Morocco is a country where In 10 years, honey production has increased by 69%. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, between 2009 and 2019, the country went from 4.7 tonnes to almost 8 tonnes with a turnover of around €101 million. Today, this important sector in the kingdom’s economy is struggling to grow and is even disappearing due to increased drought and climate change.
At the foot of the monumental Inzerki apiary in southwestern Morocco, the buzzing of bees is becoming increasingly rare. This abnormal silence is the result of the environmental disasters that seem to be gradually burying the sector.
An alarming phenomenon
“At this time of year, the space is supposed to be filled with the buzz of bees. Today, they are dying at a dizzying rate”,beekeeper Brahim Chatoui lamented to AFP as he inspected his swarms under a blazing sun. Indeed, in the space of two months, the beekeeper lost 40 of his 90 hives in the giant beehive of Inzerki, in the heart of the Arganeraie biosphere reserve. This is a nationally observed phenomenon which experts believe is probably due to the severe drought and the very remarkable climate change.
For Mr Brahim Chatoui, there is normally no question of the Inzerki bee being so stripped. He says, “The Inzerki hive is the largest and oldest collective hive in the world. Its location is one hundred percent strategic and it is bathed in sunlight all day. It is located in the middle of the forest, and because the bees are next to the forest, the yield is better.
Thus, the fact that the phenomenon has dangerously affected the Inzerki hive, is a real concern for the operators and for the governors. Due to the damage, many beekeepers have simply abandoned the area. Other production regions were also affected. According to Mohamed Choudani of the Union of Beekeepers of Morocco (UAM), the losses are considerable in the centre, in the Beni Mellal-Khénifra region. They are estimated at 100,000 hives since August.
A deteriorating heritage
Beyond the production of honey, the Inzerki beehive is a heritage dating from 1850 that must be preserved and passed on to future generations. This building is a work of art that strikes the eye from afar with its simple yet complex structure. It is built of sand and wood on five levels divided into equally sized huts. Inside the huts are cylindrical hives made of woven reeds, covered with earth mixed with cow dung. But you only have to get close to see the extent of the decay. Parts of the bee fall off. This rate of deterioration makes us fear the worst.
Governments rescue beekeepers
Given the extent of the situation, the government has released 130 million dirhams, i.e. more than 12 million euros (not yet deployed), to help beekeepers cope with the difficulties of production and the disappearance of bees. In addition, the State has launched a vast investigation into the disaster. ”This desertion of beehives is an unprecedented phenomenon in Morocco” ,observes the National Office of Food Safety (Onssa). It is therefore urgent to multiply actions to save this sector, one of the economic and heritage bases of the kingdom.