Emerald Forest Farm Reserve: How Beekeeping is Supporting Biodiversity

Emerald Forest Farm Reserve: How Beekeeping is Supporting Biodiversity

April 4, 2024
A photo of a group of beekeepers in bee suits in the Emerald Forest at the MAMIE Foundation project

The Origin of the MAMIE foundation and Emerald Forest

In 2004 a group of siblings with memories of growing up around nature in Nigeria purchased 300 acres of pristine rain forest with the aim of protecting it. Nigeria has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, and with many pressures contributing to forest loss, the ambition to protect their forest was not an easy undertaking.

The siblings named the area ‘The Emerald Forest’ and registered a charity called the Margot Abayomi Memorial Evergreen (MAMIE) Foundation in memory of their mother. 

The siblings set out to protect this precious forest taking a holistic approach to food production, community well-being and forest protection, with beekeeping as an important tool in their multifaceted toolbox.

Aerial photo of the MAMIE Foundation Emerald Forest Farm Reserve, Nigeria. A river runs through green forest with some green patches of land visible
Forest (in green) and deforestation 2001-2023 (in pink) around the major city of Ibadan, Nigeria

Protecting the Emerald Forest

The Emerald Forest Farm Reserve is near the main city of Ibadan. In the 20 years that the siblings have owned the farm, they report that the surrounding areas have become barren the result of deforestation, illegal logging, poaching, unsustainable harvesting of forest goods and pollution, which are all major problems in the area.

With little habitat left, the Emerald Forest has become a sanctuary for local wildlife and could soon qualify for being designated as an important biodiversity and bird area. Pangolins, the world’s most trafficked wildlife species that are threatened with extinction, are one of the creatures that call the Emerald Forest home.

The MAMIE Foundation's approach to protecting the Emerald Forest

The MAMIE Foundation projects cover youth education, economic empowerment for rural people, promotion of organic farming, forest conservation, preservation of traditional art, batik dyeing, cultural food processing, eco-tourism, beekeeping & honey projects, medical out reaches, art & culture projects, and supporting the elderly. These projects are mainly based in the Emerald Forest Reserve (EFR) at Ikoyi-Osun.

“We have created small forest farms where we introduce various citruses, mangoes and pineapples in areas where the forest canopy is less dense”

Organic farming in the form of agroforestry and beekeeping are two of the main activities used to protect the Emerald Forest. In 2010 The Emerald Forest was designated as organic farmland and in

In 2014 MAMIE applied to Bees Abroad for assistance in beekeeping. Six months later, in July 2015, the local Bees Abroad representative, Mr. Babatunde Oreyemi, delivered the first beekeeping training.

 

A photo of a group of beekeepers in bee suits in the Emerald Forest at the MAMIE Foundation project
A photo of a group of beekeepers in bee suits in the Emerald Forest at the MAMIE Foundation project

Beekeeping in the Emerald Forest

Bees are very important to the ecology of the rain forest. By pollinating flowers, they play an essential role in producing seeds for the growth of new plants and the food chain in the forest. Traditionally, in the wild, beehives are usually established in tree hollows or on branches. MAMIE with support from Bees Abroad sponsored top bar beehives in the forest in 2015 as an additional income source for those who live in the forest, in particular women.

Bees Abroad beekeeping training was offered to all those connected to the Emerald Forest – employees and their wives and children, the local carpenter, the local iron smith, the farm electrician, the plumber and driver and one farmer from a neighbouring village. There were practical sessions for the carpenter and iron smith to make new hives, including the use of the mid-rib of palm-tree branches as hive bars.

How beekeeping strengthened the Emerald Forest Farm Reserve

Emerald Forest farm has noticed an increase in the harvest of palm nuts, pineapples and other food crops in the area since the introduction of beekeeping. These products are an important revenue stream – they are sold to maintain the income of the forest reserve community. Of course, the honey itself is also a revenue stream and is certified organic.

“We are producing organic forest honey, we have set up our own beehives in order to house the bees to produce the honey. The interesting thing about our forest honey is that it never tastes the same, each bottled honey has a different taste, even a different colour.”

Three years after taking up beekeeping with the support of Bees Abroad, it has become an integral part of the Emerald Forest Farm reserve activities. MAMIE presented their progress in beekeeping at the ApiExpo Africa 2018 conference in the capital, Abuja. They exhibited a modified hive with glass sides for educational and tourist activities that they use at the Emerald Forest farm. In January 2020 the Slow Food International Executive Committee officially recognized the MAMIE Emerald Forest Beekeeping community as an integral part of the Slow Food network.

MAMIE continue to invest in beekeeping and have planted more flowering plants in their agroforestry system such as sunflowers and other trees such as palms and citrus for the bees.

 

Join us for a live event with the MAMIE Foundation

Dr. Modupe, co-founder of the MAMIE Foundation that protects the Emerald Forest will be speaking at our live event!

Dr. Modupe will be speaking at our event ‘Slow Food, Slow Beekeeping?’. Are you interested in how beekeeping can be integrated into sustainable food production and used as an advocacy tool? This event is for you!

Join this event to hear directly from the team in Nigeria on their work on Slow Food and beekeeping.

Aerial photo of the MAMIE Foundation Emerald Forest Farm Reserve, Nigeria. A river runs through green forest with some green patches of land visible
Bottles of honey from the Emerald Forest, MAMIE foundation, surrounded by flowers

Slow Food, Slow Beekeeping?

Slow Food, Slow Beekeeping?

March 28, 2024

 

In 2019 Bees Abroad formalized a working relationship with Slow Food International around collaborative working in Nigeria. This relationship recognised the shared aims between the two organisations in particular around sustainable production that builds capacity to enable local people to improve livelihoods and, conserve the local environment.

About Slow Food and agriculture in Nigeria

The Slow Food movement started in Italy in the 1980s following the protest of the opening of the fast-food restaurant and a desire to save local food traditions and taste. Since then, the movement has gone global.

Agriculture is historically an important part of Nigeria’s economy. Up to the 1960s it was the main contributor to GDP. Although oil and gas has displaced its macro-economic importance, agriculture it’s still a major part of the economy and honey is being touted by some as a $10m export opportunity.

Around 70% of the population of Nigeria grow some kind of crop. Nigeria has an arable land area of roughly 36.9 million hectares, to put that into perspective, the total area of the UK is 24.5 million hectares. Farming is still dominated by smallholders with 80% of farmers being small holders, the same is true for beekeepers. Before the 1970s agriculture was taught in schools although it was dropped from formal education for a long time, it is increasingly being added back into the curriculum. Slow Food Nigeria are working to make guidance on sustainable small scale healthy food production widely available and Slow Food and Bees Abroad beekeeping communities are working to integrate sustainable beekeeping into the training and resources available to communities.

Slow Food has an initiative called 1000 Gardens for Africa (see video for more on this), in Nigeria they have a version for schools – the Slow Food School Garden Network which aims to reconnect youth with their food by teaching them how to grow, cook and enjoy real food. Through increased confidence, knowledge gain and skill building, the aim is to empower children to become active participants in their food choices. With the support of Bees Abroad, Slow Food Nigeria are adding beekeeping to this initiative to take beekeeping in to schools.

Abotokio beekeepers in Nigeria inspect a hive in lush green setting

Slow Food Beekeeping communities in Nigeria

Signing up as a Slow Food Beekeeping community shows a deep commitment to supporting and enabling sustainable beekeeping practices. We gave an overview of the environmental side of Bees Abroad’s approach to sustainability in our last blog. Being a Slow Food Beekeeping community means not only producing high-quality unadulterated honey and integrating good practice but advocating the approach with others too. 

The formalised relationship between Bees Abroad and Slow Food that came about in 2019 meant that members of the Bees Abroad beekeeping network in Nigeria could register as beekeeping communities with Slow Food. Beekeeping communities registered with Slow Food International commit to the Slow Food priorities on (bio)diversity, education and advocacy as applied to beekeeping. Communities sign up to this commitment because they believe in the cause, often because they themselves have seen the benefit to not just their livelihoods and quality of produce but for the local environment too.

One of the practises that Slow Food Beekeeping communities commit to is to act as a central coordinator and resource centre on information around sustainable beekeeping practises. These resource centres provide information on the conservation of the local environment, the advantages of bee pollination as natural way to increase crop yield, the dangers of inappropriate pesticide use and benefits of quality honey.

This is coordinated by Bees Abroad Nigeria team members, one of whom is Mr Elijah Asade.

Mr Asade – Slow Food Beekeeping advocate

The relationship between Slow Food and Bees Abroad is unique to our work in Nigeria and is driven by the communities and individuals we work with there.

Mr Elijah Asade is one of these individuals. Mr Asade is a graduate of Agricultural Education from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. As a student he practiced beekeeping, building on knowledge gained of traditional beekeeping from his maternal Grandfather using locally produced pot-hives commonly used among the Ketu Indigenous People in Nigeria. In 2019 the Abotokio Agro Village Farmers Association, a group that Mr Asade is spokesperson for, received beekeeping training from Bees Abroad.

Mr Asade is the leader of the Advocacy thematic for Slow Food in Nigeria. Following the training he formerly registered his farmers association with Slow Food as ‘Abotokio Slow Food Beekeeping Community’. Mr Asade is a passionate advocate of Slow Food Beekeeping principles and practices and since 2019 he has supported eight beekeeping groups to register as Slow Food Beekeeping communities and extended his scope to Slow Food School Garden and Apiary Initiative for curriculum enrichment among the secondary schools in Ogun West.

Mr Asade has also taken his work on Slow Food Beekeeping international. In 2022 as part of his role as Advocacy leader for Slow Food Nigeria, Mr Asade participated in the Slow Food International conference. He shared how Slow Food communities in Nigeria, with the support of Bees Abroad, are using beekeeping as an advocacy tool. The presentation was on public display at the Activism Square in Terra Madre, Italy

Mr Asade, Advocacy lead for Slow Food Nigeria and passionate beekeeping advocate with Bees Abroad rides a motorbike in his bee suit
Slow Bee Advocacy on Curriculum Enrichment for the Secondary School Teachers organized by Abotokio Slow Food Beekeeping Community Abotokio NIGERIA at Owode Secondary School Owode Yewa Ogun State Nigeria on Thursday, 22nd December, 2022 led by Asade Elijah
Slow Bee Advocacy on Curriculum Enrichment for the Secondary School Teachers organized by Abotokio Slow Food Beekeeping Community Abotokio NIGERIA at Owode Secondary School Owode Yewa Ogun State Nigeria on Thursday, 22nd December, 2022 led by Asade Elijah

Success in Bees Abroad Slow Food Beekeeping communities

Bees Broad and Slow Food Nigeria’s partnership has been a successful one. In the four years since the formalisation of the relationship there have been some remarkable achievements.

These achievements include:

    • The inclusion of slow food principles and sustainable beekeeping in school curricula of eight local schools;
    • Securing a royal patron, Kabiyesi (traditional ruler), for the Abotokio slow food beekeeping community;
    • Working with the local government to incorporate slow food ideologies into the local economic well-being plan;
    • and the registration of eight new Slow Food Beekeeping communities since 2019.

 

We asked Mr Asade what the future priorities are for Slow Food and beekeeping in Nigeria. His response shows that Slow Food and Bees Abroad beekeeping communities are ambitious with their aims. They have some big topics to tackle including biosecurity and bee health management, crop pollination services, climate change mitigation, products packaging and branding and certification by the regulatory agencies.

Slow Food, Slow Beekeeping - live event coming soon!

This story is part of our Food, Sustainability and Social Justice campaign. Join us on the 18th of April at 18:00 for a live online event with the Bees Abroad Nigeria team to hear more about their work on Slow Food and sustainable beekeeping, including remarkable stories from projects such as the Emerald Forest.

The event is part of the Green Match fund campaign, we are aiming to raise £5,000 in donations to support projects in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Sierra Leone. You can find out more about what we aim to do with the funds in each of the countries on our campaign page.

Abotokio beekeepers in Nigeria inspect a hive in lush green setting
Mr Asade, Advocacy lead for Slow Food Nigeria and passionate beekeeping advocate with Bees Abroad rides a motorbike in his bee suit

How Bees Abroad’s approach supports the local environment

How Bees Abroad’s approach supports the local environment

March 22, 2024

Bees Abroad sustainable beekeeping: supporting the local environment

‘Food, Beekeeping and Social Justice’, that’s the title of our latest campaign for the Green Match Fund (GMF). This is the second year we have been accepted to take part in the GMF, a campaign that supports charities that play a role in influencing environmental issues.

We chose the theme of ‘Food, Beekeeping and Social Justice’, because the issues of the environment, food production and human wellbeing are intersectional and affect many communities we work with.

We have a holistic approach to sustainable beekeeping that covers the three pillars of sustainability: environment, social, economic. Enabling communities to continue the work after they graduate from our support is paramount and supporting the local environment is a key part of this. After all, the health of a bee colony, and quality of honey harvest is inextricable to the health of the local environment.

The upcoming Green Match Fund is a great opportunity to share more about the environmental side of our sustainable beekeeping approach.

Bees naturally increase food production

Many of the communities we work with have reported increases in crop yields after taking up beekeeping. Bees Abroad supported research on the effects of beekeeping on crop production with a local partner in India. The study found that beekeepers with Cerana boxes saw a 282% increase in cashew production compared to the control group. You can read the full report here.

Another example of this comes from Rwenzori rural talent, a farming community on the slopes of the snow-capped Rwenzori mountains in Uganda. One of the many crops this community grows is coffee. After taking up beekeeping following training from us, they reported around 20% increase in their coffee yields, which is in line with research on the effects of beekeeping on coffee production. We wrote about this in the green campaign last year, you can find the full story on our blog.

Providing forage for bees to ensure good honey production and reduce pressure on existing forage that other pollinators may depend on is an important part of our approach to sustainable beekeeping.

Improving the local environment by providing forage

We work with rural communities but in some of the locations the local environment has been significantly degraded. Local environment degradation is often the result of an acute need to earn income to meet basic human needs for example cutting down trees to sell or use as firewood for cooking. In these locations there may not be enough forage to produce a good quantity or quality of honey and the introduction of beekeeping would pressurise an already struggling environment. In these cases, we will adapt our core training to include recommendations on how to improve forage, such changes to the crop mix to have crops that flower at different times or planting bee friendly flowers and trees.

Not all project locations are environmentally degraded, some are verdant and rich in vegetation and forage, in these locations, activities around providing forage for bees may not be necessary.

Locally appropriate

A locally appropriate approach is at the heart of what we do.  Related to forage availability, we will only approve new projects if it doesn’t put undue pressure on the local environment and existing beekeepers and only approve projects with appropriate aims for apiary size.

Forage is one of the many factors that affect what beekeeping practices are best for a particular environment. The eco-regions of the locations the communities we work with vary significantly, from mountain slopes to tropical rainforest to semi-arid regions. The eco-regions effect the timing and number of harvests appropriate for the location. We use trusted local trainers who understand the local conditions and can provide specific, tailored advice on beekeeping specific to the area.

Improving the local environment by providing ecological training

Practices like slash and burn, honey hunting and use of pesticides are unfortunately sometimes used by members of the communities we work with, or by others in the area. As well as training on forage awareness where necessary, we will provide information on the impact of these practices on beekeeping and the local environment.

 Our trainers are often passionate advocates, for example, Daniel, one of lead trainers in Uganda has spoken to the National Park about their slash and burn practices. He has also reached out to the local government entomologist to advocate for bees and other pollinators, as their work often focuses on pest control to the detriment of pollinating insects.

It’s not just the trainers who are passionate about this, many community members become proactive advocates for bee-friendly practices that benefit the local environment. We will share an example of a community doing this in Nigeria later in the campaign.

Sustainable hives

Building bee hives is obviously a critical aspect of our work. Offering options for hive types, and options for production needs to be appropriate to the area and offer a solution that can work long after the projects have graduated from our support. 

Hive production is a big topic and deserves its own article. We are working on said article and look forward to sharing more of this aspect of our work.

Food, Beekeeping and Social Justice

We’ll be sharing more on our work on the theme of Food, Sustainability and Social Justice throughout this campaign. Stay tuned for more!

We are aiming to raise £5,000 in donations to support projects in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and Sierra Leone. You can find out more about what we aim to do with the funds in each of the countries on our campaign page.

You can have your donation DOUBLED April 18-25. Any donations via the Big Give platform for one week from Thursday 18th to Thursday 25th of April will be matched by the Big Give foundation. You can turn £10 in to £20, £25 in to £50, £500 in to £1,000, you get the idea! One donation, double the impact. We can only provide support to the communities we work with because of your generosity.  

Excel Beekeeper members with community members of Okelagan Village as participants of the Beekeeping sensitization visit

The Value of Honey

The Value of Honey

May 15, 2023

Our Green Story ends with The Value of Honey; we can’t talk about bees without talking about honey! 

Honey has been enjoyed by humans for thousands of years. The oldest known evidence for this is an 8,000-year-old cave painting in Spain that appears to depict honey gathering. Perhaps these honey hunters knew honey was more than just a sweet treat. Honey has been used as a traditional medicine by different cultures around the world. Several studies record how in many countries across Africa, honey is used medicinally to help treat respiratory disorders, stomach disorders, allergies, pain and wounds.

 

Honey for Livelihoods

With all these benefits, honey is in high demand in many countries, an opportunity that Bees Abroad beekeepers seek to tap into. Currently, Kenya imports about 80% of its honey, despite the potential to produce enough quality honey in country to meet about 85% of the demand.

It is important that, as Bees Abroad trains new beekeepers on how to care for bees and harvest and process quality honey, we also provide training in business and marketing skills. These skills are essential to successfully marketing and selling honey. Through honey sales, our beekeepers can generate valuable cash income that can provide medical care and be invested into children’s education and other entrepreneurial projects.

The Bees Abroad Approach

As we celebrate the “Green Story” of beekeeping, it is also important to acknowledge the sustainable honey harvesting practices we teach and encourage in all Bees Abroad projects.

In our previous stories we saw how beekeeping can benefit local flora and fauna, and one of the best things a beekeeper can do to “bee green” is provide forage for the bees. By encouraging sustainable honey harvesting practices, we hope to ensure a healthy bee population and a healthy, sustainable supply of honey. This means only harvesting combs with honey and leaving combs that contain the brood. It means leaving enough honey for the bees and leaving the hive cared for and protected. It means teaching beekeepers the best practices of processing quality honey and maintaining its value. These sustainable practices are at the heart of what Bees Abroad teaches, enabling communities to generate their own income through their own businesses and at the same time care for and protect the local environment.

Thank you for Beeing a Part of our Green Story

We hope you’ve enjoyed the journey we’ve taken on The Green Story. This month we have followed the bees across Uganda, Sierra Leone and Tanzania, (to name a few of our project countries) celebrating their work protecting crop fields from elephants, pollinating beans and other cash crops and then pollinating and protecting trees and forests.

Today we finish by celebrating honey, this incredible gift from the bees. Its’ sweetness is enjoyed around the world, it provides natural health benefits, and it is providing an income to support livelihoods across Africa! As we celebrate World Bee Day this week, we want to thank you for joining us and invite you to support us by donating or getting involved in our activities and work. We are so glad you can “Bee Part of the Green Story!”

The Bee and The Tree

The Bee and The Tree

May 9, 2023

Mama Merizana’s Mango tree

Our Green Story continues as we buzz from the fields in Sierra Leone to the trees in Tanzania. This is the story of the bees and the trees, starting with the story of Mama Meriziana and her mango tree.

Mama Meriziana has a small plot of land to grow enough food to feed her family. It is not a large area and when this story started she farmed only maize, but at one end of her plot there was a single mango tree. Mama Meriziana struggles with poor health and she joined the beekeeping group to learn how to become a beekeeper with a top-bar hive, something she could manage in order to generate much-needed extra income through honey sales. But she had no idea when she started what would happen to her mango tree!

After hanging her hive in her mango tree, she waited. Waited for the bees to naturally arrive and waited for the honey to appear on the comb. And then, it was mango season.

The Bee and The Mango Tree

Mama Meriziana had never seen so many mangos on her tree. Neither had anyone in the village and people were walking by looking at her mangos, exclaiming there had never been so many mangos on this tree before! When they asked her why she had so many more mangos, she was happy to explain something she had learned in her first training session… that bees pollinate trees, increasing their yield of fruit. Honeybees are effective pollinators for mango trees and pollination from bees can significantly increase yields of mango trees, by as much as 50%.

Meriziana had a bumper crop of fruit for herself and family as well as plenty to sell. Mangos are loved for their sweet, juicy taste, they have great nutritional value and having a surplus of mangos creates an opportunity to generate extra income.

Bees (and beekeepers!) helping trees

Mango trees are not the only trees that bees love. Around 80% of indigenous flowering plants in Africa benefit from honeybee pollination, including native trees such as avocado, acacia, guava and lemon. Bees will also buzz off into surrounding forests and help pollinate wild trees, helping to support places like the Gola rainforest that we heard about in our blog last week.

But there is a problem. Many areas, including Meriziana’s region of Tanzania, have suffered from deforestation. The elders of Mama Meriziana’s family were planning to chop her mango tree down to sell for firewood. But after that mango season, Meriziana was able to convince them to keep the tree; she could show that the extra mangos and honey produced from the hives in the tree would pay more each year than a single sale of firewood.

To combat tree loss, Bees Abroad projects often include supporting beekeepers to plant trees and establish tree nurseries for native trees which are planted locally.  The beekeeping projects encourage people to save and protect the trees, giving a very tangible reason to keep a tree.

Bees, trees and beyond

After Mama Meriziana’s success, she soon had another hive hung in the tree and the following planting season, worked on planting additional crops pollinated by bees. Sustainable beekeeping is a great tool for sustainable farming, as we saw last week in The Bee and The Bean story. The following year, there were flowering bean plants interspersed among the maize and tall heads of sunflowers shining by Mama Meriziana’s mango tree! 

Keep following the Green Story… after looking at the value of the bees for human-wildlife conflict, crop pollination and trees, next up, we are going to look at the value of honey. After all, we can’t talk about bees without talking about honey…

Next week, The Value of Honey. Stay tuned by following us on social media or signing up to our newsletter

Follow along and join in with your own green themed bee stories in the comments on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

The Bee and The Bean

The Bee and The Bean

1st May, 2023

Striving for food security after much instability

Our Green Story continues with The Bee and The Beans. For this story we buzz across to West Africa, to a project in Sierra Leone involving 50 small villages on the Gola Rainforest fringes. This is an area that is recovering from a civil war, an epidemic (Ebola), a pandemic (COVID) and is battling with food security. This is a story about working to enable resilient communities to improve community welfare and livelihood, and support the environment.

The civil war in Sierra Leone lasted over a decade (1991-2002) and has lasting effects still felt today, not least the many people killed or permanently disabled through the conflict. The effects have been devastating to their livelihood, and together with our partner, Rory’s Well, the locals have taken up training on sustainable farming and beekeeping, which go hand in hand. This brings us to the beans… 

Beans glorious beans

One of the main inputs to industrial farming is fertilizers which deliver nitrogen to crops helping them to grow faster and stronger, but this practice has been linked to reduced soil quality and local water pollution. Not only that, but it’s also an additional costly input.

Beans are nitrogen fixers; they naturally take nitrogen from the air and make it bio-available in the soil. Beans are generous plants, the nitrogen they fix is made available to other nearby plants. The sustainable farming practices in this project include inter-cropping beans with other crops such as maize. This practice not only naturally increases yield up to six times in low nitrogen soils but helps stabilise soils and provides forage for pollinators, which brings us to the bees…

The Bee and The Bean!

Bees love the flowers of bean plants. The honeybees at these farms in have a ready supply of forage in the fields from the flowers of jackbeans, pigeon peas and cowpeas, and other legume varieties which are primarily pollinated by bees. The healthy, nitrogen-fixing beans in turn help other crops, but there’s also evidence that bees can help maize crops directly.

Healthy beans further help crops but there’s also evidence that bees can also help maize crops directly. Maize is a wind pollinated crop but when the bees go into the fields, they visit both the bean flowers and collect pollen from the maize, as they rummage around on the maize tassels, they release more pollen onto the wind.

Through their pollination service, bees help increase crop yields and hence help plants produce more produce. This is crucial to sustenance farmers as it is vital to securing their family’s meals. Similarly, should any farmers sell their produce, a higher crop yield will help with an increase in income and therefore a better livelihood.

A piece of the puzzle

This sustainable farming and beekeeping projects are on the fringes of Gola Rainforest National Park, the largest remaining remnant of the Upper Guinean Tropical Rainforest. 

Projects like this can help farmers naturally increase their yield and make additional income through honey and wax products, reducing the need to expand into the forest. The communities bee’s also venture into the forest to pollinate wildflowers and trees that in turn help the growth and enrichment of the Gola rainforest. 

Talking of the forest, that’s where we’ll be going next on the Green Story. Join us next time for the story of The Bee and The Tree. 

Next week, The Bee and The Tree. Stay tuned by following us on social media or signing up to our newsletter. Missed last weeks story of The Elephant and The Bee? You can read it here.

Follow along and join in with your own green themed bee stories in the comments on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

The Elephant and The Bee

Bee Part of the Green Story - The Elephant and The Bee

April 24, 2023

Giants in the night

Our Green Story begins with The Elephant and The Bee, in villages bordering Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. A place where giants visit in the night.  

Every year around harvest time, the community fear of elephants entering their village in the dark of night, eating and trampling their way through the fields, destroying up to a year’s supply of food. Rather than attack the elephants, which can have fatal consequences for both people and elephants, these farmers want to work with bees, using these small, hard-working insects as their security guards.

Two village groups, Upendo and Mungu ni Mwema, are joining together to learn how to become beekeepers. Their goal is to work with the bees to solve the problem of elephants’ crop-raiding.

Elephants and Bees: David and Goliaths of the animal kingdom

Elephants are terrified of bees. Yes, it is rather like the story of David and the Goliath, the young boy who defeated the giant. The largest land animal is so terrified of this tiny insect that it will avoid it as much as possible. The elephant may be thick-skinned, but a bee up its’ trunk is as bad as it gets! And so, the beekeeping group is planning to build a 3km stretch of bee-hive fences. Top-bar hives (or even dummy hives… as an “elephant never forgets”) will hang every 10 meters, linked together on wires along the borders of the farms.  

When an elephant touches the wire or a hive, the bees will come to the defence and scare the elephant back the way it came. Beehive fences offer more than just a live security fence for crops. They are home to honeybees, so farmers can harvest honey and beeswax which they can sell and turn into value added products to generate cash income to pay for things like school fees and supplies and medical care. The honeybees increase pollination of crops and local fruit trees too, though this is a story for another day… 

A natural, sustainable solution

We are excited to be working with our local partner, Amigos, to facilitate this project with the Upendo and Mungu ni Mwema groups. Beekeeping training will be integrated with training in conservation agriculture as well as business and marketing training.

This project offers a real chance for a solution to the human-elephant conflict and helps create a social and economic boost to a once war-torn and poverty-stricken community. A sustainable solution for both wildlife conservation and community welfare.

Up next: The Bee and The Bean

Our Green Story continues with The Bee and The Beans. For this story we buzz across to West Africa, to Sierra Leone and an area that is recovering from a civil war, an epidemic (Ebola), a pandemic (COVID) and is battling against food insecurity…

Bee Part of the Green Story

Want to Bee Part of the Green Story? Here are a few things you can do:

See what else is going on in the Green Story. Stay tuned by following us on social media or signing up to our newsletter. Donate to support Bees Abroad’s work enabling communities though sustainable beekeeping.