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Tennessee National Guard unit helping Afghans raise bees

Tennessee National Guard unit helping Afghans raise bees

Posted: Sunday, June 14, 2009 8:01 pm

PAKTYA, Afghanistan — The Tennessee Army National Guard’s 1-16th
Agri-business Development Team has begun a new and unique mission in
rugged Afghanistan — helping the locals raise honey bees.

As part of the initiative, the Tennesseans are implementing a year-long
project with the Paktya Beekeeping Association in the Paktya Province of
Afghanistan to help raise 700 new bee colonies within the region and to
educate new beekeepers.

The bee program is one of many the agricultural team is working on and
is aimed at improving the region’s overall agriculture through
pollination, while providing jobs for local citizens and helping vary
the diet of the local population.

“Three decades of war and severe droughts in recent years have
drastically reduced the number of bee colonies,” said Sgt. Robert
Moore, the ADT project leader and Austin Peay State University
agriculture professor. “This has had a negative impact on both the
quantity of honey produced and the number of honey bee colonies.”

The Tennesseans are working to revitalize membership in the area
beekeeping association, to improve the infrastructure, and to teach new
association members how to maintain the program.

The ADT will offer new-member training and mentoring through the
association, plus provide each member two bee colonies plus bee handling
equipment. They plan to improve the association’s infrastructure by
opening an association office in Gardez, providing initial operating
expenses, developing bylaws and gaining legal recognition through
Afghanistan’s Justice Department and Department of Agriculture.

They also hope to develop local producers of the wooden bee hives
rather than relying on imported hives from Pakistan and other countries.
“One of our projects will train 10 Afghans in hive body carpentry so
they can not only produce the hives, but help provide trained labor to
meet future hive needs,” Moore said.

Returning refugees, former beekeepers, and females will be the target
groups for the new colonies. Moore explained that beekeeping is an
acceptable occupation for females in the Afghan culture. By training
females, they hope to have a positive impact on that segment of the

Pollinating crops via increased honey bee colonies is of major
importance. “Although several species of insects — even mammals —
can serve as pollinators, honey bees are particularly important,”
Moore said. “Apples are perhaps the best known crop requiring insect
pollination. Afghanistan was a major exporter of apples, but since the
decline of honey bees, they can’t even supply their own needs.”

A secondary goal of the program is the actual production of honey,
which will benefit the region’s economy and vary the local diet.

“One colony of honey bees could easily add $20 to $40 to the annual
income of a family,” Moore said. “For the typical family of seven to
ten people, with an annual income of about $700, beekeeping could make a
significant contribution.”

The project should have positive, long-term effects on the region,
Moore explained. “It’s going to help Afghan producers realize their
goals of creating a sustainable and reliable agricultural

Posted 6.14.09

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