From David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
A prominent bee farmer in Anambra State, Mr. Emeka Okafor, has expressed regrets that bee-keeping has remained largely unexploited in Nigeria.
Okafor, chairman of Majesty Honey Farms, Adazi Ani, Anocha Local Government Area of Anambra State, said he had been thanking his stars for directing him to the bee-keeping business, a branch of farming that he said was a money-spinner, if well harnessed.
Okafor, otherwise known as Emeka Honey, is the most popular bee farmer in Anambra State. Since 2012, he has been working hard to develop the sector because of his love for the business even though he was oftentimes retarded by financial limitations.
He produces pure natural honey and beeswax, which has kept him gainfully employed over the years. The bee-keeper said he has been able to invent an instrument to suppress the aggression of bees, adding that he could handle his farming activities from start to finish without being stung by the bees. He also noted that no bee would be killed, even by accident.
“There is colony-by-colony production, and each beehive can produce more than 25 litres in a given harvest, from November to June, which is our peak period every year. In totality, my farm can produce about 37,500 litres of honey annually.
“Bees are sensitive animals, so you need not kill them before harvesting the honey. We have an instrument with which to harvest the honey without killing a single bee, unlike in traditional honey harvesting method, where people use fire to kill the bees in order to access the honey,” he said.
To attract bees to a colony in the first place, Okafor explained that the farmer must look for an expanse of land with vegetation. He said bees love flowers, which they feed on for reproduction, and a farmer could bring in things like palm wine, cashew fruits, pineapple, mango, pawpaw and other fruits in that category, as well as honey, and deposit such at the bee colonies. These constitute food for the bees.
Okafor noted that another interesting thing about bees was that they were never in need of any help to feed and hardly needed medication or anything synthetic in their food. He explained further that, after initially being attracted to the colonies scattered all over the farm, the bees would begin to look for food elsewhere and would return to their colonies after feeding outside on a daily basis.
For a bee-keeper to get close to the colonies when they are already hosted, Okafor ecplained that one had to put on protective clothing, overalls, gloves and a mask; moreover, it should be noted that bees are very sensitive to colours.
A farmer or visitor dares not come close to the bees in red colour, which, according to Okafor, the bees regard as confrontational.
“Bees are friendly but can become aggressive when they suspect that you are coming to attack them,” he said.
Okafor stressed that government had been losing millions of dollars by not paying attention to the industry, given the efficacy of pure natural honey in the medical field.
“Research has shown that honey is very effective for open heart surgery wound dressing, serves as a blood purifier, heals blood cancer, eye problems through consistent addition to meals, and has a whole lot of other medicinal values,” he said.
To encourage production of honey in commercial quantities, he suggested that government must show more interest in it. He suggested that young graduates should be trained to produce honey, adding that his company would be willing to set the pace in that regard.
“Now that we have realised the need to diversify the nation’s economy, government should show acute interest in this bee-keeping business. The way to go is to sponsor trainees in that area of farming and provide the necessary financial encouragement to those in this special field,” he said.