Accessible beekeeping in Sierra Leone

November 15, 2023

A two-part story

Part one of this blog covered a brief history of the war in Sierra Leone, the challenges faced by those living with amputations as a result of the war and how survivors have taken up football, farming and beekeeping.  

In this blog, part two, we go into a bit more detail about the challenges, possible solutions and aims of accessible beekeeping in Sierra Leone. 

beekeepers on crutches around a beehive

Adapted hives and harvesting

Part of this project is working out what accessible beekeeping means in Sierra Leone. During the workshop Bees Abroad want to help work out what participants feel safe and comfortable doing. The workshop includes hive visits and practical experience, which will help answer questions such as what is the right height for a hive for someone with an amputation, do beekeepers with amputees need to be partnered, can it be done seated?  

Harvesting from the hive is one small part of the whole process. Harvest is only once a year, but inspections need to be done on a regular basis. Lack of mobility during inspections could be an issue, will people who aren’t as mobile need thicker bee suits? 

Beekeeping in the bush, on crutches

Another complication factor is the location of the hives. The hives are in the bush, the forest, which makes things more difficult in terms of accessibility for people using crutches. The area around the hives needs to be cleared once month to keep the hive pest free (no one wants termites eating the hives!). We will work with participants to figure out what the best approaches are to these challenges. 

As mentioned in the previous blog, one of the aims of the workshop is to develop an accessible beekeeping manual for amputees but lived experience is better than any manual. The aim is that those who become dedicated beekeepers can become trainers for other people with amputations. 

Wax kits as a solution lack of intermediate income

Beekeeping is a long game, it takes two to three years for a hive to produce a viable honey harvest, a huge time investment and act of faith for farmers who mostly make a subsistence living. Part of this project is exploring stop-gap options, specifically a wax kit to bridge income. The wax kits will include three types of value-added wax products: neem (mosquito repellent), lip balm, body cream.  

A local value chain for value-added wax products

It’s not just honey that has a long lag time, wax takes a long time to accumulate too. Fortunately, another Bees Abroad project in Sierra Leone is producing three quarters of a tonne of honey a year, and a significant volume of wax. This wax can be transferred to newer projects to help them get off the ground.  

There’s also an opportunity in this project to explore the sustainable, local production of essential oils. At the moment the oils need to make the creams have to be brought from the UK, which is one of the biggest challenges for the viability of the wax kits. Sierra Leone is home to the Gola Rainforest, the largest remanent of the Upper Guinean Tropical Rainforest, so there is potential to make oils from plants in the forest. 

This Beekeeper Can

If you want to support beekeeping groups like the beekeepers on crutches, we have a great opportunity…

From the 28thNovember – 5th December all donations will be doubled – one donation, double the impact.

We can’t do what we do without your support, so thank you!  

This story is part of a series of stories we will be sharing over the next month as we celebrate the campaign ‘This Beekeeper Can’. Stay tuned to hear more stories, join our events or enter our prize draw. 

beekeepers on crutches around a beehive

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