Beekeeping over time, facing challenges
In Sbeïtla, a town listed in the historical and archaeological heritage of the governorate of Kasserine, Adel Bouzidi has chosen to use an agricultural field for another venture: beekeeping. Born from a passion that has been passed down from father to son for three generations, Adel’s beekeeping ambitions led the young entrepreneur to install his first hives on the family olive-growing estate more than 20 years ago.
Certified in beekeeping by the the Ministry of Agriculture in the 90s, Adel completed his vocational path through additional training in agricultural breeding in 2003 before becoming beekeeper.
“Our world has changed a lot with technical progress. And this has had an impact on all areas, including beekeeping. Even though I learned everything from my father and grandfather, I felt it was important for me to learn new skills in order to adapt to the modern technologies in beekeeping and agriculture.”
After training in new beekeeping techniques, the young entrepreneur embarked on in a journey full of pitfalls to obtain the necessary funds and authorizations to launch his business.
“The years 2000 were very complicated for me. The administrative obstacles and the lack of funds penalized me in the launch and development of my beekeeping project. After a few years in the construction industry as bricklayer, little by little I saved the funds needed to buy my hives.”
Adel started with about 30 hives, then quickly expanded his stock to 121 hives in less than a year. As his production increased, Adel acquired pressing machines that helped him to facilitate the extraction of honey, and then began to sell his products in his region, and sometimes in the Sahel regions, and the capital of Tunis.
“All is about loyalty. Thanks to word-of-mouth, people wanted very quickly to taste my honey. The quality of my honey took over, and I succeeded in building loyalty with each new customer I gained. Plus, in Tunisia we are very sensitive to the benefits of our natural heritage. Honey is known to treat sore throats and seasonal colds. The better the honey is, the more the customer will associate it with his well-being and health.”
A few years later, in 2020, Adel became a beneficiary of the Mashrou3i project. The project experts first helped him to register his business at the employment office. Then the entrepreneur benefited from a technical training in beekeeping and in improving hygiene and food safety processes and skills.
But when scorching temperatures hit Tunisia in the summer of 2021, Adel lost a large amount of his hives. Not only the plants dried out quickly, but the bees themselves didn’t survive the excessive temperatures and drought for five consecutive months.
“For the past 15 years, conditions have become very difficult for beekeepers. And it is unfortunately getting worse. In addition to global warming, the intensive use of pesticides in agricultural areas is risking our activities and our profession.”
Adel dreams of more environmental awareness from the local authorities, of regulating the use of non-invasive pesticides, and of setting up controlled organic farming areas to ensure the preservation of bees and their healthy and sustainable development.
“Today, we beekeepers are vulnerable to every environmental challenge and with the slightest difficulty we can lose all our hives. This also includes the loss of our income and jobs. But despite that all, we keep the strength to always stand up. What keeps me going is above all the passion and love for my job and my region, hoping that the younger generations will one day be able to take over and preserve our riches in a sustainable way.”