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First Caribbean Beekeeping Congress

Tobago, 17-20 November 1998

by Jorge Murillo-Yepes, B&D’s Correspondent in Grenada

Tobago, one of the most beautiful West Indian islands, was the venue for the First Caribbean Beekeeping Congress, held under the auspices of the Apimondia Standing Commission for Beekeeping for Rural Development. Participants, speakers and scientists from 24 countries were gallantly co-hosted by the Tobago Apicultural Society and the Tobago House of Assembly at the splendid Mount Irvine Bay Hotel

The tempo of this highly successful beekeeping get-together was set from its very beginning by the remarks from prominent political and technical officers of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and the President of the Apimondia Standing Commission for Beekeeping for Rural Development, Dr Nicola Bradbear. The inauguration culminated with note of high emotion in the form of public recognition ceremony honouring the apicultural pioneers of Tobago.

Lively discussion

Current beekeeping status reports were presented by representatives of all participating Caribbean territories and lively discussions on technical, commercial, sanitary and socio-economic issues followed. The general consensus was that there are many more apicultural factors in common, than those which might tend to divide regional beekeeper.

Dedicated reporting

Research papers were presented by Dr Christopher Starr “Basic biology and taxonomy of the genus Apis”, Dr Alfred Dietz “New honeybee pest confronting beekeepers in the Americas”, Ms Laura Robinson “Studies on the prevalence of Varroa jacobsoni in Grenada and the use of nutmeg Myristica fragrans as an acaricide”, and Mr Mischa Dijkstra “Bee research on Tobago: reproduction of stingless bees; and nectar food plants of honeybees in Tobago”.

- Dr Theodore Cherbuliez, President of the Apimondia Standing Commission for Apitherapy, delivered magisterial presentation on the topic of honeybee products as healing agents.

- Dr Nicola Bradbear enlightened her audience with instances of her world-wide experience to impart powerful philosophical principles concerning developmental initiatives.

- Mr Mohammed Hallim from the Apiaries Unit, Ministry of Food Production, Trinidad, provided comprehensive and authoritative view of “Beekeeping legislation in the Caribbean”.

- The author explored topics "Beyond beekeeping: addition of value to hive products”.

Field trips

On the third day participants were provided with first-hand experience among Tobagonian apiculturists, some of whom have attained top awards at the National Honey Show in London. taste of the natural beauty of magnificent Tobago and its people’s warmth was highly appreciated by the happy touring beekeepers.

Final day

A special treat when Dr William Ramirez shared his profound apicultural knowledge, with emphasis on the “Management of Africanized bees”, and Dr Malcolm Tom Sanford, in his highly motivational style, presented views on practical issues about “Managing beekeeping profitability in the new Millennium.” Top officials of local, regional and international organisations provided comprehensive outlines concerning the nature, principles, goals and services of each institution.

- Ms Denise Dickson of the Agricultural Development Bank described the financial avenues available to local beekeepers. Ms Pathleen Titus of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute described their rural outreach efforts and capabilities.

 -Mr Kamau Akili, General Manager of Environment Tobago, and Mr William Benjamin of the Policy, Research and Development Institute, Tobago House of Assembly, explained the rationale and initiatives of their respective institutions in terms of environmental protection.

- Ms Shamina Maccum-Barrow from the Agricultural Development of the Caribbean Community Secretariat, reported on the policies and developmental tools encompassed by this regional body.

- Rural development undertaken on continental level was the topic of Mr Willard Phillips’ presentation in his capacity of Policy Analyst of the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture.

- Mr Werner Lohr, Project Co-ordinator of API-Promo GTZ, defined his organisation's framework pertaining to apicultural projects in developing countries and offered concrete examples of experiences concerning good projects which went sour due to faulty planning. (Read more about these on page 10 of B&D48 Ed).  

- Dr Don Robinson, FAO Local Representative gave an account of services available to apiculturists through official channels in FAO. 

Deliberations came to an end with five Group Discussions where all participants expressed their views, opinions and concerns to be submitted as Congress Recommendations and Resolutions.

After summarising the Congress Evaluation, Mr Gladstone Solomon, President of the Tobago Apicultural Society and Chairman of the Congress Organising Committee presented each delegation with their respective country flags and bid all participants an emotional farewell.

Delegates from Cuba, Jamaica and Nevis informed the audience of concrete plans to consult with the Governments of their respective countries concerning the venue for the Second Caribbean Beekeeping Congress, in light of the resounding success achieved on this occasion through the extraordinary efforts and exemplary dedication of the Tobago Organising Committee

RESOLUTIONS FROM GROUP DISCUSSIONS

These Resolutions are addressed to the stakeholders of the beekeeping sector in participating countries of the First Caribbean Beekeeping Congress. 

BUSINESS PRACTICES AND PROFITABILITY

- To find examples of successful honey producers in the region and to transfer such expertise to others;

- To look at management styles of organisations outside the beekeeping sector, and transfer that experience to beekeeping;

- To focus on two markets local and tourist market and the specific requirements of each;

- To look for successful co-operatives within and outside the bee products area, and transfer that technology to value-added bee products.

PESTS AND DISEASES 

- No changes in the current laws of the various countries about the importation of honey;

- Importation of queens to be stopped altogether;

- Each country should be encouraged to develop their apiculture to the point of meeting their own needs in hive products, thereby discontinuing the reasons for import;

 -Governments are to take strong steps to ensure the inspection of apiaries for heal

INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT

- Institutions play role in training - both local and regional;

- Institutions play role in the drafting of legislation;

- Conditioned support to local and regional beekeeping organisations; 

- Preparing beekeepers in responding to the new requirements of international trade.

EXTENSION SERVICES

- Governments to be made to focus on developing comprehensive policies to assist the extension service, in conjunction and with the help of all associated private and public organisations;

- Allow for specialist field extension officers with total focus on apicultural management, development and profitability;

- Provide means to facilitate continuous follow-up training in the field of apiculture to the relevant extension officers at local, regional and international levels;

- Encourage Governments to facilitate local applied research in apiculture to support the extension service;

- Set up beekeeping unit in each country with the capacity and staff to execute its own country policy and liaise with other countries in executing regional policies.

AFRICANIZED AND INDIGENOUS BEES

- Measures to be taken to prevent the advent of Africanized honeybees to Islands that currently do not have them;

- Recognising the potential of Africanized honeybees as tool for the avoidance of the negative effects of Varroa and other pests and diseases, research should be continued in order to reach conclusions and recommendations concerning the introduction of other strains of the genus Apis into those territories that have Africanized honeybees at present;

- Recognising the potential of stingless bees and other non-Apis bees as pollinators and producers of special honeys; research should be continued and intensified. Concurrently, emphasis should be strongly placed on habitat preservation;

 - Two sections be adopted for future congresses: one for empirical matters and the second for scientific issues;

- The example of inviting school children to actively participate in the Congress should be continued in the future.