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African Pollinator Initiative

West African bees to the roll call

The contribution of bees to the conservation of biodiversity came into prominence during a four-day workshop in December 2003 on the taxonomy of West African bees. Tropical and subtropical areas of Africa South of the Sahara have an estimated 3000 bee species, all of which are important in the pollination of wild and cultivated plants.

The workshop tackled some aspects of the main objectives of the African Pollinator Initiative (API): identifying all pollinating organisms in Africa, including bees, and promoting their conservation for improved pollination of plants.

The West African Secretariat of the AP| based in the Department of Zoology, University of Cape Coast, Ghana organised the meeting which was sponsored by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Research scientists, agricultural extension officers, beekeepers, and fruit crop farmers came together to learn about bees, and other pollinators. Dr Connal Eardley, a bee taxonomist from South Africa, was the resource scientist for the workshop.

Four days of intensive field and laboratory sessions covered the following:

- methods of collection of insects and other pollinating organisms

- identification of bee species using taxonomic keys

- methods of preservation of sampled specimens for future scientific work

At the opening ceremony, the FAO country representative in Ghana, Mr A Ndong Mba, expressed the need for farmers to adopt sound agricultural practices to conserve pollinators. Dr Peter Kwapong, the West African

Co-ordinator of API, called on all stakeholders in food production to promote the use of farming methods that are friendly to organisms that play key roles in crop pollination, as he said:

"Without these pollinators yields of farm produce will dwindle". Dr Eardley outlined plans and ongoing activities of regional groupings under the International Pollinator Initiative which seeks to promote the conservation and use of organisms such as bees for effective pollination of plants.

Kwame Aidoo

BfD's Correspondent in Ghana