WONG Zi Jin, Bachelor of Environmental Studies student – AY 2015/16
Social perceptions of bees and urban beekeeping in Singapore
Singapore (SG) imports over 90 % of its food. Given that SG is a small island nation, a high reliance on imports isn’t unusual. But it is exacerbated by the high rate of urbanisation, severe land scarcity and the fact that only around 1 % of SG’s total land area is zoned for agriculture. This problem is not unique to SG. Around the world, urban development gobbles up valuable arable land and so how to feed our growing population, especially given likely future food crises, is a big concern.
In this context, the rising interest in urban farming is not surprising. Urban farms can address the issue of competing land uses, increase food security and reduce transport of food and thus carbon footprints. Singapore aspires to develop a viable urban food industry and several companies (such as Comcrop, Sky Greens and Sustenir) hope to cash in on this trend big time, while various non-profits are trying to raise awareness and promote urban farming.
In 2015, one such enterprise was Pollen Nation, though its Facebook page has no activity since mid-2018. Its aim was to raise awareness of bees. It also humanely dealt with hives near people, by removing and relocating species that might be dangerous to humans to forested areas and harmless species (e.g., stingless Trigona bees) to areas where they could pollinate urban crops and produce honey. Thus, it was fundamentally promoting urban beekeeping.
At the time, urban beekeeping had been more or less established in many big cities, but not in SG, where even now, in 2020, it’s catching on only slowly. Zi Jin’s project was sparked by a meeting with the founder of Pollen Nation, which lacked data on public perceptions – data that could have helped it best direct its efforts.
She asked why the public didn’t seem to be embracing urban beekeeping like urban farming – was there a real lack of receptiveness? If so, why? She assessed societal knowledge and perceptions of urban bees and beekeeping.