By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK TWELVE members of the minority San group yesterday completed an intensive 10-day course in beekeeping and honey production. The group would use their newly acquired skills in an income-generating project. Deputy Prime Minister Dr Libertina Amathila who has a passion for uplifting this marginalised group played a role in the beekeeping workshop. Two Kenyan bee experts shared their skills with the group at the Neudamm Agricultural College after which the San were awarded certificates. Sentiments expressed at the end of the training were that the San were ready to make money from honey through starting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in their respective communities. Dr Amathila said the time has come for them to turn their new expertise in “apiculture” or honey production into a moneymaking initiative through the use of low-cost techniques. “I urge participants to immediately start beekeeping and honey production projects in their communities so that next time I undertake follow up visits in February next year, I shall be able to taste honey produced by the San community,” she said. This would assist the group to move away from dependence on other people. “You must move away from always saying ‘ou-tere’ (give me), I’m hungry, but be able to stand on your own through this initiative,” she said, adding that it was all about “honeymoney” to improve their living standards. The students, 11 of whom were male and one female underwent training which was prompted by Amathila’s initiative to find sustainable projects for San communities countrywide. Three months ago, through the Kenyan High Commission, experts from the Interlink Africa together with Africa Beekeepers Organisation delegated two experts Said Ali and Ernest Simioni to conduct the training. The intensive training covered all the genres related to honey production, namely beekeeping for the environment, beekeeping for food production, honey processing and packing, the economics of beekeeping and the process of assembling the beehives. Apicultural expert Simioni said after familiarising himself with the living conditions of the San people over five days to find out how honey-making could be done, he discovered the San had a keen interest in the initiative. “The San have been working with bees all their lives already. They are honey gatherers and they do understand the nature of stingless bees,” said Simioni. The main goal through this latest training is to introduce beekeeping and honey production as a business. “It’s a money making activity because even one of the trainee students told me that this is going to be their honey ATM – by making money from honey,” said the Kenyan expert, adding that through the project, the group would be able to make a living. Based on its medicinal properties and high value globally, honey has a market that is ideal not only to Namibia. The project would come in handy in view of the fact that most of the honey products on the supermarket shelves are imported from South Africa. For the project to flourish donkey carts will be used for the remote areas of the regions where San people reside, while the expertise gained from the course will be transferred to the rest of the San people on the ground. Once successful, the same project would be replicated in other poorer areas of the country. Through the “San Development Project”, Amathila is keen to set up a task force with other government ministries and public entities to drive the beekeeping and honey production project. These include the ministries of Lands and Resettlement; Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development; Environment and Tourism and the National Planning Commission. The task force will assist the new beekeeping graduates to kick-start their projects next year under Amathila’s guidance. “I will supervise these beekeeping projects personally…and I call upon traditional leaders, community leaders and regional authorities to render all their assistance to our San people, so that they can make a success of this project,” she concluded. Kenyan High Commissioner to Namibia Tuneya Hussein Dado said the bees needed for the projects would be collected locally, with the ultimate goal of transferring the knowledge to the grassroots people. While the low cost technology, equipment and expertise for the training workshop came from Kenya, financial assistance of approximately of N$100 000 was provided by the Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA).
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