Beekeeping in Madagascar

Naturevolution launched in 2018 a pilot project for development of beekeeping in villages located on the perimeter of Makay massif in Madagascar.

This project has the support of theMicro Projects Agency and other partners, for which we are seeking additional funding, has two main objectives: first, to form the first beekeepers and artisans, and first sales network; secondly, gather the information needed to launch a project of greater magnitude. To better understand this whole project, we offer here an opening on the beekeeping world Malagasy.

Presentation of the beekeeping project in the village of Tsivoko.
Presentation of the beekeeping project in the village of Tsivoko.

The bee of Madagascar

Madagascar is well known for its exceptional endemismWith a rate exceeding 80% for insects and even close to 100% for some groups. The bee of Madagascar is no exception to this rule with theApis mellifera where. unicolor, Endemic subspecies of the 28 sub-species ofApis mellifera known in the world.

It is characterized by a dark uniform color and has a small hair all over the body (Ruttner, 1975). The workers of this variety Bee are among the smallest of its kind while on the contrary the male has relatively large (Ruttner 1987). It participates not only in the pollination of a large part of the local flora endemic to Madagascar but also major food crops or export such as lychee.

According to a study INRA and CNRS, 35% of global food production is directly dependent on pollinators. The value of insect pollination service was estimated at 153 billion eurosOr 9.5% of the value of world agricultural production.

Bee endemic to Madagascar (Apis mellifera var. unicolor). (c) A.Frank CIRAD

History of beekeeping in Madagascar

  • 1920-1940 - beekeeping is the third source of income Madagascar with 38 thousand tonnesOf which over 65% are exported annually to Europe
  • 1951 – honey embargo by Europe for non-compliance with European standards following the addition of sugar and water to these products.
  • 1996 – embargo animal products from Madagascar by Europe, Due to hygiene standards.
  • 2011 - the European Union puts end the embargo the Malagasy honey
  • 2012-2014 - 17 tonnes are exported
  • 2014-2015 – 54 tonnes exported

To return the issue of the quality of honey, It is measured for its water content and the desired percentage is less than 21%. The purity and good filtration of the product are also sought. The difficulty in answering this quality standard in Madagascar lies above the low level of training beekeepers a high illiteracy rate and the necessary compliance with international standards for honey extraction conditions (Honey approved).

Malagasy beekeepers check their hives.

traditional and modern

Beekeeping in Madagascar practice at different levels:

  • beekeepers pickers (50%) collect wild swarms, rather numerous in forests. Unfortunately, this practice causes the total destruction of the swarm, and the tree where the hive is often shot.
  • Beekeepers swarms hunters (35%) will perform a traditional breeding from swarms collected forests. A hollow log serves hive. It attracts the settlement for it to produce honey. This practice is more respectful of the bee. However, due to the low development of the techniques used, it gets only low yields: between 4-7 kg of honey for a traditional hive, while they are between 10 to 20 kg a modern hive ( per year).
  • The integrated beekeepers (15%) working in partnership with the honey producers or cooperatives. Their production techniques are similar to those used by beekeepers 'modern', for example in France.
Forgeau Bernard, president of Naturevolution Madagascar, tests the apicueillette.
A traditional hive is installed in the village of Beroroha (South Makay).
modern hives in Madagascar

Hives used to Madagascar
In addition to traditional hives built from tree trunks, found in Madagascar mainly 2 types of modern hives, ruches Dadant and the ruffles the Langstroth.

The eternal debate between beekeepers relates to the comparison between the "Langstroth" hive or the "Dadant" hive and Madagascar is no exception to this rule, to which must be added regional modifications ("Bourbon" hive). The hive body of the first is smaller and therefore more manageable but offers less food to the colony for periods of scarcity. The honey supers are larger for the “Langstroth” hive but it is easy to put two or three supers on a “Dadant” hive body.

In Madagascar, a hive produced between 10 and 60 kilos of honey per year from the force of the colony but also in terms of the quality of the honey environment and the weather. In the East, beekeepers perform four honeyed year (niaouli, polyfloral, macaranga, litchi).

The benefits of beekeeping in Madagascar

Beekeeping is very present in the Malagasy culture and widespread throughout the country. Honey there has a very good image and is traditionally used to replace sugar, therapy and cosmetology.

  • A huge untapped potential : The rich flora and climate characteristics give long periods of flowering of a great variety of species. They allow Apis mellifera var. unicolor produce throughout the year several crops honeys succulent with multiple flavors born of many pollinated species. It is possible to obtain up to four annual harvestsBut this is only possible if beekeepers have access to technical information as well as specialized equipment, the main obstacles to Madagascar.
  • Additional income for farmers, especially during the lean season (difficult period between two harvests). This income can allow each household to access quality education and health care in a healthier environment.
  • The development of beekeeping can contribute to environmental protection, As mentioned a study published by the CITE on beekeeping in Madagascar (2004). A decrease in voluntary bushfires is found in areas where beekeeping is practiced.
Training beekeepers to traditional methods to modern beekeeping.

Constraints to development of beekeeping

  • Deforestation : It destroys the variety and number of species of honey plants, it heavily impacts the decrease in wild bee populations.
  • The low purchasing power of rural populations does not allow investing in the purchase and maintenance of modern hives and even less in suitable beekeeping equipment (extractor, containers, embossed wax etc ...). Insecurity blocks new initiatives and the opening of new outlets).
  • Lack of know-how in some regions such as Makay, hence the importance of learning beekeeping techniques and monitoring the implementation of the beekeeping project.
  • But perhaps the most important limiting factor is the absence of a structured market to sell the production.
  • In 2009, le varroa, an extremely harmful parasite (nicknamed the "bee vampire"), made its appearance in Madagascar. Malagasy beekeepers benefit from the experience of their European colleagues and are now developing effective techniques to combat parasitosis.
A / Varroa destructor electron microscope.
B / Two parasitic mites on bees.
C / mite Distribution Map Varroa destructor à Madagascar en 2011-2012.Le 05 février 2017, la présence du varroa a été détectée à Manakara, région pilote apicole à Madagascar. (triangles noirs = sites non infesté ; triangles rouges et étoiles bleues = sites infestés)
Bush fire in the massive Makay

The local market honey

The "good honey" from the modern beekeeping is purchased in bulk by wholesalers between 5000 and 8000 ariary per kilo (1.40 € and 2.20 €), it is distributed in the retail of around 8 10 € per kilo.

There is a strong demand in the domestic market for high quality honeyThat the current production can not satisfy. picking products are often of poor quality, dirty or added water, and are intended for undemanding consumers and low income. Moreover collectors, merchants and restaurateurs of the island are looking for quality honeys.

Beekeeping in the Makay

In the Makay massif, forest honey is polyfloral. The outskirts of villages, it is dominated by fruit trees, mainly citrus. Good water quality and multitude of natural storage points facilitate the work of bees and improve the quality of honey.

Historically, hunter-gatherers in the region will take honey in tree cavities or rock. This technique is destructive because it jeopardizes the survival of the entire colony, depriving it of all its reserves and, sometimes, accidentally killing the queen.

The launch of a beekeeping project in the Makay region from the simple observation of thecultural significance and traditional honey, an empirical know-how of swarm gatherers and honey hunters, the beekeeping potential of Makay, but also the success of the ’exploitation of small family apiaries despite archaic and ineffective means. The project is also based on an interregional cultural exchange (East / West) with regions that have already developed modern beekeeping, such as that of Manakara.

Makay massif forest
Makay massif forest

The beekeeping in the service of conservation Makay

Objective 1: To improve family incomes
The peasants bordering the Makay massif are still looking for alternative income which would allow them to buy basic necessities to make the vital and nutritional link during the period of welding between two harvests. The current consequences of this lack of additional income are poaching, particularly by lemurs, and the increase in bush fires for the breeding of zebus. It is also only with better living conditions that local populations will be able to access education, better health and food, and ultimately to care for their environment.

Beehives and rice harvest in Madagascar
Beekeeping contributes to providing a new source of income, even an alternative for farmers practicing rice cultivation and zebu breeding.

Objective 2: The preservation of the environment.
The development of beekeeping in the Makay, as in other protected areas around the world, aims to educate local communities awareness of the need to preserve the forest, vegetation and streams. The different regional analyzes that have been conducted show that beekeeping is an economic activity that educates effectively to the preservation of natural resources since it depends directly.

Among current api-gatherers, for whom the sale of honey is therefore an income, the objective is to aim that the swarms are not destroyed or felled trees during harvest or even help them make the transition to modern beekeeping, recipient quickly transition their business. For all beekeepers, training focuses on the link between honey production, quality, and the health of the environment, Leading thus in turn become actors of environmental protection in the villages.

It is however necessary that beekeepers can access to a market of sufficient size to sell the products, that the isolation of the Makay has so far held back. The mastery of the inherent Naturevolution Madagascar complicated logistics Makay is the key factor that makes today the realization of such a project linking the villages of Makay and the rest of the country.

> Learn more about beekeeping pilot Naturevolution that develops in the first villages Makay.

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