The Women’s Beekeeping Project, Monze, Zambia: a report on progress

40 women in Zambia have finished their first year of learning modern beekeeping practices with Bees Abroad (BA) and it was a sweet success! Learning beekeeping can be an extremely useful skill, specifically for these women who live in Monze District, which is one of Zambia’s least developed areas with high poverty levels. The majority of the women participating in this project are subsistence farmers—living off of what they produce themselves—and many are widowed or unmarried. Since the average household is 8 dependent members, they have their work cut out for them as they try to feed their families while coping with climate challenges.

This is where beekeeping comes in!

Crop failure, an all too common sight

Crop failure, an all too common sight

The Project

Bees Abroad is working with the Sustainable Rural Development Agency (SRDA), based in Monze District, to train and support these women in adding hive products to their farm yields. Phase 1 of the project itself started with one group of 40 women split into two groups who were carefully chosen to receive training. Phase 2 trained a second group of 40 and Phase 3, subject to further funding, will train the final group of 40 women. BA helped each group set up an apiary of eight hives and equipped them with a smoker, protective gear, gum boots, and food-grade airtight containers.

Meeting with SRDA director, Phillip Nsakilwa
Meeting with SRDA director, Phillip Nsakilwa

The goal of the project is to equip these communities with beekeeping skills to generate some income, teach them the necessary business skills to make their enterprises sustainable and profitable, and improve their environment and crop yield through pollination.

As the SRDA’s regular project visits have reported, the first phase of the project was a success! The four objectives for the groups were being achieved: each group had hives that were colonised, members that were able to work with and harvest the honey, had made honey sales which generated useful income and the income was being used wisely by each group to develop or begin new enterprises. There were challenges with the second group, who were not quite so successful, but interim training is helping to strengthen.

A well constructed apiary

Overcoming Challenges

In recent years, crop yields have fallen drastically: 38% in the last 8 years. The reason: drought. Anyone visiting Monze District would be struck by the visible effects of reduced rainfall and the resulting crop failures. Most subsistence farmers in the area grow only maize which, unfortunately, is very dependent on rainfall. For that reason it is imperative that these farmers diversify their crops and adopt new agricultural methods.

When BA’s project manager Stuart Andrews visited Zambia in May, local farmers had already started to grow other crops besides maize, such as cassava and millet, and some were also involved with other activities including beekeeping and fish farming.

Looking back on an apiary through a living fence!
Looking back on an apiary through a living fence!

Embracing crop diversification also means increased need for pollinators and BA includes how to improve crop yields through pollination in their training.

In situations of extreme poverty, honey production not only provides some income, it also increases food security. During his project visit, Stuart Andrews spoke to local clinicians and aid workers who are very concerned about food security and are extremely interested in this project, especially as its success is not directly dependent on rainfall.

Priming the top bars with melted bees wax
Priming the top bars with melted bees wax

Next steps

Funding is secured for Phase 1 and 2 and ten new top-bar hives have already been purchased and are currently being stored, waiting to go onto SRDA’s new training apiary site which will provide practical beekeeping training for groups across the Monze district. Stuart is still raising funds for Phase 3 and beyond which will hopefully include a new honey processing plant to be built on the site of SRDA’s training apiary to serve the project beneficiaries as well as other beekeepers in the area.

Ladies of the Haamupande group
Ladies of the Haamupande group

As for the project itself, work has already started on Phase 2, beginning with recruiting new groups to set up apiaries and be trained in beekeeping. Meanwhile, work is continuing with the project’s initial groups of women across the Monze District.

Here’s to the next two years of this project and the goal of developing sustainable sources of income for these impoverished communities!

A swarm of bees in an apiary
A swarm of bees in an apiary

One of the hives in the training apiary

One of the hives in the training apiaryThe site (on the left) of SRDA’s proposed new training apiary and honey processing plant

The site (on the left) of SRDA’s proposed new training apiary and honey processing plant

 

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