Roselyne Sachiti Features Editor
In Zimbabwe, bee-keeping is fast becoming a profitable income generating activity for people of diverse backgrounds owing to high demand for honey and bee related products in both the domestic and export markets.
With the technological revolution taking over many sectors in areas of education, entertainment, transport and communication, and in agriculture, many have grabbed inventions that make life and work easier.
Indeed, a little creativity can go a long way and in the area of apiculture, technology has helped farmers who have embraced it go a step further in their business.
In Zimbabwe, Yadah Connect has embraced technology in its apiculture business by introducing the “smart hive”, which uses a WiFi-based micro chip to get updates on beehive activity.
One aspect of this technological introduction is that the beehive is wired with microchips for easy remote monitoring.
All this data can be collected in real time and transmitted to a device that has internet access.
In an interview with The Herald, Prophetic Healing and Deliverance leader, Prophet Walter Magaya, said they recently introduced the beehive monitoring system, which allows them to track the progress of all their 20 000 hives.
“Bees have a habit. Sometimes they do not produce at the same pace. The most active bee will produce in less time while others may take longer,” he said.
He said what they are doing is an example of how bee-keeping can be radically improved in Zimbabwe with a little technological innovation.
“Using the Wi-Fi connected chip which is placed under a hive, the mass of the hive before and after production is calculated and information sent, helping us understand our bee colonies better,” he said.
According to Prophet Magaya, such technology has helped them plan operations more efficiently, reduce hive entrances which leave hives vulnerable to drafts or attack, cut costs and increase production.
“Bees do not want to be disturbed when they are producing. If you do not have such a chip, it means you have to open the hive to check all the time. This is risky as you can be stung. This is also time costly. We will be working with 20 000 hives and this was the only solution.
“The microchip will calculate the mass of the hive when bees have produced enough honey on the top bars,” Prophet Magaya added.
He said the chip provides them with real time alerts and notifications allowing them to respond quickly.
“The microchips from any of our hives will send information on a dashboard system here in Harare. If it tells us that for example hive 65 is ripe, we will just go straight to that hive and harvest. This means we will not unnecessarily open hives that are not yet ripe,” he explained.
Even with 20 000 hives dotted around Zimbabwe in areas that include Harare, Mhondoro and Ruwa, Prophet Magaya said they have also empowered locals in line with Government’s drive of transforming Zimbabwe into a middle income economy with increased investment, decent jobs, broad based empowerment free from poverty by 2030.
He said they hired 500 out growers creating a chain of employment in both rural and urban areas and beyond borders.
“We trained the out growers and are looking at increasing the numbers. Our aim is to create more employment opportunities.
“Some of the out growers are from Botswana and South Africa and were also trained through Yadah Connect,” he added.
The out growers were trained in Harare between November 4 and 11 last year at a seminar conducted by Prophet Magaya.
He said they have not yet started exporting but hope to do so by the end of 2018.
“We are expecting to export honey worth US$35 million. We are also adding value to the honey by making perfumes, and cough syrups. All this money is not mine, it belongs to the people,” he said.
According to the Bee-keepers Association of Zimbabwe, there is a huge demand for honey and its derivatives on the domestic market.
The demand on the local market has always exceeded supply resulting in very little left for export, yet only 20 percent of local production is channelled through the formal market.
They attributed this to low production and the technology used.
Bee-keeping has the potential to increase employment, while the value addition of the apiculture industry will spur rural development and increase income and economic growth.
Apiculture in Zimbabwe started as far back as the 18th Century. Evidence of bee-keeping is shown by rock paintings in the Matopo Hills. Honey used to be harvested from caves, cliffs, hollows of trees and the ground.