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  • Writer's pictureEthan

Celebrating the power of data-driven beekeeping on World Bee Day

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

Summary: Beekeeping is much more than just a means of producing the wide variety of honeys we love to eat. While recent research suggests wild and managed bees help support 15 of the 17 SDGs, we focus here on three specific pathways by which the AI-Driven Climate-Smart Beekeeping (AID-CSB) for Women project makes an impact through a smartphone application: pollination services, better data, and women’s livelihoods.

Honey bees provide important pollination services that protect and support biodiversity and crop yields. When beekeepers are supported by the addition of an AI-Driven, Climate-Smart application, the data generated helps not only improve the hive management amongst individual beekeepers, but also enhances community knowledge. We are working on customizing such an application for communities in Ethiopia and Uzbekistan, with a focus on women to improve their economic opportunities and digital literacy.

The pollination services that honey bees provide are critical for biodiversity and crop production

Honey bees are an important group of pollinators that support the diverse plant species in Ethiopia and Uzbekistan. In addition to wild plants, many cultivated, income-generating crops are also dependent on the services of pollinators. In Ethiopia, nearly 17 million tons of crops produced are dependent on pollinators, whilst in Uzbekistan pollinator-dependent crops number around 15 million tons (FAOSTAT 2018).

Access to better data from the AID-CSB application improves individual hive management and community beekeeping knowledge

Maintaining healthy, productive hives requires and benefits from several types of data and information:

  • Historical data – Understanding past interactions with the hive, such as the date and colony health at the last inspection, can help beekeepers optimize their interactions with the hive and intervene at appropriate points.

  • ​Climate data – Changing climate conditions impact the traditional “beekeeping calendars” used by beekeepers and require adjustments in beekeeping practices and timing. Customizing the app for local climate and weather conditions is being done in the diverse climates of Ethiopia and Uzbekistan to support beekeepers.

  • Community data – Learning about the current management actions and observations of neighboring beekeepers while safeguarding privacy and anonymity can help beekeepers make better management decisions to maintain the health of their hives.

  • ​Best practices – Evaluating the management practices and associated colony health outcomes for a large number of beekeepers provides evidence and support for identifying and promoting best practices for keeping healthy and productive bees.

Using a smartphone application to track and provide all of this data not only improves the efficiency and preciseness of beekeeping practices, but it also provides data that was impossible to find out before: community data. The collection and aggregation of all of this data also has exciting future potential for researchers and extension officers, enabling enhanced data driven support and advice to beekeepers when an in-person visit is not possible and to complement such visits.

Focusing on women beekeepers addresses economic disparities and the digital divide

AID-CSB addresses and eliminates traditional barriers women face, such as unequal access to resources, technology, job opportunities, and land ownership. Ensuring the project is gender sensitive, responsive, and transformative, the customization and adaption of the app is based on a user design process with women, starting later this month in Uzbekistan. During this process, we will seek to better understand the experiences and needs of women beekeepers, gather their feedback on the app prototype and customize accordingly, and train them on how to use the smartphone and application.

To monitor project progress in these areas, data points input by beekeepers during normal app use will be collected and analyzed. AID-CSB also strives for intentional monitoring and reporting of gender and AI indicators, for which we will soon issue an RFP for the support of two specialists.

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