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Project Varroa

Working to build the capacity of rural beekeepers in preventing, identifying and treating hive infestations of the varroa mite across the Anosy region.


  • Status: Completed
  • Date: July 2016 – January 2017
  • Target population: Beekeepers of six rural communities (Beandry, Farafara Vatambe, Mananara II, Tsagnoriha, Sainte Luce and Mahialambo)
  • Location: Anosy region, southeast Madagascar
  • Project partners: Ministry of Agriculture

Why is it important?

Arriving in northern Madagascar in 2010, the invasive varroa mite has been identified by experts as one of the gravest threats to honeybee populations worldwide. Its spread across the country has seen the rise of Colony Collapse Disorder amongst national honeybee populations, and unfortunately in February 2016 it was detected in the Anosy region of southeast Madagascar. It now poses a significant threat to already vulnerable rural communities. In 2012 alone, varroa infestations in northern Madagascar led to a 90% decline in honey production in affected communities.

The varroa mite could have a huge economic impact on the already highly vulnerable and impoverished population of Anosy. As a non-labour intensive, agricultural pluriactivity, beekeeping has the potential to increase global household income by 50%. The potential damage to beekeeping is therefore of great concern in an area where livelihood options are limited and communities are increasingly reliant on dwindling natural resources.

Alongside the economic effects, the varroa mite may have a devastating impact on the unique ecology of the region. Approximately 75% of flora and fauna in Madagascar is reliant upon pollination for survival. The dependence on honeybee populations is particularly strong in Anosy, where the littoral forests are among the most at risk and fragmented habitats in the country and are facing multiple immediate threats from illegal logging, land clearance, fires and mining.

What we're doing

SEED Madagascar’s approach to this crisis combines the urgent need for treatment to control the threat in the short-term with longer-term solutions to build local capacity and develop sustainable techniques for prevention and treatment. Focusing on rural beekeepers, SEED Madagascar is using its existing relationship with target communities to engage in a way that is culturally-appropriate and ensures benefits to both honeybee populations and to the people that rely on them.

In the short term SEED Madagascar is distributing government approved treatments to identified beekeepers across six target communities. This immediate action is controlling the spread of varroa and protecting livelihoods and preserving surrounding natural environments.

Longer-term efforts are focussed on building the capacity of beekeepers to identify, prevent and manage infestations. SEED’s disease prevention training workshops, led by a local Beekeeping Technician, build on successful knowledge sharing models developed through a previously run pilot project. These are improving beekeeping practices and fostering healthier, stronger colonies which are more able to resist varroa. It is also providing beekeepers with the knowledge and resources to adopt preventative techniques, such as transferring from traditional to modern hives in line with government recommendations and DIREL (Direction Inter-Régionale de l'Élevage) directives. SEED is also working with other key actors in the region to conduct meetings with local and regional stakeholders to promote a collaborative and coordinated approach to disease prevention and treatment.


Disney Conservation Fund – Rapid Response Fund