Kurdistan beekeepers face challenges amid rising temperatures, restrictions

Sherwani pointed out that the vast mountainous areas could accommodate up to one million beehives. However, since winter, the people of Sidakan have restricted access, allowing only the beekeepers of the Bradost region.
A locally produced Kurdish honey became available in the markets in 2023. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
A locally produced Kurdish honey became available in the markets in 2023. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On Saturday, Arif Sherwani, head of the Beekeepers Network Association of Kurdistan, highlighted significant challenges facing the region's beekeepers.

Speaking to Kurdistan 24, Sherwani emphasized the difficulties caused by rising temperatures and local restrictions, which threaten the livelihood of thousands of beekeepers.

"As the Beekeepers Network Association of Kurdistan, we have 16,000 beekeepers across the Kurdistan Region, with 4,200 in Erbil province alone. Beekeepers travel north to cooler areas annually because temperatures above 30 degrees can cause significant damage to the bees, potentially leading to their demise," Sherwani explained.

He called on Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to intervene and address the problems beekeepers face. "The people of the Independent Administration of Raparin and the beekeepers of Erbil should not be allowed to suffer."

Sherwani pointed out that the vast mountainous areas could accommodate up to one million beehives. However, since winter, the people of Sidakan have restricted access, allowing only the beekeepers of the Bradost region.

"The Sidakan region has about 4,000 beehives, but Erbil province has significantly more. The beekeepers of that region have obstructed others from transferring their hives there," he said.

Sherwani criticized the outdated methods used by beekeepers in Sidakan, who continue to use traditional baskets instead of modern systems. Efforts to resolve the issue with local authorities have been unfruitful.

"We were sent by the governor of Erbil to Halgurd Sheikh Najib, the supervisor of Soran Independent Administration, but he did nothing for us. When we approached Sidakan’s mayoral office, they dismissed our concerns without addressing them," he lamented.

"The people of the region are very angry because their livelihood depends on these bees. They have only one annual crop—honey," he added.

Sherwani urged the Prime Minister to intervene directly. "If the issue is political, let it be political for everyone. We are at the beginning of exporting Kurdistan honey with the Prime Minister's support. Kurdistan honey is in great demand. However, all the bees are being destroyed due to the heat, threatening the livelihood of beekeepers and farmers alike."

In response, Ihsan Chalabi, mayor of Sidakan, clarified that 267 individuals had been given permission to install beehives. However, he emphasized the need to regulate access to ensure genuine beekeepers, not those with ulterior motives such as hunting wildlife, are allowed.

"There were issues last year with people claiming to be beekeepers but were actually hunting foxes. We aim to protect the native bee population and ensure a good crop. Only those who are genuinely involved in beekeeping should visit these areas," Chalabi stated.

The ongoing issues highlight the need for a coordinated effort to support beekeepers and protect their livelihoods amid environmental and regulatory challenges.

As part of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) agenda to diversify its economy, support farmers, and empower the private sector, two tons of Kurdistan’s premium honey were delivered to Qatar in 2023.

An additional ton was sold to local and national retailers in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, further supporting Kurdish beekeepers, with plans to make the produce appear on shelves next month.

Read More: KRG delivers first ever honey export to Qatar

This effort, supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the private sector, has involved more than 200 beekeepers, supported and created nearly 100 jobs, and established new relationships with retailers in new markets in Qatar and the Gulf.