The country’s rural industrialisation juggernaut is not showing signs of slowing down with the national trade development and promotion organisation, ZimTrade, moving to develop provincial honey clusters for export as a way to empower smallholder farmers and other small players in other sectors like arts and crafts.
ZimTrade is also facilitating skills training towards improving the quality of products for exports.
In a recent X (former twitter) post, ZimTrade revealed that it was working with communities in Matabeleland North to produce certified honey capable of competing in regional and international markets, saying honey was a viable option to integrate rural communities into the mainstream export business.
Trade statistics show that exports of honey worldwide grew by 25,7 percent from US$2,3 billion to US$2,89 billion between 2020 and 2021. Some of the top world importers of the product include Germany (US$365m), United Kingdom (US$151m) and France (US$125m).
ZimTrade said: “The statistics above have revealed that natural honey is in high demand across the world and Zimbabwe already has farmers that are into honey production for local purposes. Through the honey cluster we integrate rural communities into the export businesses by empowering farmers through knowledge and skills training. By harnessing their skills, we are able to increase production volumes and tap into the world demand for honey.”
The development of provincial clusters across Zimbabwe directly fits into the current mantra by the Second Republic of “leaving no one and no place behind”, ensuring the involvement of everyone in the development of the country.
“Since 2021 we have been developing clusters across Zimbabwe and as mentioned at the ZimTrade Annual Exporters Conference this year, we have successfully developed 20 provincial clusters in the country that are all exporting to European markets and more.
“To date we have trained farmers on best bee keeping practices and harnessing them into clusters for standardised and aggregated production. Additionally, we have identified sites for 200 hives that will be monitored closely by the communities. Having a central point will allow for effective monitoring of export standards guaranteeing the product for the export markets,” read the X post.
The honey cluster in Matebeleland North, is one such cluster, which does not require a lot of inputs and operational costs once hives are already colonised. We already have existing bee keeping farmers who produce for local or household consumption, said ZimTrade.
This therefore makes bee keeping a good project for communities to earn extra income over and above their other projects.
“With over 400 farmers targeted in the overall project, our aim is to get them trained in standards and value chain practices and develop their honey production for the export markets.”
ZimTrade explained that, “integrating rural communities into export clusters can help in poverty alleviation, increased gross domestic product (GDP) per capital for the region involved, inclusion into the country’s export fiscus, increased diversity of Zimbabwe’s export product offering and most importantly, enabling an extra source of income for the rural communities.”
For Zimbabwe to become a significant player in the export of natural honey, there is room to improve infrastructure facilities with modern hives that have a longer shelf life than the traditional ones being used by some farmers.
More training and skills development need to go to local farmers, on best bee keeping practices according to world standards. The honey cluster in Matabeleland North will benefit from this and with the assistance of ZimTrade, they will also have opportunities for penetration into different export markets with offtake potential for their products through facilitation of promotional activities, which include trade fair participation, trade missions, trade business forums and more.