Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

April 11, 2007

Project Uses Honey to Help Alleviate Poverty in Vietnam

A University of Guelph prof. has received $1 million from the Canadian International Development Agency to teach poor families in Vietnam how to use honey to put food on the table.

Gard Otis, of the Department of Environmental Biology, has developed a project aimed at teaching farming families effective beekeeping so they can cash in on the sweet crop.

“Beekeeping can make such a difference in income for these rural families,” said Otis.

His six-year project is focused on villages in north central Vietnam – one of the poorest regions of the country where selling just a dozen jars of honey can provide enough income to feed a family for months.

Beekeeping is a lucrative business in rural Vietnam because the honey produced in these villages is believed to have exceptional medicinal qualities, Otis said. Some people will drive more than a hundred kilometres to rural villages in search of the honey to cure ailments as common as a sore throat.

Not only is there money to be made, but beekeeping is also ideal for poor farmers because it doesn’t require land ownership and the start-up costs are small. Although many families already have a few beehives on their properties, they haven’t had any formal training in beekeeping, said Otis.

“Their skills are rudimentary and their yields are far below what they could get. I want to help them develop their beekeeping potential.”

Last month, Otis and his colleagues, Leo Smits of the Department of Family and Community Social Services at the University of Guelph-Humber and Steffanie Scott of the Department of Geography at the University of Waterloo, spent two weeks in Vietnam developing and updating the training methods used by the Vietnam Bee Research and Development Centre (VBRDC), the organization responsible for monitoring and training beekeepers in these rural villages.

In October, Otis and his colleagues will return to the country to help VBRDC staff design and implement the revised training methods.

Otis anticipates the improved training will allow villagers to double what they are currently making off their honey crops. He and his colleagues also plan to show the villagers the potential profits of selling beeswax and the importance of pollination when it comes to increasing their fruit yields.

He said the long-term result will be the establishment of a training program and teaching materials that are current and can be used throughout Vietnam as well as surrounding Asian countries.

Prof. Gard Otis
Department of Environmental Biology
519-824-4120, Ext. 52478

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.

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