How many women does it take to make a beehive?
Apparently nine. Last week I embarked on a challenge in Tanzania with eight other business women to do just that, and built 90 beehives within a remote area in Nou Forest. In support of Farm Africa, the charity that works to end hunger in eastern Africa, we hope the hives will be used to kick-start profitable and sustainable honey farming businesses for the area.
Whilst Nou Forest has a diverse plant, animal and insect life, Tanzania is losing forests at a disastrous rate of 300,000 hectares every year – around 1,500 football fields every day. As forest loss reduces water supply for local communities, they struggle to grow enough food to eat and turn to cutting down trees for income to survive – a vicious circle destroying the very resource they need to survive for the long-term.
We were drawn to this area as the forest is home to millions of bees, and bee-keeping is a forest-friendly business that enables communities to make money without cutting down more trees.
But for women the traditional-style beehives, situated high in the trees, are inaccessible as it’s not culturally acceptable to climb trees. That’s why Farm Africa has introduced the Langstroth beehive, a type of that can be placed on the ground and used by women. Harvesting the precious honey will bring the women a new and valuable source of income that will enable them to pay for clothes, medicines and school fees for their children.
Once we were well and truly off the beaten track and travelling along dusty rural roads, our first job was to get stuck in and put the hives together. Then we painted all 90 to exacting standards. On top of this as a team we set ourselves the challenges of raising £50,000 for Farm Africa, which will help more rural families in eastern Africa build a more prosperous life that allows them to take charge of their futures.
It’s great to be involved in this project, and hopefully play a part in making a valuable and lasting different to the women we meet. As with all societies women face a number a challenges, and it’s especially difficult for women in Africa. Giving them independence is incredibly important so they can develop businesses and an income for themselves, allowing them to manage their money and support their families.
The Big Beehive Build is one of the events organised this year as part of Farm Africa’s wider ‘Food For Good’ campaign, the UK food and hospitality industry’s response to the global challenge of hunger. Two years ago we were digging a fish pond, so watch this space for where we might head off to next.