The Principal Investigator, Dr Perpetra Akite (C) with some of the participants

Mak-CoNAS researchers launch project to explore forage resources for stingless bees in Uganda

Preamble

The products from stingless bees may be little but are so valuable. Stingless bees have many benefits to various sectors of the economy, more especially the Health and Agricultural sectors. The project titled – “Exploring Forage Resources for Stingless Bees in Uganda: The Case of Meliponula bocandei” seeks to preserve them and to maximize their benefits to the economy.

It is led by Dr Perpetra Akite, Lecturer in the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences and supported by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF).

The Principal Investigator, Dr Perpetra Akite briefs participants about the project
The Principal Investigator, Dr Perpetra Akite presents an overview of their research project

Launch of the project

Researchers from the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University on 18th November 2021 launched a project to explore forage resources for Stingless bees in Uganda, with special focus on the Meliponula bocandei species. The launch held at the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) in Nakyesasa, Wakiso District was presided over by the Commissioner, Entomology at the Ministry of Agricultural, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Mr Lawrence Tusimomuhangi. It was grace by among others, the current Head, Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences, Dr Eric Sande, and former heads, Prof. William Banage, Prof. Gilbert Isabirye Basuta and Prof. Anne Mary Akol.

The Commissioner Entomology at the MAAIF, Mr Lawrence Tusimomuhangi addressing participants
The Commissioner Entomology at the MAAIF, Mr Lawrence Tusimomuhangi addressing participants

Objectives of the project

Supported by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF), the project seeks to profile forage resources for Meliponula bocandei in the Western highlands and Lake Victoria Crescent AEZs of Uganda. It also aims to characterize pollen in honey of Meliponula bocandei collected from the Western highlands and Lake Victoria Crescent AEZs of Uganda. Under the project, the researchers plan to develop a Meliponula bocandei beekeeping calendar for Uganda. Once developed, the beekeeping calendar will guide farmers on the approximate date and duration of the blossoming periods of the important honey and pollen plants in their area, and the kind of flowers available for the bees in the course of the year.

The study follows two previous research projects that sought to domesticate stingless bees in Uganda and to explore the nutritional and medicinal values of their products.

Participants at the Meliponary at NaLIRRI
Participants at the Meliponary at NaLIRRI

According to the research team, stingless bees present enormous benefits to the Health and Agricultural Sectors. Their products have high nutritional and medicinal values. The pollination services associated with the stingless beekeeping industry can boost crop production especially in the urban settings. The stingless beekeeping industry also has great potential to generate employment. However, the continued destruction of the environment through deforestation and soil pollution presents a major challenge to the survival of the bees since they feed on restricted plant species. It is on this basis that the researchers have set out to study and preserve forage resources for stingless bees.

One of the stingless beehives at the Meliponary at NaLIRRI
One of the stingless beehives at the Meliponary at NaLIRRI

Expected outcomes

Presenting an outline of their study, the Principal Investigator, Dr Perpetra Akite said the project will largely contribute to the development of the stingless beekeeping industry in Uganda. “The project will impact positively at several frontiers, especially on the role played by stingless bees in crop pollination for food security. Scientists and other key actors will benefit from the knowledge generated from this action research on the identification of forage for stingless bees in Africa, and the economy will largely improve due to increased participation in stingless bee enterprises,” she noted. Other expected outcomes include; a baseline information and platform for developing stingless bee forage in Uganda, a stingless beekeeping calendar to promote meliponiculture and improvement in livelihoods.

The researchers together with former and current members of staff pose for a photo with the Commissioner Entomology, Mr Lawrence Tusimomuhangi at the Meliponary at NaLIRRI
The researchers together with former and current members of staff pose for a photo with the Commissioner Entomology, Mr Lawrence Tusimomuhangi at the Meliponary at NaLIRRI

Government expectations

Addressing participants, the Commissioner, Entomology at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Mr. Lawrence Tusimomuhangi applauded the researchers for the initiative. “The Government is deeply interested in insect related interventions. However, many questions in the area of entomology remain unanswered. There is need for substantive research into productive insects and Makerere should lead on this.  We need to invent technologies for continuous production of insects like grasshoppers that have high commercial benefits. The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries is relying on Makerere and other research institutions to guide on the development of appropriate technologies for insect management interventions, and the promotion of agro industrialization in line with the National Development Plan III,” he explained. NDP III seeks to promote ssustainable industrialization for inclusive growth, employment and wealth creation.

Proposals by participants

During the engagements, participants observed that there was need to study the behaviour of stingless bees at different locations (adaption to the environment) and variations in seasons before designing the beekeeping calendar. They also noted that it is important to collect data during both the dry and wet seasons for better results. Additionally, participants called for studies on the toxicological effects of agrochemicals on stingless bees.

The researchers with the current and former heads of department, Dr Eric Sande (3rd Left), Prof. Anne Mary Akol (Left)
The researchers with the current and former heads of department, Dr Eric Sande (3rd Left), Prof. Anne Mary Akol (Left)

Appreciation

In his remarks, the Head, Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences at Makerere University, Dr Eric Sande commended the research team for writing a successful project. He appreciated the Government of Uganda for the enormous support towards research activities at Makerere. “Exploring Forage Resources for Stingless Bees in Uganda: A Case of Meliponula bocandei” is one of over 700 projects that have so far been supported by the Government of Uganda through Mak-RIF.

Additionally, Dr Sande acknowledged the presence of the former heads at the event and their continued support towards the development of the Department.

About NaLIRRI

Briefing participants on the NaLIRRI, the representative of the Director, Dr Patrice Kasangaki appreciated the long standing collaboration between the Institute and Makerere University Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences. The Department has collaborated with the NaLIRRI on several research projects and continues to offer practical training as well as supervision of students. NaLIRRI supported the department in research on domesticating stingless bees and exploring the nutritional and medicinal values of their products. The Institute has pledged support for the current project aimed at exploring forage resources for stingless bees in Uganda.

As part of the project launch activities, participants toured the Meliponary at NaLIRRI to learn more about the preservation of stingless bees.

Compiled by Hasifa Kabejja, Principal Communication Officer