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Young scientist excels in apiculture

Published:Friday | November 13, 2015 | 12:10 PM
Young scientist and bee farmer Duhaje Jennings (left) receives the Young Farmer of the Year award from Minister of Agriculture Derrick Kellier.
Young scientist and bee farmer Duhaje Jennings (left) gives instructions to his apiculture students during a practical session at the Kenilworth HEART Academy in Hanover.

It was at age 20 that young scientist Duhaje Jennings ventured into the apiculture industry while on the verge of graduating from the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus. Now at age 27, the Cornwall College old boy has become not only one of Jamaica's leading apiculturists, but a highly sought-after apiculture lecturer.

"My first degree I did at UWI in molecular biology and Botany, and I realised that when I left there, if I am not teaching, there isn't much more, so I had to go and create my own business.

"So at the time, I had started with some bees because at the time the demand for the product (honey) was increasing and you would have less problems with thieves. I started with four colonies, and then, it just grew...," Jennings shared during a recent interview.

"I was exposed to diverse scientific happenings, and as long as you are the person that can transfer knowledge, it was kind of simple for me. Yes, I may have learnt about cells in a particular organism, but then I could transfer it now to bees. There were parts in the courses where we had to study insects, and all of that. One of the main aspects of beekeeping is the floral part. Timing nectar flow is how you get honey. The population of the bees increases or decreases really in unison with what's going on with the plants. So the second part of my degree, the botany part, I used that," he added.

Jennings later pursued a master's degree in business administration to build his business skills.

This resulted in an expansion of his apiary which now stands at more than 200 colonies.

"The MBA kind of made me see the business aspects that I could go into to market the product in a different way. What happened at the time was that the foul brood came about, and I was one of the persons who knew how to treat the foul brood without any chemicals, so that had placed me in good stead for understanding the disease, and that's where persons began to recognise that, and I got some assistance and continued," he said.

Kenilworth HEART Academy teacher

Jennings now teaches the apiculture programme at the Kenilworth HEART Academy in Hanover after having resigned his post at the Mt Alvernia High School in Montego Bay, where he taught mathematics, physics, and integrated science.

"After six years, I realised that I could probably be doing better for myself and others if I went the route of beekeeping full time or to do something specifically in beekeeping. So I came to HEART in January this year, here full time, to set up the programme, and by June, I went to part time," he said.

"I helped to validate the curriculum. Now I am contracted to write some parts of the training programme for HEART. It's easier to be doing it while I am teaching because I can see the links better instead of someone just sitting down and writing something out of their head," he added.

Earlier this year, Jennings copped the inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture first-place award for Youth in Agribusiness.

He also received the Rural Agricultural Development Authority Young Champion Farmer of the year for St James two weeks ago.