Beekeeping is closely related to the floral environment, biodiversity and has an essential impact on crop pollination. These applications have been understood for large scale farming (coffee, palm tree, colza…) for several decades. They have been used to improve pollination and therefore production of fruits and beans. Unfortunately, it is often ignored in small scale farming in villages, where interaction with bees is limited to very grassroots beekeeping practices or wild honey gathering. Beekeeping practices haven’t spread in rural communities as much as they potentially could, considering it can be done with low initial investments. East Africa has a wealth of bees and is free from most diseases and issues met by beekeepers in Europe and North America. Bees products are very valuable and diversified; there is a plethora of beneficial nutritional and medicinal properties of honey, and we are still discovering further applications for propolis, pollen and bee venom.
Beekeeping is a real school of curiosity. It is amazing to notice that providing teaching on the life of bees, their impact and their activities, brings about many questions and research from the apprentices. From rudimentary knowledge, beekeepers enrich continually and acquire understanding of the principles related to the biology, genetics and agronomy involved in beekeeping. There is a need to provide proper training to ensure capacity building and reach a certain level to enable transfer of knowledge.
Beekeeping benefits both humans and nature. It deserves dedicated time, expert training and financial investment in beekeeping programs.
Beekeeping as a sustainable livelihood activity
Along with the 5 months Solar Training provided at the Barefoot College Vocational Training Center of Zanzibar (BCVTC), as part of the Enriche co-curriculum, women solar engineers learn how to practice sustainable beekeeping. The training is provided in Kiswahili by the local NGO Zanzibar Beekeeping Association (ZABA), focusing on the Top-Bar Beekeeping method. This type of beekeeping is particularly adapted to the local context as it requires low initial investment and simple equipment, doesn’t involve carrying heavy boxes and is easily spreadable within local communities. During their time at the BCVTC, Solar Trainees choose to learn either sewing or beekeeping as an extra livelihood activity. Two lessons per week are dedicated to this activity, both practical and theory sessions. We developed the beekeeping training in partnership with Bees for Development, an expert NGO based in UK providing support on curriculum worldwide.
Once the training is completed, trainees receive the equipment needed to start their beekeeping activity (beehives, protective clothing, smokers, tools) that they slowly pay back when they sell honey at a fair price to the B.Barefoot Honey brand, created as a social enterprise to self-sustain the activities of the BCVTC.
Our Community Work Team and Beekeeping Trainers from ZABA provide a monthly support visit to every newly trained beekeeper in their village over two years to ensure a proper start of their activity. In addition, Barefoot Beekeepers stay closely bounded to the local training center, which acts as a “Hub” for continued learning and developing, through exchange of individual experiences.
Since the opening of the Zanzibar Training Center, women from different villages have benefited from beekeeping training:
· Mbuyu Tende (North East Unguja)
· Bumbwini Kiongwe (North West Unguja)
· Kandwi (North East Unguja)
· Makunduchi (South East Unguja)
· Magoongwe and Panza Islands (South Pemba)
Mtwara and Mlindi (Tanzania mainland)
Zanzibar has a high demand and good value for local honey. One beehive can produce around 15L per year. The training center is installing its own 50 beehives across the island to contribute to its financial sustainability. Solar Master Trainers are also involved and manage apiaries on behalf of the Training Center.
We focus on providing quality processing, packaging and marketing of our products, to make sure women and the Training Center get fair value for their work.The different locations of apiaries offer a great range of honey varieties: mango, mangrove or clove honey.
The islands of Zanzibar have 20 000 Ha of mangrove forest. It is one of the most important sources of nectar and vegetation, but it is threatened from legal and illegal harvesting of charcoal, firewood and timber. Establishing bee colonies near the mangrove forests help to preserve these areas.
Wild honey gathering, which involves taking honey from wild colonies, in turn often killing them, is sometimes the only local practice of getting honey. Introducing sustainable beekeeping knowledge in these villages helps to release pressure on wild bees’ population, and augment bees’ positive impact on these areas through increasing crop and fruit pollination, and maintaining diversity of flora.