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.
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.
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.
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!