Twenty-eight apprentice beekeepers recently graduated from a training programme in apiculture having benefited from a $2.9 million investment in the sector by the Ministry of Agriculture and Land.
The Apiculture Unit of the Research and Development Division in the Ministry hosted the graduation ceremony for the apprentices, who were formerly unemployed young men and women and who participated in the Beekeeping Apprenticeship Programme for six months at the Bodles Research Station in Old Harbour.
The young apprentices were each given a monthly stipend of $5,000 during training and at the graduation ceremony on April 6 they were also presented with Certificates of Completion, along with grant vouchers valued at $71,000 each. Addressing the ceremony, Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke said, “Having come into difficulties with the European Union and traditional crops, sugar and banana, we needed to diversify. We identified one area of diversification and potential growth to be apiculture.”
Minister Clarke went on to explain that apiculture and the Beekeeping Apprenticeship Programme also fell under the umbrella of the Ministry’s Agricultural Development Strategy, which seeks to train unemployed young people, particularly from rural communities in marketable skills to enable them to achieve economic sustainability.
Minister Clarke also expressed satisfaction with the number of young persons enrolled in the apprenticeship programme, the majority being under 25 years of age. “I am elated to see so many young people participating in an agricultural programme because the average age of the Jamaican farmer ranges around 50 years and older,” he remarked.
Mr. Clarke added that the 28 young persons had been selected to participate “in an industry that generates significant export earnings and has the potential to earn some one billion dollars”.
In order for the country to tap into the worldwide demand for honey and operate on a sustainable basis, the Minister said, the Ministry had decided to forgo just the rudimentary construction of hives and instead invest in training highly skilled, certified young workers who would lay the proper foundation for sustainability.
The participants were recognized for their contribution during the training programme. The award for Outstanding Dedication to the Beekeeping Apprenticeship Programme and Technical Competence in the Bee Industry went to Jeremy Lodge. Brahim Diop received the award for Most Improved and Resourceful Beekeeping Apprentice.
The award for Innovation in Product Diversification and Packaging went to Aloune Wilson, while the award for Innovation in the Construction of Beekeeping Equipment was received by Dennis Reid. There was also an award for Outstanding Initiative and Contribution to the Development of the Beekeeping Restoration Apiary in St. Mary and this went to Kwesi Palmer.
In addition, a similar award, Outstanding Dedication and Contribution to the Development of the Beekeeping Restoration Apiary in St. Mary went to Anthony Davidson.
Steven McKenzie and Lloyd Taylor were recipients of the two awards to bee farmers in recognition of Outstanding Support and Contribution to the Beekeeping Apprenticeship Programme for 2005/2006.