Groups of UAE residents are making a beeline for the Hatta mountains — to get honey from their own hives up high.
The Sustainable City, a residential community in Dubai, has purchased 250 beehives as part of a 'My Hive' programme launched by a globally-known UAE-based breeder and exporter.
Those who sign on are guaranteed 10kg of honey a year at a cost of Dh2,500 for the first year and Dh1,750 in subsequent years.
Some 20 residents have already registered to purchase hives in the project unveiled in May and are committed to learning more about their new investment.
The hive of activity is all part of a drive to grow the beekeeping community and popularise high quality nectar produced in the country.
“My family is hugely excited. It makes education tangible. We will get to go into the mountains along with the children and see the honey for ourselves,” said Jameel Khan, who runs digital strategy in a Dubai bank and lives with his wife and two children in The Sustainable City.
“We will get quality honey and we are making an investment toward a wider ecological cause. Bees are on the ecological radar at the moment. Given the threat to them, it’s great to do our bit for the environment here in the UAE.”
The Khan family have teamed up with a friend to divide both the spoils and the fee.
They can visit their hives three times a year, starting September or October.
Seated in their homes, they will also soon be able to regularly check activity in the hive through a tracking device.
Each family will be given a unique identity number to monitor their hive from their living rooms to learn of the number of bees in a hive and how much honey has been produced.
“We are really fascinated about the app because you can log into your hive and find out how things are going. It will give the children an insight into the activity of the bees. From the weight of the hive you can calibrate how much honey is being produced,” Mr Khan said.
“We decided to go halves with a friend because 10kg of honey is a lot by anyone’s standards. Even with partnering in this, the quantity is quite large and we will still have honey surplus to our requirements. We plan to use this as gifts for friends and family.”
The project is organised and run by the Apiculture and Nature for the Betterment of Health and Beauty, one of the largest bee and beekeeping equipment suppliers and producers in the Gulf region.
Born in a beekeeper family Mohammed Al Najeh, founder of Al Najeh Honey, now part of the ANHB Group, believes that while the health benefits of honey are understood, there is little knowledge about the quality.
He wants to create a buzz at the grass roots level starting with the UAE and then spread the word across other countries.
“It has been a dream for me for a long time to connect people so they understand the benefits of good quality honey. At this stage honey is not like the normal honey you know, it is like a medicine. That is how great its properties are,” he said.
A third of all food produced globally directly depends on pollination, according to United Nation data that seeks to emphasise the role that bees and other pollinators play in the ecosystem. Preservation of the broods is critical for food security and sustainability as bee populations worldwide are in decline due to human activity and climate change.
“The way I see it there are two worlds with the beekeepers in a different community and the normal consumer in another. People want pure honey but don’t know how to verify that what they are consuming is pure. They have no knowledge about how it is produced, what does it take to raise the bees, what are the standards. At least 40 per cent of honey in world is actually not honey made by bees. It’s only a syrup with some material to make it taste like honey,” Mr Al Najeh said.
“With the project, residents are curious and will learn about well-organised colonies where everyone has a role from the queen to the worker bee. We need to connect them to the bees, to this world because it’s a unique process. They will get to know the secrets of this world.”
For those who wish the apiary was closer to home to deepen the connection and knowledge, experts said it was impractical since bees required the best surroundings and location to produce quality nectar.
“People may like to have a hive at home but will not be able to take care of it. This programme fixes the issue because you can regularly see the bees and understand the breeding system. We cannot force bees to produce honey in a place that we want. So it’s best to take the residents to the original spot,” he said.
The company has plans to grow the project to other communities in the emirate and more countries.
“Bees are important to our planet. We want to connect people to the local bee keeper, then they don’t have to go to the supermarket to buy honey. We hope to make this a global initiative so people can sign for hives on a website and others can also will benefit,” he said.
The Sustainable City was a natural first choice since they house three hives to enhance pollination in the community as part of a separate awareness programme to foster coexistence with nature.
Karim Al Jisr, executive director of the development’s innovation centre, said lack of transparency about high quality honey and realisation of the need to promote nectar originating in the UAE prompted the project.
There are plans to open up purchase of hives to residents outside the community and for a honey store.
“Our priority is for the residents first and after that the programme will be open to others. It’s not just about redeeming that honey jar, they will also be exposed to the science and technology in the practice of honey production,” Mr Al Jisr said.
“The store is an option because some may not want to commit to a hive but want access to honey. This will be extremely informative because the hive will be managed for residents but families will learn first-hand about bee activity.”