Our Programme Manager, Roy Dyche, has just returned from a trip to Zambia’s Southern Province. Thanks to a handsome grant from the Rufford Foundation, a generous gift from Mr Paul Murray and one or two smaller donations from Kent beekeepers’ associations, we were able to launch our project with two women’s co-operatives in Monze District a few weeks ago. Roy wanted to see for himself how the small local NGO responsible for implementing the project, the Sustainable Rural Development Agency (SRDA), was faring and to help with the initial training. Here is his report.
“Frankly I was rather nervous about what awaited me. Despite having done what it could to support the district’s beekeepers for some years now, SRDA had never handled a project of this size before or been entrusted with major donor funding. Moreover, the women had absolutely no prior experience of beekeeping; I had found on my exploratory visit a year ago that they were eager enough to get started but, of course, I couldn’t be sure how capable and truly committed they would prove to be.
“I soon discovered that I needn’t have worried.
“The SRDA Director, Phillip Nsakilwa, took me to see the two apiaries which his team had set up with the help of the women. They were impressive: posts had been driven into the ground and the hives, 15 in one apiary and 18 in the other, were securely suspended from them. The sites had been properly cleared and sturdily fenced to keep animals and children well away. The hive bodies themselves were fine, though the top bars were not. Their width — which is critical to the success of this type of hive — was all wrong and arrangements were made for the carpenter to put matters right at once.
“I took part in a training session with both groups and it was immediately obvious that SRDA’s programme officer knew what he was about and was determined that the women should not be merely a passive audience: the hotly contested smoker-lighting competition, for example, certainly enlivened our proceedings! The trainees themselves were as keen as mustard and I admit that one or two of their excellent questions had me stumped. Naturally, they will need to rely heavily on continuing technical support from SRDA and I’m confident that this will be readily forthcoming.
“In order to assure the co-ops and other beekeepers in the district of a reliable market for what they produce, SRDA has been provided with seed capital to purchase and bottle 500 kgs of honey. Although Phil had received the money at the very end of the last buying season, he had managed to lay his hands on 180 kgs — which was no mean achievement. When the next buying season begins in late October, he should have little difficulty obtaining the remaining 320 kgs and indeed more, using the profits from earlier sales.
“We spent a jolly morning attaching labels to jars, including tamper-proof strips which I’d taken out with me. Actually these served no practical purpose since the lids were self-sealing but they did make the jars look attractive and rather more ‘professional’ than those of our competitors. Certainly when we later did a round of retailers, the few dozen we took with us were snapped up.
“It was an enjoyable and most reassuring trip and I’m very happy to report that all the signs are that this project will be a success.”