From late-June to mid-November, the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project supported the Association of Beekeepers Leotar from Trebinje to train 50 new beekeepers who are now taking up beekeeping as an additional activity and source of income.

"I got drawn to beekeeping because of my fiancé," says Tijana Jelić, 20, from Trebinje, Southeastern BiH. "He first started experimenting with beehives two years ago. I liked that idea, and a year ago I started working with him in the apiary. We now have 70 hives, and beekeeping is becoming an additional source of income for us," she continues.

However, neither Tijana nor her fiancé Aleksandar, 27, had a chance to undergo proper training in beekeeping. That was making their efforts to manage the apiary much more difficult.

In June, their older friends and more experienced beekeepers from the local Association of Beekeepers Leotar informed them about the training in beekeeping, and they both signed up. "We learned a lot, but we now also know that we will need more training to become successful beekeepers," says Tijana.

Comprehensive training with set goals

The Sweden/USAID FARMA II project has a long-standing relationship with the Leotar association. In 2017, the project supported the association in purchasing beekeeping equipment and ICT devices for its members to increase the annual production of honey by then 65 members from 81 to 90 tons.

The association grew, and by 2019 it had 150 members who were producing 130 tons of honey and other bee products a year, but that was not the end of their aspiration to continue developing. In early 2020, the association applied for an additional grant with the FARMA II project. This time it was to train 50 new beekeepers, young people, and women, who would become the association members and bring the annual production to 150 tons.

"We enjoyed the support of the FARMA II project also in the past to train smaller groups of beekeepers. This time around, we elevated the training to a much higher level. We engaged six lecturers, five of whom are university professors from Banja Luka and Belgrade," says Obrad Ninković, president of the association.

According to Obrad, the training covered beekeeping from A to Z. "We first introduced participant to the basic terminology, the structure of the bee society, and the biology of honey bees. We then moved to bee diseases and how to recognize and treat them, bee feeding, and swarming. We also covered topics such as development and splitting of hives, and of course the production of honey and other bee products," he says.  

All 50 training participants successfully passed the final test and are now members of the association. Some have more hives than the others, but all are equally dedicated to actively pursuing beekeeping.

Plans for the future

While Tijana entered the world of beekeeping out of love, Danijela Vesić Šakota, 40, and mother of two, picked up beekeeping out of curiosity.

"I was always fascinated by bees and the way they organize their society," says Danijela. "One of my colleagues is a beekeeper for seven years. We often spoke about it, and I also read a lot online and watched different tutorials. Finally, two years ago, I bought two hives but never dared to buy bees."

Danijela applied for the training to get ready to take the next step towards beekeeping. Mid-way through the training that had 22 theoretical and 12 practical sessions in a model apiary, she bought one and got two bee societies and with an additional hive she got as a gift, she started her first small apiary.

"I work for the Court Police, so in nine to ten years from now, I'll retire. I plan to continue growing the apiary, so once that moment comes, I have beekeeping as an activity that will keep me busy," says Danijela. She adds that with two children who are one and twelve, she can cater to some ten hives, but as children grow, so will the number of hives. "Right now, I plan to produce enough honey and propolis for my household, and later on, it should also become an additional source of income."

Tijana's plans for beekeeping are bigger. "Aleksandar and I will soon get married. With the 70 hives we have, this year we managed to produce some 900 kilos of honey. As we expand the apiary, we hope to produce more honey and make the beekeeping a substantial if not the main source of income."

Regardless of the size of the business aspirations, both Tijana and Danijela saw the benefit of participating in professional training and are looking to attend additional ones.