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Status and the potential of stingless bees (Apidae: Meliponinae) for forest conservation and income generation: case study of Kakamega forest

Joseph MACHARIA student laureate

°1975 Kenya
Master in Zoology, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi, Kenya, 2008

Status and the potential of stingless bees (Apidae: Meliponinae) for forest conservation and income generation: case study of Kakamega forest

As pollinators bees play an invaluable role in protecting biodiversity and in the cultivation of many types of crop. The Kakamega forest, an important habitat for the stingless bee in Kenya, is under threat from human activity (which includes logging for firewood and construction, hunting, etc.). Despite policy measures to protect the forest, these activities continue, not least because the local population has few other means of livelihood.
The main objective of Joseph Kimunge Macharia’s study was to show, by means of a case study, how conservation areas can be better managed in collaboration with the local community, based on the economic advantages that conservation gives them. He explains clearly how protecting biodiversity goes hand in hand with poverty alleviation and economic development in rural areas. He examines the conservation status and characteristics of the stingless bee in the Kakamega forest, the composition and antibacterial activity of the honey, and searches for methods that would facilitate the domestication of these bees. He focuses on the medicinal use of their honey, since as yet no international quality standards have been developed for stingless bee honey as a food product. This requires further research into the properties of the honey. In the meantime a honey database has been set up to further the study of the composition of honey produced by Kenya’s various types of stingless bee.
Throughout his thesis Macharia makes constant reference to the knowledge and experience of the local community and the possibilities for economic diversification that meliponiculture would offer them. This is vital if sustainable methods of stingless beekeeping are to be developed, for ultimately it is the local community who must be involved in the daily conservation of the forest and the bee.
Macharia’s study is not only a significant initiative in potentializing meliponiculture but also contributes to the protection of these insects, which play a crucial part in the pollination of agricultural crops and native plants. And in so doing, it also contributes indirectly to a better conservation of the forest in the studied area.

report: Annemarie Van der Avort, International Environmental Policy and Agricultural Research, Directorate-General for Development Cooperation, Brussels