee keepers across Upolu and Savaii. Annual honey crop was approximately 8 tonne per year but has decreased to 4 tonnes as recorded in 2019 (GCF, 2019). Honey cannot be imported into Samoa under the Bee and Beek Products Prohibition Order 1999, which was enacted under the Customs Act 1977.
The most interesting session was about honey harvesting. Honey is a sweet substance produced by honeybees from the nectar of flowers, which the bees collect, transform and store in honeycombs. It is about the only food item that does not expire but it must be harvested at the right time and in the right season. Honey can be harvested when the season progresses or all at once when honey production stops. Progressive honey harvesting is the better practice. It’s best to spread harvesting throughout the season as this will meet ongoing demand, less stress for the bees and minimal storage capacity needed. Extracted too early or too often will harm the bee colony and lower the quality of honey.
At the end of the workshop, the participants had a hand on experience of extracting honey. The frames with honey were loaded onto the extraction machine, hand spun by trainer and members, poured into jars and shared with the participants. It was an eye-opening experience to see bees on the honey and tasting the honey was the best part!
Honey isn’t the only bee keeping product. Beeswax is just as valuable as honey with its many uses. It can be used as a lubricant, water proofing agent, a key ingredient in cosmetics and candle making.
“I believe the workshop on Saturday was very informative in a sense that we covered more than just the general aspect of honey extraction, but also a fair bit on beekeeping 101, active beekeepers and honey storage. The most interesting part was watching the younger members participate in the honey extraction”, Luna Ape.
The participants left with a sense of wonder and enthusiasm to either continue with bee keeping or to start for those who were new. This workshop was not only helpful to members who are already in beekeeping but more so for new participants who want to learn more about safe beekeeping in Samoa.
“SWAG is very appreciative of the ongoing support of our donor partners which has enabled the delivery of the bee keeping 101 and honey extraction training. We have had a lot of interest as shown from the attendance today, we believe the training will encourage many growers, not just women, to engage in bee keeping. Bees are part of the biodiversity which we all depend on for survival and we need more beekeepers and lovers,” said Fuimaono Ponifasio, SWAG President.
The facilitation of the workshop was made possible through the partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries (MAF) and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (I.F.A.D) and distributed from the Pacific Island Rural and Agricultural Stimulus (P.I.R.A.S) Facility. The P.I.R.A.S. Facility aims to support COVID-19 food systems.
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