Bees Abroad is excited to share with you about the Kome Island Women Beekeepers. We are offering you the opportunity to sponsor this amazing project which will give beekeeping training to many women from at least five rural island villages over the next few years. This March, Bees Abroad Partnership Manager, Rachel Monger went to visit the first Kome Island women’s group ….
I received the warmest of welcomes from the Jikomboe Women Beekeepers group when I arrived in the small village of Nyamkolechiwa on Kome Island on Lake Victoria in Tanzania. Over twenty women came together, and it was wonderful to see that some of the mamas were in the group with their grown daughters, who were carrying their grandchildren on their backs!
All the women are farmers, working incredibly hard to produce enough food from the land to feed their families. The group formed a few years ago with the support of Emmanuel International, setting up a village savings and loans scheme. Recently, the women asked if they could learn how to become beekeepers in order to profit from honey and wax sales … and so now Emmanuel International and Bees Abroad are partnering to train and equip them.
They are a resilient group of mamas … and just so much fun. There was so much laughter throughout the day that I spent with them. Plans were upset by a long hard rain in the morning, but as soon as they could, they worked together to produce an amazing lunch for all of us, laughing all the while! They laughed and sang as they came together for an official group meeting; there were peals of laughter as they presented me with (and wrapped me up in) khangas (traditional cloth wraps) in welcome.
They laughed particularly hard when we got to the hives. For women who wear flip flops and khangas, thick suits with zips, head veils, gumboots and gloves are all very foreign and difficult to figure out! Women were rolling on the ground in laughter as they tried to put on the strange items! And then when they all stood up and looked at each other in this new apparel … it was completely hilarious for everyone!
But for these mamas, life has not been easy or full of laughter. One mama, Nyabwire, shared her story of how as a child, she had to drop out of school due to constant illness. She entered a forced marriage at a very early age, but after the birth of her daughter, her husband died. Later she married again, but he also died before she bore another child. Her late husband’s parents took everything from her, leaving her and her daughter grieving and destitute. With her daughter, Nyabwire moved to live with her brother, but lost everything again when his house burned to the ground. But one of the women said she had never seen Nyabwire laugh like she did on this day we shared. At the end of the day, Nyabwire said that she had never been so happy as she was that day. The benefits of being part of a group like this are more than we realise.
Another woman in the group is a grandmother, and she is struggling to care for eighteen grandchildren in her care … life is not easy, and she has been tired and burdened. But she stood to speak at the meeting and her joy was in her smile! In coming together and learning together, they are finding so much joy.
There was more joy at the hives that evening as for the very first time, the women saw honey on the comb in their hives! As we celebrate World Bee Day this year, we are celebrating these women. We are looking forward with them to future harvests of honey which will help them to pay for medical and school expenses, helping the health and education of their children. We are looking forward to celebrating greater yields of crops in their pollinated fields. We are looking forward to more joy!
Celebrate with us this World Bee Day and consider sponsoring these and other women on Kome Island through this project