Restoring the Environment and Protecting Water Resources
Tree-planting projects frequently meet resistance from local people because land that could be grazed or farmed is converted to forest. Limited-resource farmers often see this as their loss, especially when they are relocated by government policy, and GBM tree projects have sometimes been sabotaged as a result. One solution is to provide new economic incentives for enabling restoration of forests and other natural vegetation. Placement of beehives along riverbanks is one of those incentives.
The streamside zone is an ideal spot for beekeeping because it is often close enough to households for convenient tending of hives, yet far enough away from concentrated agricultural production that exposes the bees to farm pesticides. It also keeps active, sometimes aggressive, bees away from people. Placement of hives in the deep forest is less desirable because of long distances from homes and lack of security from theft or destruction by wild animals.
The land along streams frequently floods and is, therefore, less suitable for permanent structures and many activities. But hives placed in streamside trees are not inundated and provide good income from the floodplain. This creates an alternative to dry-season farming, which destroys the stream buffer zone and results in soil erosion and water pollution.
Keeping the riparian zone in natural vegetation and trees provides a biodiverse area where some plants are flowering year-round to provide a continuous supply of nectar and pollen for bees. These eco-friendly zones filter polluted runoff before it enters streams. Streamside vegetation traps sediments, excess nutrients, and pathogens; provides important habitats for wildlife; and helps maintain both water quality and quantity. Bees do their part by pollinating plants of this area and serving as “watchdogs” for potentially destructive livestock or people.
The goal of many Kenyan beekeepers is to expand their market and income, and this would be greatly enhanced by achieving a government-certified label that ensures honey purity, organic production, and sustainable practices that protect and improve the environment and communities. The GWW–GBM project is helping to make that goal a reality, with support from the Tankersley Fund and other Auburn University resources.