Taking the sting out of poverty

On a hot sluggish morning, wearing a net-cap to prevent bee stings, 50-year-old Mosam Khan is busy in his newly-established camp at the centre of Tamarix forest locally known as ‘Ghaz’ close to the grid station on Waziristan Road. Hundreds of wooden honeybee boxes lie strewn besides the highway leading to a militancy-hit tribal agency.

“Don’t go close to the boxes, if the bees get disturbed, they might sting you,” the beekeeper warns, inspecting one of the traditionally made hives, before he shook hands.

A native of Nowrang Bannu in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, Mosam Khan has been running the apiaries for over two decades. But this is his first ever honey-collecting camp set up in the bordering district, Zhob.

Beekeeping, if developed well, has the potential to become a primary source of income in Balochistan

Khan says that he was a labourer and also worked as a woodcutter and brick- kiln worker before he undertook beekeeping in 1994. Starting the business with 30 bee boxes, today he owns 500 honey-producing boxes and earns thrice the amount he earned otherwise.

While Khan is content with his work, he claims that severe hot and cold weather, deforestation, off-season rains and stagnant water around beehives led to a drastic decline in the population of honeybees and honey production in the country, pushing a number of beekeepers out of business. His perceptions about the decline in honey production are belied by the actual figures.

But he is one ‘lucky’ beekeeper with a story different from the others.

Speaking Banochi, a dialect of Pashto, Khan says that he used to set up camp in the Shawal tehsil of North Waziristan. Since operation Zarb-i-Azb got underway in the area, however, he does not go there anymore. Now he travels to other parts of the country including Balochistan.

“The deteriorating security situation of the area and the military operation are the major reasons behind my migration from KP to Balochistan,” says Khan. “This is how I earn bread and butter for my family of five children who help me in my work instead of going to school.”

Pointing towards the boxes he says, each hive box costs 2,000 to 6,000 rupees and houses approximately 5,000 honeybees.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is rich in beekeeping with thousands of beekeepers and honeybee colonies in every nook and corner of the province,” he adds.

Having spent 22 years in the profession, Khan says that Pakistan exports honey to more than two dozen countries but Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are the biggest buyers of Pakistani honey.

According to him the colour and flavour of honey vary naturally, depending on the blossoms which are the nectar source. Lighter-coloured honey is generally mild in flavour, while the darker one is usually stronger in flavour.

He elaborates that Jujube (red date) honey is dark; sunflower honey is bright yellow with delicate sweetness; Alfalfa (seh barg) nectar produces white to extra light amber honey that has a mild flavour and aroma similar to beeswax, Calcacia (Palosa) and Eucalyptus nectar yields greyish honey while Hyssop honey is white in colour.

Jujube trees are in abundance in Zhob region along with other honey-producing trees such as Eucalyptus, Tamarix, Acacia, Hyssop and many others.

Showing a bottle of dark honey, he explains that Sidr honey, dark in colour has a distinctive aroma and is considered one of the most expensive and finest honeys in the world. It is exported to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. He adds that there is an ever-increasing demand for it in the Arab world due to its fine quality and taste. “It is made from the nectar of the Jujube blossoms and dark honey has higher medicinal value as compared to other honeys.

Sidr honey is dark in colour, has a distinctive aroma and is considered one of the most expensive and

finest honeys in the world. It is exported to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. He adds that there is an ever-increasing demand for it in the Arab world due to its fine quality and taste.

While opening one of the honey jars that are displayed near his roadside tent to attract passersby, Mosam says the honey collected in various parts of the country is transported to a Peshawar market, from where it is packed in 20kg plastic cans and sent to Saudi Arabia and other countries. There it is branded and repackaged.

“High-quality honey is exported abroad, while honey of inferior quality is consumed within the country. Honey is a great source of nutrition while beeswax is used in cosmetics,” he explains.

Talking about his hectic journey to Zhob valley, Khan says that as the ‘beeing’ season approaches, he and his family travel with hundreds of boxes and other material to Balochistan. He also experimented with Ziarat and Musakhail districts last year but Zhob, according to him, is the most suitable for honey production as it has dense forests of Tamarix and other trees.

“The fields of Tamarix and other trees are abundant and the atmosphere of the area is also ideal for beekeeping. But both government and community support is required,” he says. Mosam encourages the local people to take up beekeeping.

Khan says it takes the honey about a month to ripen. In some areas the beekeepers are not in a position to bear the expenses of shifting camps, feeding and medication — beekeepers use medicine/chemicals to improve queen and colony health. The majority of beekeepers belong to poor families and some of them lead miserable lives as the beekeeping business is fraught with a host of problems, while the government which has so far given a cold shoulder to those engaged in the business has yet to recognise it as a legitimate industry. “This sector is running without any government support and patronage,” he laments.

The director of Honeybee Research Institute at the National Agricultural Research Centre, Pakistan, Dr Rashid Mehmood, says that the ancient, traditional method of honey beekeeping with indigenous species Apis cerana has been replaced with modern beekeeping, adding that Western honeybee Apis mellifera colonies have been introduced to the beekeepers.

“More than 400,000 colonies of Apis mellifera exist, increasing honey production in the country from 7,500 metric tons to 10,000 metric tons generating 35 million to 40 million rupees as revenue,” he said.

Balochistan’s North-eastern district Zhob (Fort Sandeman) is an area of lush green mountains, a great diversity of forest wealth and natural flora where bee-farming activity can be done very easily and freely. The area is very suitable on account of different ecological zones containing rich bee flora and friendly climatic conditions. Zhob shares borders with Afghanistan and South Waziristan agency. The source of income here is agriculture, livestock or private and government employment, while some failing to find jobs locally are moving to gulf countries.

Alamgir Mandokhail, head of the Nutrition Programme and resident of a nearby village, says that the area has the most unique wild species of honeybees, and is quite suitable for apiculture due to its favourable climatic and environmental conditions.

“If the business is promoted here, not only hundreds of poor people of the area could earn their livelihood but it will also improve the socioeconomic status of thousands of people,” he says. He further adds that the business can prove to be an environmentally sound, income-generating activity. The region has great potential to prove itself a major honey producer in Balochistan, where majority of the people live below the poverty line.

“It is an innovative way to save precious forests that are being cut down. Apiculture can easily be adopted here as it requires very little investment,” Alamgir says optimistically.


New York Times says suspected Russian hackers targeted its Moscow bureau

WASHINGTON: The New York Times said on Tuesday its Moscow bureau was targeted by a cyber attack this month but that there was no evidence the hackers, believed to be Russian, were successful.

“We are constantly monitoring our systems with the latest available intelligence and tools,” Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told the newspaper.

“We have seen no evidence that any of our internal systems, including our systems in the Moscow bureau, have been breached or compromised.”

Earlier on Tuesday, CNN, citing unnamed US officials, reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other US security agencies were investigating cyber breaches targeting reporters at the Times and other US news organisations that were thought to have been carried out by hackers working for Russian intelligence.

“Investigators so far believe that Russian intelligence is likely behind the attacks and that Russian hackers are targeting news organisations as part of a broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organisations, the officials said,” CNN reported.

The FBI declined a Reuters’ request for comment. Representatives for the US Secret Service, which has a role in protecting the country from cyber crime, did not reply to a request for comment.

A government official briefed on the inquiry told the Times the FBI was looking into the attempted cyber attack but was not carrying out similar investigations at other news organisations.

The Times had not hired outside firms to investigate the attempted intrusion, contrary to the CNN report, Murphy said.

News of the cyber attack comes amid a wave of similar attacks targeting major US political parties that have surfaced in recent weeks ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election.

The Democratic National Committee, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the party’s congressional fundraising committee have all been affected.

Hackers have also targeted the computer systems of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Republican Party organisations, sources have told Reuters.

A breach at the Times would not be the first time foreign hackers infiltrated a news organisation. Media are frequently targeted in order to glean insights into US policies or to spy on journalists.

In 2013, a group of hackers known as the Syrian Electronic Army attacked the Times and other media outlets. Chinese attackers also infiltrated the Times that year.

Asian Bank approves $810m for power transmission system

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Tuesday approved an $810 million multi-tranche financing facility to develop Pakistan’s power transmission system aimed at improving the reliability and quality of energy supply, and to meet increasing demand for electricity.

The loan facility will help fund the staged rehabilitation and expansion of the transmission network, increasing transmission capacity and energy efficiency and security.

Under the arrangements, $800m will come from ADB’s ordinary capital resources while $10m will be financed through the Asian Development Fund.

It will also support government efforts to develop a more transparent and efficient power sector by promoting reforms in the National Transmission and Despatch Company Ltd, and the sector’s newly established commercial operator, the Central Power Purchasing Agency (Guarantee) Ltd. ADB’s facility will be delivered in tranches, implemented from 2016 to 2026.

To achieve this, the investment programme includes staged physical investments in the transmission system to increase transmission capacity, improve efficiency and energy security, and evacuate additional sources of power; and non-physical investments to support institutional efficiency, cost recovery, competition, transparency and good governance within the sector.

“A reliable and sustainable power sector is critical to the economic growth and well-being of Pakistan,” said Megan Wolf, Energy Specialist with ADB’s Central and West Asia Department. “Fast implementation of this facility and related reforms to alleviate power shortages will improve the prospects for the economy.”

Power shortages are a major obstacle in Pakistan’s economic development. With demand for electricity outpacing supply, inefficient and inadequate transmission and distribution systems are key bottlenecks in the development of the energy sector that is stifling growth and threatens social strife.

Chronic power shortages are estimated to have reduced GDP growth by at least 2pc in 2012 and 2013, and are considered the major cause of the slowdown in large-scale manufacturing, which grew at only 1.1pc in FY12 and 4.1pc in FY13.

Priyanka Chopra, Jodie Foster recreate Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ and it’s hilarious

Priyanka Chopra and Jodie Foster reinterpret one of Britney Spears’ most iconic songs and it’s awesome!

With Britney Spear releasing her next album this month, W Magazine‘s latest episode of Lyrical Improv with Lynn Hirschberg got Jodie Foster and PeeCee to improv up ‘Toxic’.

Priyanka, a singer herself, covered the song. We grinned with the Quanticoactor every time she would attempt to growl out the word ‘Toxic’ and her trying not to laugh at herself made us enjoy her goofing around.

But Jodie Foster showed us her acting chops! Having a solemn touch in her voice, the Money Monster actor delivered the lines as if in a conversation, making her bit hilarious! Hearing her say “You’re dangerous/ I’m loving it” and knowing the song had us in fits!

Britney’s next album Glory will be releasing on 26th August. This will be her ninth studio album and we can bet she will be reigning over pop once again.

Money on the mind: Breadwinning men have worse mental, physical health

ISLAMABAD: While gender stereotype holds that men should be the main breadwinner in a household, a new study suggests they would prefer women to take some of the financial burden; researchers find the responsibility of being chief earner is likely to take a toll on men’s mental well-being and physical health.

Researchers find men who are the primary breadwinners may have poorer psychological and physical health.

For women, however, the opposite is true; the study reveals that making greater financial contributions is likely to improve their psychological health.

Study co-author Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, and colleagues are due to present their results at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in Seattle, WA.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009, around 37.7 percent of married women in the United States had higher incomes than their husbands, compared with 23.7 percent in 1987.

Despite the significant rise in the number of women taking the title of primary breadwinner, the gender stereotype remains that men should be the main earners in a household, and, as a result, many men feel they are expected to earn more than their partners.

But according to the new research, this expectation is bad news for men’s mental health.

The investigators reached their findings by analyzing the data of married couples aged 18-32 who were part of the 1997-2011 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

The team looked at the income of partners in each couple over time, as well as information on the mental and physical health of each partner – as determined by scores on health questionnaires.

Overall, the researchers identified a reduction in psychological health and well-being among husbands who increasingly adopted more financial responsibility than their wives.

Men’s mental and physical health fared worst in the years they were the primary breadwinners of the household, the team found.

During this period, men’s psychological well-being and physical health scores were 5 percent and 3.5 percent lower, respectively, compared with those of men whose financial contributions were equal to their partner’s.

However, the team found that the psychological health of women improved as they made greater financial contributions to the household. No link was found between women’s income and their physical health.

“Our study contributes to a growing body of research that demonstrates the ways in which gendered expectations are harmful for men too. Men are expected to be breadwinners, yet providing for one’s family with little or no help has negative repercussions.”

According to Munsch, their findings are likely down to gender differences in cultural expectations.

“Men who make a lot more money than their partners may approach breadwinning with a sense of obligation and worry about maintaining breadwinner status,” she explains.
“Women, on the other hand, may approach breadwinning as an opportunity or choice. Breadwinning women may feel a sense of pride, without worrying what others will say if they can’t or don’t maintain it.”

Munsch adds that the results should not be viewed in a negative light; they show that equal financial contributions in a relationship may benefit the mental health of both partners.

“Our study finds that decoupling breadwinning from masculinity has concrete benefits for both men and women.