MOROCCO

Pesticides kill honeybees en masse in Morocco

The region of Souss, in south-western Morocco, is known for being the kingdom's top producer of citrus fruits. But the use of pesticides linked to intensive farming methods has a deadly side-effect: the wiping out of bees and a dramatic fall in honey production. One of the region's beekeepers has set alarm bells ringing.

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Screen grab of a video (below) filmed by a Moroccan beekeeper that shows dozens of dead bees.

The region of Souss, in south-western Morocco, is known for being the kingdom's top producer of citrus fruits. But the use of pesticides linked to intensive farming methods has a deadly side-effect: the wiping out of bees and a dramatic fall in honey production. One of the region's beekeepers has set alarm bells ringing.

When bees come into contact with these pesticides, they tend to die after a few days.

"I've lost 90% of my harvest!"

Omar is a beekeeper who works near the town of Taroudant.

The origins of these pesticides is a complete mystery. Many say they're contraband. In any case, they come in barrels that don't have any labelling.

Since farmers started using them two years ago, I've lost 90% of my harvest. Before, beekeeping provided me with a comfortable income. I could produce up to one ton of honey a year.

Dozens of beekeeping businesses in the region have found themselves in the same predicament. Some haven't even produced a kilogram of honey this year.

Omar sent us these images of his meagre harvest.

I'm part of a cooperative that brings together seven small beekeeping businesses. Two weeks ago, we took part in a gathering in front of the office for agricultural investment for the region of Souss. Notably, they're tasked with supervising the use of pesticides. We stayed for several hours but not a single official even bothered to meet with us.

In May 2014, more than one year ago now, an employee from the very same office came to my farm to take samples of dead bees. Since then, I've heard nothing.

I'm in a complete state of disarray. I no longer know what to do. When I go to see the farmers to try and speak with them, only the ordinary workers will meet me. They just tell me that they're only following their bosses' orders and that they can't do anything to help.

The worst is that the farmers spray pesticides on their crops during daylight hours, in other words, at the same time as when the bees go to gather nectar from the flowers of the orange and lemon trees. If the farmers would just accept to spray their crops during the night, the damage wouldn't be so great.

For the most part, I produce orange blossom honey because it's the most consumed type of honey and the least expensive one on the market. If the situation doesn't get better soon, I'll have nothing left to sell.

Contacted by telephone, Hafida Al-Qacimi, an official from the office for agricultural promotion for the region of Souss-Massa, pledged to meet Omar Abou Hajer and respond to his grievances.

FRANCE 24 also contacted Bernard Nicollet, a beekeeper who regularly travels to Morocco and offers advice to beekeeping businesses. He gave us his opinion on what Moroccan beekeepers should do to recover their harvests.

The use of pesticides have a big role in the spectacular drop in the production of honey in Morocco. It's a global phenomenon affecting many countries around the world. To save the honey industry, the best solution would be for beekeepers to produce further away from large intensive farming zones. They would do well to start producing in areas with trees and plants that aren't grown using intensive farming methods , like thyme, jujube, or rosemary, even it means that the honey ends up tasting different.