Bee Project NEWS

Problem and Institutional Analysis

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Bee diseases and pests do not respect borders, therefore requiring local, national, regional and continental approaches whereby basic regulatory frameworks and guidelines for their control should be coordinated, harmonised and promoted across Africa. Similarly, information pertaining to bee health (such as effects of pesticides, food safety concerns due to chemical residues in honey, other bee's products or implications in pollination of plants), are global problems and, as such, should be dealt with at the continental level. The development of a central reference laboratory (CRL) for bee diseases and pests in Africa is informed by and built on icipe's experience with earlier beekeeping initiatives conducted in East, West, North, South and Central Africa with farmers' associations. These initiatives aimed at strengthening and modernising research and development in African beekeeping offer an opportunity for income diversification for rural resource-poor farmers, while stimulating positive natural resource management that maintains the integrity of ecosystems. Africa continues to lose its natural resources due to increasing human population pressure, agricultural expansion, climate change, landscape degradation and urbanisation. This, together with poor management of natural resources and the lack of appropriate or harmonised policies, has led to irreversible loss of pollinators' biodiversity.

The serious decline of honeybee populations in Europe and the USA commonly referred to as the colony collapse disorder (CCD), has alarmed governments, conservationists and the private sector. The possibility and effects of a similar decline in Africa would seriously harm the livelihoods of millions of rural resource-poor farmers, as well as commercial farmers. Therefore, the proper conservation of honeybees in Africa must be ensured so that colony losses experienced in other parts of the world are not repeated in Africa. In addition, there is need to protect the genetic diversity represented by the different African wild honeybee populations. Fries and Raina reported very low level of American foulbrood disease in large parts of Africa. However, the recently confirmed presence of the varroa mite, brood diseases and Paenibacillus larvae spores in SSA are likely to compromise honeybee health and consequently honeybee productivity in this region of the world. This has raised concerns that these highly devastating mites, and probably so far undiagnosed honeybee diseases, could be widespread in Africa. Two miticides, fluvalinate and coumaphos, introduced in 1987, have been effective in Varroa control but there is now widespread resistance to both.

At institutional level, the lack of resources to analyse products, certify for export, and identify bees and their diseases and parasites are often mentioned as major constraints. Infrastructure to monitor, certify and enable trade in honey and beeswax is also lacking in the majority of African countries. Inappropriate and/or lack of policies protecting the industry and preventing the introduction of bee diseases and parasites is another missing link that needs to be addressed in the short-run.

There is very limited notification and reporting of bee diseases to the AU-IBAR and OIE and this is also a major constraint to the design of proper policies, strategies and specific programmes. The limited notification and reporting of bee diseases may be attributed to the low capacity of national veterinary institutions to detect bee diseases (the bee sector is often out of the scope of veterinary services as it lies either in the ministry in charge of environment or that of crop productions), the lack of legislative frameworks for bee disease control and the lack of awareness on the importance of bee health.