The recent spike in demand for local produce has seen more people choosing to adopt UAE bee hives to harvest their own honey.
So far this year, 24 families across the Emirates have pledged to support some of the thousands of hives located in the Hatta mountains.
As part of ‘My Hive’, an initiative launched in 2018 to help bolster the UAE’s beekeeping community, each “adoptive parent” yields about 10kg of honey annually.
For the 2019-2020 honey harvest season, the programme has recorded a “25 per cent growth in hive adoptions”, with a total of 113 families now helping to manage their own bee colonies.
"Because of the pandemic, more people have become interested in things like food security," Karim El Jisr, executive director of The Sustainable City in Dubai, told The National.
“There have been a lot of stories in the global press about governments, companies and people turning to locally sourced produce because of food shortages due to the crises.
“More people are realising sourcing food locally is better for the environment and better value for money, so that change in behaviour is good.”
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 suppliers and producers in the Gulf.
Under the programme, The Sustainable City, a residential community in Dubai, owns 1,000 hives, which boasts a population of more than 20 million bees.
Many of the residents within the community, which is focused on green living, have adopted one of the community-owned hives to learn more about the role bees play in the production of food and the overall ecosystem.
Annually, El-Jisr said their bees produce about 15 tonnes of honey during the three harvest seasons, which are all named after the trees which the bees pollinate during that period: Sidr, Samar and Ghaf.
Of that total, about 1.5 tonnes of honey is distributed to the “adoptive parents”.
“We adopted our first hive in October 2019 because we’re a family that consumes a lot of honey,” said Farah Addel-jaber, a Jordanian mother-of-two living in Motor City.
“We received our first batch of Sidr honey in November, about 4kg in all, and in the next few weeks we will be sent our second batch of the season.
“We have lived in the UAE for five years and it feels great to know we have our own hive and are supporting local beekeepers.”
As part of the ‘My Hive’ programme, applicants pay a registration fee of Dh750 and then a yearly fee of Dh2,250.
Owners can visit the bee gardens in Hatta three times a year to see their hives and learn about the process of producing pure local honey.
When the Addel-jaber family signed up to the initiative, they chose to pay their adoption fees in three installments, paying Dh750 for each batch of honey received.
"Before that, we would buy imported honey and pay about Dh600 for 1kg, but for Dh750 we received 4kg in our first batch,” she said.
“It’s also reassuring to know that the produce is pure, local and not filled with additives like glucose.
“I hope and believe this current pandemic will change mindsets towards many things, like the importance of supporting local farmers and reducing food waste and our carbon footprint.”
Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, are increasingly under threat from human activities, but preservation is critical for food security and sustainability.
According to the United Nations, nearly 90 per cent of the world’s wild flowering plant species relies heavily on animal pollination.
In addition, more than three quarters of the world’s food crops directly depends on pollination.
“I think at a grass roots level adopting a hive is something you can do as a family and have a direct positive impact on the community and environment,” said New Zealander Gail Nash, 52.
“I joined ‘My Hive’ in 2018 but now I have four of my own hives in my back garden with about 300,000 bees.
“All I really have to do is ensure they have access to fresh water.
“Bees are a low maintenance pet and by allowing them to thrive without much interference is our way of giving back to the planet.”
"Any initiative that helps you support local food production and allows the bee population to thrive is one that will have long-term benefits for the planet.”