A recent decision by Minister for Agriculture & Livestock Hon. Tommy Tomscoll, MP in 2014 to park honey bee under Coffee Industry Corporation presents new opportunities for bee-coffee farming.
In the field farmers have already been integrating honey bee with coffee farming.
In the Wain-Erap area of Morobe Province, smallholder growers have been integrating bee-keeping with coffee farming since 2014. It was reported that some smallholder farmers in Jiwaka Province and also in Asaro and Okapa area of Eastern Highlands Province have been doing the same. However concrete data had not been collected to show the impact of honey bee on coffee production. But farmers have been observing increased coffee production when bee was introduced.
Outside Goroka town at Ketarabo Village in Kamaliki, a local eye specialist, Tony Drua, has been integrating coffee with honey bee. Drua planted 1,024 coffee trees at a spacing of 1.5m x 1.4m on 0.2 hectare. Initially Drua was getting 6 to 7 bags parchment annually. But after placing 20 honey bee boxes purchased at K350 per box, he began to see an increase in parchment coffee by 100 per cent every season thereafter.
“To my amazement the number of my coffee bags increases dramatically. There was more coffee bearing on the trees and I ended up filling 12 to 13 bags which amounts to 100 per cent increase,” he said. There was also increased production both in quality and quantity from his citrus trees.
Drua’s intention for honey bee was to collect honey for sales and had no idea than that the bees will also pollinate coffee, citrus fruits, etc. Not only he was getting increased yield, the neighbors were also harvesting more coffee from their gardens.
“The coffee gardens adjacent to my plot and the opposite sides of my area to these days are bearing very heavy coffee and this definitely is the result of the bees pollinating the coffee,” Drua said.
Drua observed that the bees were active during coffee flowering and also from the marmar trees which also produce nectars. He has been observing continuous harvesting of coffee throughout the year.
On his K7,000 investment on the honey bee boxes Drua has already made a profit selling his honey at K13 per kilogram.
“I would recommend that this story be taken up by organizations that are interested to increase coffee production and also helping out the bee farmer to increase his earnings from both coffee and honey,” Drua said.
Much have been written about the existence of honey bee industry and its importance for the reproduction of domesticated bees for pollination of food crops as well as cocoa and coffee.
A latest report in the United Kingdom’s The daily Telegraph tabloid said almost a third of global farm output depends on animal pollination, largely by honey bees.
These foods provide 35 per cent of our calories, most of our minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants, and the foundations of gastronomy.
The report said animal pollination is the fastest growing and most valuable part of the global farm economy.
“Between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of pollination comes from domesticated honey bees. Moth and butterflies lack the range to penetrate large fields.
“Animal pollination is essential for nuts, melons and berries, and plays varying roles in citrus fruits, apples, onions, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, courgettes, peppers, aubergines, avocados, cucumbers, coconuts, tomatoes and broad beans as well as cocoa and coffee,” the report said.
Industry experts in PNG have been considering integration of honey bee with coffee to diversify honey bee and coffee farmers’ earnings.
The decision by MInister Tomscoll to shift honey bee industry away from the Livestock Development Corporation to CIC provides the opportunity for research into pollination of coffee beans by honey bees.
The government plans to grow the bee keeping industry through a bee-coffee based production system and the use of CIC’s existing extension service delivery structure to improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers.
Project Manager of CIC’s Productive Partnership in Agriculture Project (PPAP), Potaisa Hombunaka during a gathering of honey bee farmers in Goroka said it is incumbent on CIC to train and engage extension officers to integrate honey bee into the coffee farming system.
“This can help to diversity smallholder coffee farmers’ income and also help with food security issues.
“To combine coffee and bee I think is a perfect synergy,” said Hombunaka.
The acting Chief Executive Officer for CIC Charles Dambui fully supports the integration of honey bee into coffee. This has already begun with a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with Middle Ramu in 2015 and we now await results of the project.
According to the project report, honey bee keeping in Middle Ramu under the IFS (Integrated Farming System) has reported apiculture potentials.
“ … given the surplus pollen and nectar sources in the environment, bee keeping has proven to be a viable integration to coffee farming.”
The report also said potentials for honey bee domestication for consumption and economical production purposes can be maximized only by working with the organized groups by way of delivering proper and basic bee keeping trainings for farmer groups.
Meantime, the acting Chief Scientist of CIC, Dr Nelson Simbiken is being supported by the acting CEO to focus seriously on research and development of honey bee with coffee in PNG.
Dr Simbiken during a recent training of extension officers working for Lead Partners of PPAP said that there is scientific evidence of honey bees increasing coffee yield and honey from coffee from work carried out overseas. CIC therefore needs to conduct simple research to confirm these results.
Further, Dr Simbiken said the integration of honey bee and coffee will bring many natural and economic returns to the respective industries given that bee farmers also own coffee gardens.
“You harvest coffee in June or July and honey in December and January so you have diversification and continuity in income all-year-round for the farmers,” explained Dr Simbiken. “I think this looks more logical in nature and economics as well”. Honey bee introduction will also help pollination of other food crops hence contributes further to food security.
The CIC is working towards collecting verifiable data to substantiate funding allocation towards honey bee production aim at increasing coffee yield as well as to diversify increased income to farmers.
PPAP is a coffee rehabilitation project initiative of CIC funded by a loan facility from World Bank IDA (International Development Association) and IFAD (International Fund for Agriculture Development) with counter funding from PNG Government.
Honey bee officers with CIC and DAL officers during a recent training in Goroka.
Farmer Drua at his coffee garden at Kamaliki outside Goroka.
Coffee trees bearing more cherries due to pollination by honey bees.