UK taxpayers were stung close to £150,000 ($215,385) between 2012-2014 in a project set up to train beekeepers in Kyrgyzstan, it has emerged. The two-year project cost £149,646 and was funded by the Darwin Initiative – a scheme led by the UK government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – and helped just 60 people learn how to care for bees (£2,500 per would-be beekeeper).
The initiative, as described by the UK Conservative government, attempts to address threats to biodiversity across the globe, including overexploitation, invasive species, climate change mitigation and pollution. However, not every politician is keen on the amount being spent on the projects.
Conservative MP Philip Davies told The Sun on Sunday: "This is the type of spending that brings overseas aid into disrepute. The public thinks overseas aid is to help countries and people who have suffered natural disasters."
Meanwhile, former Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell also questioned the spending. "This is precisely the sort of misconceived expenditure that brings Britain's brilliant and life-changing international development programme into disrepute," he reportedly told the Daily Mail.
However, despite these criticisms, a government spokesperson said: "Looking after the planet on which we all depend is in our national interest and the right thing to do." The UK is committed to foreign aid spending of roughly £12bn of its GDP – which is the equivalent of 0.7% – as part of the United Nations Millennium Project.
Core spending of the funds goes to development – such as teaching, health centres, roads, wells, and medicines – which the UN body claims are "eminently affordable if rich and poor countries alike follow through on their commitments".
The news comes after it was revealed that a number of so-called 'corrupt' countries have been receiving a significant amount of British aid. According to the Telegraph, under Prime Minister David Cameron's administration, the amount spent by the Department for International Development (DFID) in the nations ranked worst for corruption "jumped by 14%". And despite Cameron being caught branding Afghanistan and Nigeria as "fantastically corrupt" in front of Queen Elizabeth last week, the Telegraph notes that both countries are set to be provided with over £100m in aid each over the next year.