• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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Opportunities abound for youths in beekeeping – Iyiola

Opportunities abound for youths in beekeeping – Iyiola

Taiwo Iyiola is a bee farmer and the winner of the 2019 British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) Farmers for the Future Grant. In this interview with Josephine Okojie, she spoke about her beekeeping business and how the BATNF Farmers for the Future Grant has impacted the farming business.

What does it take to be a beekeeper? Is there special training required for this and where did the motivation to go into this come from?

To be a beekeeper, one needs to, first, develop an interest, and of course, go through the fundamental training of working with bees.

I wanted to go ‘the road less travelled’ and beekeeping provided that opportunity because there are very few beekeepers in Nigeria, and the encouragement I got from my first trainer, Akinbi, who simplified the process of beekeeping reassured my desire to venture into this value and inspired me to go into it.

The knowledge I garnered from the research I did on beekeeping also heightened my interest. Besides, I like doing things that are not common, especially with my gender.

I was particularly motivated to go into bee farming when I realized that there are not many females who are in the profession.

My love for nature and keenness for research spurred my interest in beekeeping. It takes great passion for anyone to go into beekeeping and it doesn’t require huge capital to start.

For how long have you been in the business of beekeeping and what is the size of your farm as well as your staff strength?

I started December 2018 with one beehive. Right now; I have 50 beehives and manage no less than 150 other beehives.

It’s been two years since you emerged as the British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) Farmers for the Future (F4F) winner. What remarkable impact did that make on your agribusiness and how has the journey been so far?

The intervention of BATNF was a great motivation to continue what I have started. I wouldn’t have probably come this far if not for BATNF’s intervention.

Through their support, I was able to get some equipment and certifications which might have taken a while to get on my own. The recognition and exposure from their interventions are something equal to none. I am appreciative of the support I got.

Read also: ThriveAgric raises $56.4m in debt funding to grow farmer base, expand in Africa

What are the major challenges you face as a bee farmer?

For me as a beekeeper, a major challenge is enlightening people about the true nature of honey and how to identify pure honey in their way.

By this, I mean people always believe honey should look and taste a certain way, which is a misconception.

Bees come in different colours and shades: black, golden, among others. The general expectation is that the colour of honey should be black.

Therefore, when you harvest honey from bees that have a different shade of colour it becomes a problem, as most buyers don’t seem to readily identify with it.

We have once been faced with rejection in the market, because of the golden shade of honey we supplied at that time. Honey has different shades of colours and is dependent on the nectar that the honey bee visits.

Bees visit different flowers to gather enough nectar to produce honey and the type of plant or flower these bees visit determines the colour of honey it produces.

Since a lot of people are not aware of this, it takes a great deal of effort to convince buyers of the genuineness of the honey.

We also provide information about our honey on the label to enlighten and convince buyers about the product.

Secondly, climate change affects the well-being of bees and productivity as some of them migrate, leaving their hives behind to start new hives in more favourable climate conditions.

How do you cope with pest infestation, which is a common phenomenon in bee farming?

Pest infestation is not a big issue in beekeeping; it can be curbed and prevented. The first prevention mechanism is to use an iron stand coated with spent oil.

Taiwo Iyiola
Iyiola fully kitted at work in her beehive

What is your present production quota and how do you intend to scale up your business to a commercial size?

We do up to 300 litres per week, sometimes, depending on the demand. To scale up, we will be considering bulk sales, we intend to approach other megastores to see how we can have our products displayed in these stores, and we have also started diversifying to other byproducts from bees which include beeswax, propolis, and pollen, royal jelly and bee venom.

We currently produce little quantities of these products and once awareness and demand increase, we are putting things in place to ensure that we will be ready to cater to such an increase for these products. These other products are more valuable, especially in the foreign market than honey.

Iyiola kitted at work in her beehive

As a very passionate youth farmer, do you sometimes feel estranged, considering the general apathy towards agric among the youth?

Yes, I won’t deny I feel estranged and get a lot of concerns from some people. Sometimes when I tell people what I do, they ask me if I don’t have plans to get a paid job.

They can’t understand why I decided to go into agriculture in the first place and why I even chose beekeeping. I take out time to explain to them that this is what I love doing and where my passion is.

I know I won’t be fulfilled working in an office. The joy I derive from this is worth more than most of them can imagine and more importantly, I get encouragement and pats from others.

These encouragements motivate me to push harder and seeing my products on the shelves of stores also spurs me on.