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Information from ICIMOD - ICIMOD's Indigenous Honeybee Programme Extends to Afghanistan

Faroog Ahmad and Uma Partap 

Here we bring you another article with news about the work of the Austrian Government funded beekeeping project at ICIMOD in Kathmandu, Nepal. In BfD70 we discussed scaling up the use of beekeeping as a component in rural support programmes throughout the region. Here we describe recent efforts to extend the programme to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has always been a member of ICIMOD, but formal relations between ICIMOD and the country were only recently re-established with the newly-formed transitional Government of Afghanistan. In early 2004 an ICIMOD mission led by the Director General visited Afghanistan both to cement the relationship and to enable ICIMOD staff to observe the local situation. The delegation discussed potential areas for collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (MAAH). The Ministry showed great interest in beekeeping, pollination, and horticulture as well as other areas of ICIMOD's activities.

Dr Faroog Ahmad, Co-ordinator of ICIMOD's Indigenous Honeybee Programme, had an opportunity to meet with the MAAH beekeeping group headed by Mr Saeed Khan. The group has ten members of staff and maintains 150 bee colonies in Jalalabad.

Discussions centred on pollination issues and the associated decline in productivity of horticultural crops in Afghanistan, and possible extension of the ICIMOD programme to the country. Afghanistan has a strong tradition of horticulture, but there are indications that farmers are facing fruit set problems in almonds and other fruit crops resulting from a lack of pollinators; bees can play a vital role in pollinating these flowers. This issue needs to be raised with the various donor communities involved in agricultural development. Increased awareness will help ensure that the problem is redressed, not exacerbated, and will benefit agriculture and farmers struggling to rebuild their farms.

The main points of the discussion are summarised below:

- The bee group in Afghanistan is very interested in developing an active programme on beekeeping with indigenous species in partnership with ICIMOD. Afghan farmers maintain an estimated 30,000 Apis cerana colonies in south-eastern districts of Afghanistan, but during the conflict colonies were destroyed. The bees are kept in logs and wall hives, and contribute considerably to the village economies and especially the livelihoods of poorer farmers.

- Afghan beekeepers are actively involved in managed migration of Apis mellifera bees between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some 30,000 colonies per year are migrated for honey production.

- Honey production from Apis mellifera averages between 20 and 50 kg per colony, and from Apis cerana up to 8 kg of honey per colony.

Apis dorsata bees naturally migrate between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and produce enormous quantities of honey in the Jalalabad area, much of which is collected by honey hunters.

Most of the honey is consumed within Afghanistan; some is exported through Pakistan and Iran to markets in the Gulf.

There is an enormous demand for locally produced honey; the average local market price is US$4 per kg.

- It seems that the Varroa mite has not yet been found in Afghanistan, but American foulbrood (AFB), European foulbrood (EFB), and Tropilaelaps mite are common and badly affect the beekeeping industry.

- ICIMOD was asked to help support capacity building for Afghan beekeepers. The Asian Development Bank also requested ICIMOD to assist in developing a bee programme as an alternative source of income for poor farmers, and the Agha Khan Development Network is interested in including an indigenous honeybee programme in their areas of activity.

Programme Implementation Strategy

A strategy is now being developed to implement an indigenous honeybee programme in Afghanistan. The first step will be a national consultation to assess the state and capacity of beekeeping in the country. The information gathered will be used to develop a proposal which will be submitted to ICIMOD and other donors for funding. The activities are likely to focus on capacity building, with Afghan participants being trained in Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan. A functional apiary of Apis cerana will be established under the auspices of the MAAH as a demonstration and research facility.

Further, a national workshop for Afghan beekeepers will be organised to support networking and information exchange within the country, and to help in developing a conducive policy environment for the propagation of beekeeping and managed pollination.


ICIMOD is the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, an international organisation devoted to the development of the Hindu Kush Himalaya region. Read more about ICIMOD at www.icimod.org.np.

ICIMOD publications available from

Bees for Development

The Himalayan cliff bee Apis laboriosa and the honey hunters of Kaski,  Faroog Ahmad, Surendra Raj Joshi and Min Bahadur Gurung Understanding more about Apis laboriosa and its exploitation. 2003 52 pages £16.80 (€25.20) Code A175

Bee flora of the Hindu Kush Himalayas: Inventory and management, Uma Partap, Bee flora and useful background information about beekeeping in the region, plus melissopalynology,  1997 297 pages £20.70 (€31) Code P150

Warning signals from the Apple Valleys of the Hindu Kush Himalayas, Uma Partap and Tej Partap,  Productivity concerns, pollination problems and the problems faced by mountain people.

For ways to pay and to order see www.beesfordevelopment.org