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The Sweden/USAID FARMA II project helps involve more young people and women in beekeeping. Through support to education and product diversification, FARMA II is making beekeeping in Bosnia and Herzegovina more profitable.

"Knowledge is key to success in the beekeeping. If one wants to make beekeeping profitable and potentially live off of it, one has to keep learning. Continuous education is a must for any serious beekeeper," says Obrad Ninković, head of the Association of Beekeepers Leotar from Trebinje, Southeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to Obrad, beekeeping has a very long tradition in eastern Hercegovina. He notes that there are some 500 beekeepers in Trebinje alone, whereas the Leotar association grew from 150 to 300 members over the last three years.

“Beekeeping is slowly gaining popularity among young people, but they do not have the necessary knowledge to turn it into something more than a hobby. Over the last three years, 100 beekeepers received  starter kits with five beehives. Through the support of the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project, we are now educating 50 young people and women on how to become good beekeepers, develop their bee colonies, and increase quantities of honey and other bee products they produce,” says Obrad.

Women, youth and employment

In 2018, the FARMA II project supported the procurement of modern beekeeping equipment to help 40 experienced beekeepers who are members of the Leotar association. The goal was to increase their cumulative annual production of honey from 81 to 90 tons. The project also supported the training of 20 young people and ten women, who were interested in beekeeping and wanted to start the practice on their family farms.

“Just a few years ago, beekeeping was considered as something people start doing once they retire. For several years now we are trying to change that perception and promote beekeeping as a very demanding, but in the end profitable business,” explains Obrad.

“Bees in Hercegovina mainly make honey from the medicinal herbs, i.e. their nectar. The overall quantities that can be produced are thus smaller, but the quality, taste, and sales price is higher. With 50 to 100 hives that can each produce some 20 to 30 kilograms of honey per year, one can make a decent living. It only gets better with a larger number of hives. But again, I repeat, education is key to success."

Obrad says that some 100 women and young people are now members of the Leotar association and that the beekeeping is a significant source of income for them. “Hopefully this will the only job they will need to do in the future.”

In December 2019, the Sweden/USAID FARM II Project issued a publication called Beekeeping Calculations for the Beginners, which elaborates on the necessary investments and potential profits in beekeeping.

Product diversification

The Association of Beekeepers Lipa from Bosanska Krupa, in the very northwest of the country, with some 100 members of whom 23 are women, follows the same approach when it comes to the education of beekeepers. They are, however, focusing on the diversification of products.

“With the support of the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project we have trained 30 of our members on how to increase honey yields, but more importantly on how to collect, process and store royal jelly, pollen, propolis, and wax. Our training course also addressed the production of different value-added products by mixing honey with all other bee products, but also with the medicinal herbs and dried fruit. We also covered and the production of honey-based cosmetics," says Hajrudin Šabić of Lipa association.

“In addition to the training courses, in late June (Note to self: June 24), the FARMA II project provided us with the equipment that the 30 trained members of our association needed to be able to extract the bee products. They can now start producing new value-added products and come August 14, they will present them at the Honey Fair, here in Bosanska Krupa.”

Honey sales

Living more than 400 kilometers away, at the diagonal ends of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Obrad and Hajrudin have never met. Nonetheless, they both say that when it comes to sales, the beekeepers still make the most from door-to-door sales and honey or high-quality food fairs.

“The buy-off prices are very low so we are better off selling our products, either directly or through specialized stores such as Hercegovačka kuća [Hercegovina House] based in East Sarajevo and Banja Luka,” says Obrad.

Hajrudin and Obrad also share their vision for the future of beekeeping in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “I can say that out of 130 of our members, at the moment only some ten live off the beekeeping as their main source of income. With the product diversification, we hope that more of our members will be able to make more money and make the beekeeping their only profession,” concludes Hajrudin.