Climate change is decimating honey production in Gaza

Increasingly unstable climates have delayed honey production in the Gaza Strip, further hampering a long-practised tradition. With the profession under threat and authorities in Gaza unwilling to help, the future of Palestinian beekeeping hangs in the balance

Mohammed Abu Rjailia was forced to wait more than a month to start harvesting his honey.

In the past, the beekeeper in Khan Yunis – a city in the far south of the Gaza Strip – started harvesting around mid-April, but that schedule has been significantly skewed by climate change.

“Climate change has delayed pollination and prevented us from harvesting nectar,” Mohammed said. The new Arabic.

“The situation has been compounded by a sharp drop in demand from local customers. Inflation, unemployment and generally dire economic conditions have impacted the propensity to buy. Honey is now a luxury for most Gazans “

As a result, Mohammed had to suffer huge financial losses this year. “Hundreds of my bees died,” Mohammed explained, noting that he lost around 300 bees, with only 100 surviving hives.

Honey production is also down dramatically. A hive, which previously produced 15 kilograms of honey, now only produces 4 to 6 kilograms.

Mohammed is not alone in his situation. Abdul Rahman Abu Ouda, a beekeeper from Beit Hanoun also lost thousands of dollars due to the death of his bees.

Having got into beekeeping a decade ago after failing to find a job in his chosen field of engineering, Abdul Rahman’s money from beekeeping helps support his family , in a poor area of ​​Gaza.

“I thought I would have had a better life. However, climate change has had a huge impact on my only source of income. I now have debts that I cannot afford to pay, which means that my family will have to suffer,” Abdul Rahman told The new Arabic.

Palestinian beekeepers harvest honey from beehives in an apiary during the annual harvest season in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip [Getty]

Things were made worse by a sharp drop in demand from local customers. Inflation, unemployment and generally dire economic conditions have impacted the propensity to buy. Honey is now a luxury for most Gazans.

“In previous years, customers bought organic honey in large quantities for their families. Now I can hardly sell to those same customers,” he noted, adding that the price per kilogram has dropped from $40 to $15.

Meanwhile, the authorities in Gaza have abandoned beekeeping and honey production. There seems little motivation to keep this important sector afloat. Training methods are scarce and facilities are lacking; the impetus to keep beekeeping alive as a tradition lies with the beekeepers themselves.

Abu Rjaila and Abu Ouda are among the 300 beekeepers in the Gaza Strip, most of whom are located in the eastern areas of the Gaza Strip, according to Taher Abu Hamad, director of the Department of Animal Production at the Ministry of Agriculture directed by Hamas in Gaza.

Most of the hives are distributed in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip, near the border fence with Israel. This is due to the lack of residential properties in the area, as well as their proximity to agricultural land on either side of the border.

That said, agricultural land in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip has been sprayed with pesticides by Israeli planes on numerous occasions, leading to the death of flowers and bees.

“The ministry recorded a noticeable drop in honey production compared to last year,” Hamad said. The new Arabicadding that “this drop is due to the spraying of pesticides along the eastern border, and the effects resulting from atmospheric climate changes, which have negatively affected the feeding of the hives by bees”.

Furthermore, the spread of the Varroa parasitic disease has contributed to the limitation of honey production, stating that “this disease affects bee insects, and lives between the abdominal rings of male bees or on the larvae, and these parasites feed of the body of bees. the bee itself, by making a hole in its body. And suck his blood, kill him.

Sally Ibrahim is The New Arab’s correspondent in Gaza.

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