We’ve been looking at inspiring stories of how organisations can empower women around the globe while doing good for the environment. One of our favourites is a new campaign called Beekeepers for Life run by Bees Abroad, a UK based charity run by a global community. We’re looking at how the campaign is helping female groups in Africa to alleviate poverty through beekeeping whilst adapting to shifting demands of climate change.
The campaign aims to empower women in the poorest communities in rural Africa to become leaders, trainers, and entrepreneurs through the creation of beekeeping communities. Since 2000, Bees Abroad have been working with, and building beekeeping communities helping to alleviate poverty and now has over 34 active projects throughout Africa, in countries including Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda.
The charity promotes locally appropriate beekeeping practices through training and mentoring programmes lasting three years, to enable participants to generate income to enhance their livelihoods, alleviate poverty and improve their quality of life while encouraging vital bee populations in Africa.
The Sinyati Women’s Group, a 20 strong all-women group in Kenya, and supported by Bees Abroad, have established hives but have historically relied upon the group’s men to harvest honey. In this semi-arid area climate change has forced men to migrate further with herds in search of pasture thus jeopardising the future of the hives.
In many African communities, beekeeping has typically been the preserve of the males. But with climate change increasingly affecting communities, beekeeping practices are becoming an important way for women-led groups to navigate the climate crisis. Beekeeping generates income without destroying habitat, it encourages forest protection, uses poor land, and maintains biodiversity.
The Sinyati community work with Bees Abroad to make its own suits from gunny sacks to give themselves independence and control of the harvesting. The group now make skincare products and lip balm and sell them through cooperative outlets.
Adebisi Adenuki, a long-term Trustee and hands-on Partnership Manager for Bees Abroad’s activities in Nigeria, says, “Women make excellent beekeepers but historically in Africa it’s been a male domain. Things are changing and Bees Abroad has been a pioneer in Women’s Beekeeping”.
Bees are a vital cog in the global ecosystem. They act as pollinators, moving between flowering plants to help them reproduce, without the aid of which, many plants would be unable to reproduce. This makes bees vital to global and local food production, and especially so in Africa where some 80% of flowering plants benefit from honey bee pollination. (Check out this video on why bees are so important to the world’s food supply.)
With bee populations in Africa declining due to habitat destruction and harmful pesticides, human intervention is becoming more important. The Sinyati women are given dedicated training, equipment and support for activities starting in the classroom and progressing to constructing hives, making beesuits and establishing apiaries, through to harvesting and selling honey and wax products.
These activities enable them to navigate the climate crisis by learning new skills and earning a sustainable income to pay for education, medical and services and to feed their families. Through these activities, bee populations benefit and the women’s groups benefit too.
In Rwenzori, Uganda, the women involved with the campaign can increase their incomes through beekeeping, leading to greater independence and prosperity. They are able to send their children to better schools, giving local children a vital boost in their education and empowering women to break out of traditionally engrained roles and move into economic, social and financial independence and away from the one-dimensional stereotype of the sole-caregiver of children.
Beekeeping, then, can prove fruitful for the women involved and also for the environment. “I can attest for the impact beekeeping can make across so many dimensions of a women’s existence in rural Africa”, Adenuki says.
In these times of accelerating climate change, communities on the frontline are facing the shifting demands of weather and climate, and new strategies such as beekeeping will be vital to enable them to adapt to climate change.
- Make a donation to help create more Beekeepers for Life. 100% of donations go towards funding community projects. As the monthly membership grows Bee Abroad have the potential to start a new Beekeepers for Life community every 6 weeks.
- Follow Beekeepers for Life on Instagram: @beekeepersforlife
- Get involved in beekeeping by joining the British Beekeepers Association.