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Gazan beekeepers face up to challenges as climate change takes toll on honey production

Sanaa Kamal

XINHUA – Climate change has significantly hit honey production in the Gaza Strip, worsening the predicament faced by Gaza’s honey producers, local beekeepers complained.

Beekeepers often begin harvesting honey in mid-April in Gaza, when spring allows swarms of bees to move between flowers and trees to pollinate them and collect nectar. Another harvest session takes place in November.

However, the situation began to change some 15 years ago, mainly as a result of climate change and global warming in the coastal enclave.

“Every day, we find hundreds of dead bees,” said 58-year-old beekeeper Issam Jarada, with over 35 years of experience in the honey industry.

Most of the beehives are found in the eastern parts of the Gaza Strip, close to its border with Israel, owing to less human activity in the area, which is not densely populated, and the area’s proximity to agricultural lands on both sides of the border.

A beekeeper used to own approximately 500 beehives, each of which produced 12 to 15 kilogrammes of honey, but now only around 150 hives remained and each hive only produces five to seven kilogrammes of honey.

Palestinian beekeepers work at a bee farm in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun. PHOTO: XINHUA

Issam has suffered financial losses due to the decrease in honey production. Furthermore, Palestinian consumers’ income has been impacted by political unrest and difficult economic conditions, resulting in a decrease in the number of honey buyers.

“In past years, our customers used to book honey in advance, and they tried to buy large quantities,” Ibrahim Jarada, Issam Jarada’s son and one of his assistants, told Xinhua, “but now we can hardly sell the product in some of the months”.

“We had to sell a kilo of honey for USD20 instead of USD35,” he noted, adding that “something is better than nothing, especially in a bad season”.

Gazan beekeepers have to rely on themselves to tackle the challenges. According to the Jaradas, neither the government nor civil institutions are interested in lending a helping hand.

Those challenges, however, do not prevent the beekeepers from trying. They have urged the government to provide training classes to help them master new production methods.

Director of the Department of Animal Production in the Hamas-run Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza, Taher Abu Hamad has taken notice of the predicament of Gaza’s honey producers, whose number hit about 300.

“The ministry has recorded a noticeable decline in honey production compared to last year,” Hamad told Xinhua.

“The reduction is due to the spraying of pesticides along the eastern border, and the effects resulting from atmospheric climate changes, which negatively affected the bees’ feeding of the hives, as well as the spread of the parasitic Varroa disease,” he added.