Regional and International beekeepers meeting in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) for the 11th Caribbean Beekeeping Congress have moved South to the Grenadines for a first hand view of the impact of an apiculture project.
The visit to Union Island on Wednesday, November 2 marks the third day of their conference which is being held under the theme “Building the Resilience of a Bee-Keeping Industry after a natural Disaster.
The three- day conference opened on Sunday, October 30 at the Cruise Ship Berth.
President of the SVG Beekeepers Association, Beverly Reddock in her welcoming remarks said the theme was appropriate as the hosting of this conference showed the association how to be resilient amidst threats of pests, pesticides, global warming and diseases.
Reddock told those in attendance that the association has chosen to promote, educate and develop a viable beekeeping industry in SVG and the efforts to host the conference here augers well for the success of local beekeepers.
Today, Wednesday November 2, delegates are visiting Union Island where the local association had successfully introduced bees through an Australian Aid project.
This project has help to generate an increase in yields of traditional crops namely, peas and corn, spurring a new spirit of entrepreneurship surrounding apiculture.
President of the Caribbean Beekeepers Organisations (ACBO), Richard Mathias in his address said over the last two years his organization has seen the development and implementation of very important initiatives across the Caribbean to support apiculture and most importantly, improve livelihoods.
However, he noted that the Caribbean beekeeping sector is still under increasing threats from continued escalation of climate change, the indiscriminate use of pesticides and most critically, a renewed thrust to open domestic honey markets to international honey imports.
He said the growing family of beekeepers across the Caribbean has begun to come together to address these issues and cited as an example that in 2021/2022, they were able to plant more than 2000 trees across the region in support of reducing and providing forage for their pollinators.
Mathias said ACBO has started campaigning among farmers in member countries to reduce their pesticide use and encourage integrated agricultural practices and biopesticide techniques.
The organization, he added, has also begun a regional conversation on the pros and cons of the importation of honey with a view towards properly supporting the regional beekeepers who are coming closer and closer to the threat of ‘fake’ honey into their countries.
“ACBO can, as a regional beekeeper sector produce, provide honey to each other’s countries only if they come together to fight against the ever -growing pressure of fake honey, which is currently threatening European and north American producers,” Mathias said.
“We can’t allow foreign fake honey to take away our livelihoods, our trade, our tradition and destroy our biodiversity.”
In declaring the congress open, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Saboto Ceasar said that on the issue of regionalism, some countries are blocking the movement of trade in honey; because of that, there are some stakeholders in some member states who are not investing further in honey production and apiculture in general because they do not have access to very large markets.
“So, when we speak about our honey import bill as a region going forward, I am asking for consensus as it pertains to the removal of trade barriers,” he said.
On the local end, Ceasar said that the fogging by the Vector Control Unit is also a challenge to the beekeepers. To address the issue, he assured the beekeepers that his ministry has written to the Pesticides Board and also engaged the Minister of Health, and the Chief Medical Officer on the matter.
“We all know how critical it is to ensure that the mosquitoes don’t have their way, but we have to balance this not only the protection of the bees, but there are many persons in the scientific field who are also noting that there are far better opportunities that we have available today that we can utilize to protect both bees and human beings.”
Minister Ceasar said food security continues to play a very vital role not only in production and productivity but with the significant inflation in the cost of food, food ecosystems must be protected.
Representatives of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation of Agriculture ( IICA), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the St Vincent and the Grenadines Conservative Fund as well as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, also attended the opening ceremony.
Presentations of certificates were also given to those who successfully completed the IAC online Beekeeping Course as part of the GEF, SGP and UNDP South/South Beekeeping and Biodiversity project (API).
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