EU, icipe sign financing agreement for bee health in Africa

The European Union (EU), and icipe in collaboration with the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), have signed agreements to establish an African central reference laboratory (CRL) for research and capacity building on bee health at icipe’s headquarters in Kasarani, Nairobi, and four bee health satellite stations in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Liberia.

The EU is investing Euros 13.1 million (approximately Kshs 1.44 billion) in bee health, to improve food security in Africa.

“As icipe has proved over the past 30 years, honeybees have a very significant role to play in improving the lives of millions of people, especially those living in marginalised areas, in Africa. Aside from honey products, bees also provide critical pollination services.  However, there is limited understanding regarding the key threats to the health of bees, as well as the ways to prevent them and therefore protect the sector in Africa,” explained icipe Director General, Prof. Christian Borgemeister.

Globally, the issue of bee health is becoming a major concern against the background of the collapsed colony disorder (CCD), a phenomenon which has since 2006 become a serious problem, threatening the health of honey bees and the economic stability of commercial beekeeping and pollination operations in Europe and the United States.

Prof. Borgemeister noted that since 2008, icipe has been developing monitoring and control programmes for invasive pests of bees in Africa, which have led to the identification of two beetles as key pests in African honeybee colonies.

The Centre has contributed to the identification of the most likely contributors of the phenomenon, which include, varroa mites, diseases, particularly viruses vectored by varroa, pesticide exposure and stresses associated with modern beekeeping practices, such as the movement of hives and poor nutrition.

The icipe CRL will generate new knowledge on bee diseases and pests across Africa and, through extensive capacity building efforts, it will propose and disseminate new and effective measures for their control.

In collaboration with AU-IBAR, icipe will also provide the infrastructure and technical support to the four African satellite stations, and guide the incorporation of strategies, harmonised procedures and legislation on bee health into national development agendas across the continent.

Ultimately, these activities should lead to an African framework on bee health, Prof. Borgemeister noted.

Ambassador Lodewijk Briët, the Head of EU’s Delegation in Kenya, observed: “The EU is extremely keen to be part of the process towards securing the bee industry in Africa through this financial support, provided under the Food Security Thematic Programme budget line, which addresses research, technology transfer and innovation to enhance food security. The funds will facilitate the supply of equipment and refurbishing of facilities, capacity building and provision of expertise for CRL and the satellite stations.”

He added: “This funding not only illustrates the importance of the livestock sector for improved well-being, but also the continuous strengthening of the privileged relationship between EU, icipe  and AU-IBAR.”