More than 30 persons drawn from several communities in Eastern St. Thomas, attended a two-day beekeeping workshop on March 17 and 18, at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) parish office, in Morant Bay.
The workshop, organised by the Social Development Commission (SDC), in collaboration with RADA, was staged to assist residents who were recently displaced, due to the decline in banana and sugar production in the parish.
Some of the topics discussed were: pests affecting the industry, beekeeping equipment, site selection, examination of colony, and management of hives. Participants also took part in a practical exercise on how to use a bee smoker and how to care an apiary.
Speaking at the closing ceremony on March 18 at the RADA St. Thomas office, Parish Manager of the SDC, Luther Cummings, said that RADA, the agency responsible for training farmers, would provide additional training and monitor the participants’ beekeeping businesses.
“I would like to see an impact in the communities, as you take up this occupation, so that we can see more jobs being created in the community, and therefore improved sustainability,” he told the participants.
Course Instructor and Director of Honeycomb Industries, Don Drummond, told JIS News that the workshop was a success.
“It was quite successful, as the participants were enthusiastic and quite involved in the programme,” he said.
He pointed out that the participants were taught basic beekeeping skills, from the setting up of an apiary to the harvesting of honey. “They know enough to recognise when they are going wrong and where to find help,” he added.
Mr. Drummond explained that honey production was a viable business, adding that bee farmers were able to reap almost all of the honey produced. “One of the major problems of agriculture in Jamaica is praedial larceny, and that is not significant with beekeeping,” he said.
Additionally, he said that the start-up and operational costs of beehives are “quite low and one is able to break even in a year and a half or two.”
However, he raised concerns about the lack of start-up capital for potential bee-farmers. According to Mr. Drummond, it is difficult for some persons to get financing without collateral, as required by the banks.
“It would be a very good day if we could get the financial institutions to accept the hives, which are quite valuable to be used as collateral,” he said, noting that a hive of bees is valued at some $15,000.