BEES, MONEY AND THE ENVIRONMENT.

Blog, Youth-in-Agribusiness

AgropreneurNG had a chat with one of Nigeria’s Finest Entomologist who is An Advocate for Beekeeping to be more invested in as it is very necessary for conservation of the Environment and preservation of Life.

He is Mr. Oluwaseun Johnson, A USAID trainer who helps equip bee farmers teaching them how to best practice their business. He is indeed very passionate about The Culture of Bees and Value of Human Life.

Can you tell me a little about yourself sir?

I am Johnson Oluwaseun. I am an Entomologist who was supposed to study medicine but decided to study Entomology to make ends meet, I became a Bee keeper; so I am an Entomologist and a bee keeper.

I checked you out on Google and noticed you are Part Nigerian, Part Ghanaian sir.

Oh Yes, My mum is Ghanaian, My dad is Nigerian so I have a Dual citizenship so to speak.

So, you touched a Little about why you started Bee Keeping and now, I will like to know the full story of why you started Bee Keeping and not other things.

I wanted to study Medicine because when we were in Secondary School in our time, You are either a Doctor or an Engineer but when I got into the University I found out that I have the fear of Blood and when I spoke with my academic counselor who advised me to study Entomology because Nigeria has a limited number of Entomologists. She advised if I study insects that I could major in Bee keeping and not look for a job upon graduation. That got me really Interested because I didn’t want to look for a Job after school. Entomology and Bee Culture needed a little capital and I decided to major in Bee Keeping and as low as my NYSC Allowance was back in those days, I started using that to make more money for myself

How long have you been doing this sir?

7 or 8 years.

Looking back, would you be thankful for that advice or would you rather wish you tried something else?

I think looking back now, I am thankful for several reasons. I almost threw in the towel at some point. I am grateful for not depending on anyone or looking for job. I have been self-sustaining. Because of what I do and studied, I have had the privilege of getting international and National exposure. I work with USAID to train people in over 5 Geopolitical zones in Nigeria. I have Represented Nigeria abroad and the peak of it when I had the opportunity to Represent Nigeria in Italy, Rome. Although I haven’t reached where I want to be, I am encouraged to do more.

Secondly, I am contributing positively towards Environmental conservation. I believe that one should leave a legacy or sustainable environment for one’s kids or others yet unborn so they can at least meet a world you have experienced or a better one. And I am happy to be doing this.

What do you think is one of those misconceptions about Honey? I know you cannot keep bees without making honey. As we celebrated world Bee day recently, we know they are at the verge of Extinction. Most people only know the bees for their stings. How can you help demystify those notions?

When I started training a farmer in Kaduna state, He said all he knew about bees was their stings so whenever he saw one, would burn them with fire or kill them using pesticides. So when I started teaching him, I had to explain more to him about bees. In Edo state when I went to train them, they said that they weren’t interested in Bee keeping because when they want to kill someone there, they send bees to him; they assume that bees are deadly insects that should not be tolerated at all. There is a wide assumption that bees should not be toyed with; I have been doing this for a while and I am still alive.

According to Albert Einstein, if bees should go extinct today, Humans will go extinct four years after. This explains the importance of Bees to life. As opposed to killing them, I think we should rather keep them. There are ways to co-exist with bees on earth without them being a danger to us or us to them and many people don’t know that bee stings are medicinal. According to a research carried out in 2012 by the University Of St Louis, Washington DC, the medical team found out that HIV 1 and Cancer cells can be cured by Bee stings soon. So what we think is detrimental is actually medicinal.

There are a lot of misconceptions about Nigerian Honey too such as people thinking that it is not good whereas haven exhibited it abroad, it was discovered that Nigerian Honey and other derivatives are one of the best globally. These misconceptions are one of the reasons why the industry has not grown globally while those abroad know and appreciate the honey and its derivatives from the bees.

If you could talk to Nigerian Youths in Secondary School about Bee keeping and Entomology, What would you advise?

I teach those in Secondary schools songs about Agriculture and I have gone to Thomas Adewumi Secondary school in Kwara State to encourage and teach them about Bee keeping. It is actually interesting to note that WAEC syllabus has Beekeeping as one of its subjects but there are no teachers. I have been teaching the students that bee keeping is not a business you have to go to everyday and explaining the future of the bees as pollinators, it gets interesting. It is unfortunate that we have not started enjoying the benefits of bee keeping in Nigeria. Bee Venom is one of the most expensive derivatives of bee keeping while Honey is the cheapest of the 5 other products. A gram of Bee Venom is about a hundred Dollars and if a secondary school in Nigeria has a bee farm and sell the venom, it will be an extra source of income. Students who engage in this farming can still be lawyers and make money from bee hives.

We have conducted Entrepreneurial trainings at University level and have made them understand that selling these derivatives can make them some money and all you need is about a hundred bee hives which will afford them the ability to buy a new car every four years.

Even to primary school level, we have bee clubs where we teach them about honey, how to make candy from Honey, Marinating of food and other things. All these are done from personal funds and are ongoing projects. We are hoping that the ministry of Agriculture can make these things part of the system so we can do more and more people can go teach these things with minimal funds. I have a friend who travels from Abuja to Ife to go teach the students and I have to travel as Kwara state too in order to teach a school.

We hope will get there someday.

Concerning the policies in place in the Agrospace in Nigeria, what can you suggest that be done to better or improve the state of things?

Governments should have policies in place that will institutionalize the space. We should have more campaigns on Radio and Television teaching about the environment and bees for example, this will go a long way or those that ensure all Nigerian Universities offer entomology as a BSc course, there should be talks about usage of pesticides, etc.

The European Countries like Nigerian Honey but we cannot officially import Honey yet to the EU and the federal ministry of Agriculture  is doing all it can so that Nigerian Honey and other derivatives can be exported but this has to be a Nigerian Senate issue where there will be policies in place backing Bee keeping. This will do a lot to ensure this Industry is protected.

Vandalization is another issue. If the Law doesn’t protect the interest of Beekeepers, then it will discourage vandalization.

There is a lot to be done not just by the Government but the citizens as well. Buy from Local bee keepers, Go organic and encourage local farmers as well. More enlightenment should be done via various media platforms so that the real truth about bees.

Can you please tell us a little about other derivatives and especially
those available here in Nigeria and the Return of Investment on all of
them?

There are six derivatives that is obtainable from the bees and one key essential service that is also of enormous economic importance. 

1. The first is honey which we all know and popularly used to sweeten food. But more beyond that is it’s industrial use in pharmaceutical, cosmetic amongst other applications. 

2. Beeswax is also a derivative that is obtainable, it is also known in Nigeria, it cost slightly more that honey and is used for luxury long burning aromatherapy candles, it has other uses in polishes, pharmaceuticals, amongst may other uses. 

3. The is also Royal jelly which is used in eproductive health, immune boosters amongst other medical applications. It obtainable but not exploited in Nigeria. About 1 kilo of it cost about $100.

4. We also have propolis, this has a range of antibacterial and anti fungal applications, very well used in oral health the healing of ulcers. Interestingly, research in the UK a few years ago showed that Nigeria had about the second best propolis in the world. 

5. There is also bee bread or pollen, it also is used in nutrition deficiencies. Very good for weight loss and some other medical applications. We don’t take advantage of it here in Nigeria. 

6. The last one is bee venom which is the most potent. Work on it is been found to have strong bearings on fighting against certain cancers, HIV 1 type, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, anti aging  amongst others. 1g sell for about $100 too. 

Far more important than all the aforementioned is the pollination services the bees offer, it runs into billions of dollars annually and it’s so important that Albert Einstein said that without bees, man has but just about 4 years to live. This is because of their role in pollination of angiosperms. 

Lastly, if it wasn’t Beekeeping and Entomology, what other option would it have been?

I think Music would have been another option aside Agriculture or bee keeping.

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