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!

Kome Island – Exciting First Steps For Our Newest Project

A Great Start for 26 Rural Women Attending Their First Beekeeping Training Seminar!

First Day of the Bees Abroad Training Seminar. Photo: Bhatendi

Bees Abroad’s latest Beekeepers For Life project is on Kome, an island of Lake Victoria in Tanzania. When the community of Nyamkolechiwa asked our partner, Emmanuel International, for help to start a beekeeping project, this was an amazing opportunity for Bees Abroad to partner with them to fund a Beekeepers For Life project. It meant that we could deepen our relationship with our local delivery partner, Emmanuel International – who have great experience with beekeeping projects in the Mwanza region and also as you may have read on our blogs, in starting The Hive, a local honey centre. We could deploy our wonderful trainer, Bhatendi, to Kome with the objective of training our newest recruit, Justina, to lead the training project on the island over the coming years.

Kome Island is remote, but surprisingly accessible and our project plan evolved rapidly to aim over the next three years to train 60 rural women in all the skills required to become competent beekeepers. Over a period of three years, 60 women will be trained, 300 hives will be built and placed in crop fields and apiaries on the island. Over 1200 trees will be planted and 3 tree nurseries established – an important part of the programme from a forage perspective. By the end of the project it is possible to envisage the production of over 1,350kg of honey a year, bringing cash, nutrition and empowerment to our programme participants, changing the lives of hundreds of dependents. This is one of Bees Abroad’s largest projects – but we believe the Beekeepers For Life programme needs to be expanded at scale. Our only limitation is funding….

The first training session this week was attended by 26 women and here are Bhatendi’s first photos. The group has made amazing progress already – with initial visits and treks around the area over past weeks, choosing the best apiary locations. And now this week, after the first nervous minutes in the classroom, the women showed the excited, keen interest in learning a new skill and then were giggling trying on a bee suit for the first time!

Trying on a Beesuit For the First Time. Photo: Bhatendi

The team has been working with local carpenters on the island, teaching them how to make the top bar hives. The  group are now going through the process of baiting and hanging the first twenty hives…

New Beekeepers For Life – Going to Prepare the New Apiary. Photo: Bhatendi
The Hives Arrive At the New Apiary. Photo: Bhatendi
Celebrating A Good Day’s Work. Photo: Bhatendi