Sikhulekelani Moyo, Business Reporter
A COMMERCIAL bee-keeping project is being set up in Umguza District in Matabeleland North province, which will be used as a launchpad for modelling grassroot employment creation across the country.
The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare is spearheading the initiative in partnership with private players and development partner organisations.
The ministry’s permanent secretary, Mr Simon Masanga, said employment creation was at the core of their mandate and buttresses the National Development Strategy (NDS1 2021-2025) ideals of decent formal jobs.
“The ultimate objective of the ministry is to establish a project in each province that would ensure the improvement of people’s livelihoods,” he said.
“One such initiative is the Umguza Apiculture Employment Promotion Programme (UAEPP), a bee keeping and production initiative.
“The project is targeting unemployed youths, men, women and vulnerable groups such as people living with disabilities. It is targeting Wards 9-19 because the mentioned wards have forests and suitable environment for beekeeping.”
Mr Masanga said each trained farmer under the project will be expected to mentor at least three people every year.
Hopes are that by mid-2025 the project will be able to produce 18 000 farmers and cover at least 63 percent of Umguza households.
To ensure project sustainability, Mr Masanga said the ministry has hired a reputable consultant in apiculture who has vast experience locally and regionally.
He said in Zimbabwe the bee colonisation rate stands at 60 percent, which means many beekeepers are likely to incur 40 percent deficits.
“This project is unique in way that it will ensure 100 percent colonisation rate through establishment of the queen breeding facility that will service 40 percent deficit that is projected,” said Mr Masanga.
He said challenges that the beekeepers have faced will be used for risk management to counter the risks to make sure that the project is a success.
The ministry in collaboration with the District Implementing Committee and a technical consultant who was engaged to assist are already carrying out a baseline survey and selecting beneficiaries for the pilot project.
According to the national trade and development organisation, ZimTrade, health-conscious consumers now opt for natural sugars such as honey in place of artificial sweeteners and this has seen a surge in demand for honey, whose uses extend beyond the kitchen table, making it a very important source of income for many economies.
Despite the potential, Zimbabwe lags behind in terms of honey exports and apiculture compared to regional peers.
The project involves intergovernmental organisations, bee-keeping companies, small to medium enterprises, education sector representatives and law enforcement agents.
Bulawayo entrepreneur, Mr Welcome Bhila of Bee’s Honey company who is a technical expert in the project said they were planning to engage 20 local apiculture extension officers who will be equipped with bicycles and will receive further training.
“People can be fulltime beekeepers and earn more than someone who is formally employed. We want the intended beneficiaries to fully enjoy the benefits from this programme and recruit more unemployed after seeing the results from this pilot programme,” said Mr Bhilu.