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!

Top Bar Tuesday: Tanzania

Top Bar Tuesday:

November 15, 2022

A group of women standing together smiling and facing the camera
Play Video about Lucia Alex, a female beekeeper from Tanzania, is smiling and shyly looking away from the camera

Lucia's Story

Lucia is part of the Jikomboe Women’s Beekeeping Group,  a project in partnernship with Emmanuel International on Kome Island in Tanzania. She  is thankful for the opportunity that being part of the beekeeping group provides to improve the quality of her family life. After the birth of her second baby, her husband left her and went to another island. Her life became very difficult as she struggled to survive with two young children. This is a common story in the villages on the island. But Lucia’s is a lovely story of reconciliation and peace as her husband returned and asked her forgiveness and now they live happily together. She has learned how to be a beekeeper and is enjoying being part of the group and excited to see the project grow as they add more top-bar hives and harvest more honey!

Value-added Beeswax Product of the Week


Batik-making with beeswax is such a fun creative activity and one very much enjoyed by the women in the Upendo wa Mama Women’s group in Tanzania. Watch Jeni make some here! Carefully carved foam stamps are chosen and dipped in hot, melted wax before stamping in blocks on plain cotton material. The fabric is then dyed and the wax resist creates a beautiful and very unique design. Seamstresses in the group are then able to sew this lovely material into cushion covers, cloth napkins, aprons and more to sell in their shop, The Hive. Yet another way of adding value to beeswax and improving livelihoods! 

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

Play Video about Two women making Batiks using beeswax
Four different designs of Batiks laid out side by side. Green , white, blue and green colours
Two women making Batiks using beeswax

29 November – 6 December 2022

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Celebrate World Bee Day: Sponsor a Beekeeping Project in Tanzania

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!

Kome Island women at their hives
Kome Island women at their hives

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

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Meet Anastazia Charles – she is one of our Beekeepers for Life in Tanzania


Jikomboe Group, Nyamcolechiwa, Kome Island, Tanzania

This week, as part of our “Meet the Beekeeper” series we would like you to meet Anastazia Charles, from the Jikomboe Women’s Beekeeping group in Tanzania. Anastazia lives in the small village of Nyamkolechiwa on Kome Island, on Lake Victoria.

“The women didn’t have any knowledge of beekeeping and were afraid of the bees, but now, they are very bold and are ready to work very hard to ensure the project is successful.”

(Justina Nswilla, local EI trainer for Jikomboe Group)

Anastazia is 57 years old and has seven children and four grandchildren. She works hard, growing food for her family to eat. Before joining the beekeeping group, she relied on selling “pombe” (homemade beer), but was unhappy, knowing it was not a good thing to do. She is now delighted to be part of Jikomboe (“Self Liberation”) group and looking forward to raising better capital through selling honey, and then being able to start other small businesses. Her hope is that this will enable her children and her grandchildren to go to school.

Anastazia recently attended her first beekeeping training with the group of twenty other women from her small community on this island in Lake Victoria. There is very limited infrastructure on the island and most of its people (the ‘Wazinza’) are subsistence farmers. Faced with a continual decrease in their crop yields and degradation of their natural ecosystem along with other poverty-related issues affecting health and education, there is a need for change.

Anastazia and the other women are excited about being empowered to enact this change! They are working together to learn beekeeping with trainers from Bees Abroad local partner, Emmanuel International (EI), and have hung their first 40 hives. The women are taught to incorporate beekeeping with conservation agriculture techniques, which combined with bee pollination will increase their crop yield and food security. They are also receiving training and support to establish and tree nurseries to improve their environment and raise extra income through sales.

Anastazia and the other women in the group are truly becoming beekeepers for life!

If you would like to help more women like Anastazia support themselves and their families through beekeeping, please donate to the Beekeepers for Life Campaign during the Big Give Christmas Challenge (Nov 30 – Dec 7) when your donations will be doubled!

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