Bees for Development

Words by
Andy Pedley
Trustee, Bees for Development Trust

Some years ago I met Tom Olalobo and his family, refugees from Africa.

I remember Tom telling me how, in his native Africa, he had been able to teach people how to take some sticks, and form them into a hoop about 12 inches diameter; weaving a few of these together, to form a cylinder and covering them with leaves, to form a drum. Some more leaves to close the ends, a small hole at one end, hang it in a tree by a rope, and wait. Soon, a swarm of bees would take up occupation. They would build comb, form a nest, store honey. The honey can be harvested … lower the hive to the ground, remove the honey comb, close the hive and lift it back into the tree, where the bees replace the honey that has been removed, so a few weeks later another crop can be taken off. The crop is processed by putting the comb on a sheet of metal in the sun, and waiting; the sun melts the wax, the wax and honey run down the sheet, into a container. They separate, wax floating on top, where it cools and sets. And you have two, saleable crops wax, and honey. From a few twigs, and some leaves, natural raw materials, that have cost nothing, plus a little time. You do not need to own land, and you need not be restricted to a single hive. You can make more than one, and so your harvest, and so your income will increase. Bees will forage on poor land that could not be farmed. Of course if they are near crops, then they pollinate and will improve the yield of seed and fruit crops.

Look carefully at the logo, beneath the branches of the tree, on the left, hangs a bee hive; much like the one that Tom described to me 15 plus years ago. Bees for Development (BfD) are a charity, which promotes simple, sustainable beekeeping such as this; I first encountered them when I went to the National Honey Show in about 1993. I’d been bee keeping myself for a year or two by then. I was immediately impressed by the charity and its vision.

BfD are one of the longest established beekeeping charities, and are well respected with an international reputation, they run projects funded by Comic Relief, and patrons include Bill Turnbull and Martha Kearney, both of the BBC, Monty Don, and Sting. Martha did the Radio 4 Week’s Good Cause Appeal for us on the 6th March 2011.

Bees for Development assists beekeepers living in poor and remote areas of the world, and raises awareness about the value of beekeeping for poverty alleviation. Working with beekeepers, charities, and government institutions, raising the profile of beekeeping in developing countries to ensure a sustainable future for bees, people and the environment.

They encouraging the use of indigenous, local bees, local skills and local resources which are sustainable, feasible, cost-effective, and good for bees and beekeepers, they provide skills and information – which is much more sustainable than providing donations of equipment or money. When necessary they will advocate policy change, on behalf of beekeepers, to ensure that developing country honey producers can access worthwhile markets to sell their honey and beeswax.

Providing training and resources for community beekeeping activities, to improve knowledge of marketing and business, and to support a wider, sustainable economy.

An important part of the Trust’s work is a quarterly journal sent to beekeepers in over 130 developing countries, free of charge, with the latest research, events, different marketing techniques and honey bee disease control.

The Trust is also involved with development projects to improve earnings and build capacity in poor, rural communities.

The Trust has become the hub of a global beekeeping network and maintains an extensive information library that people from all over the world can access free of charge.

Beekeepers use our network to get in touch with each other and to share information the staff answer dozens of enquiries each week, from bee-keepers, projects, honey traders, schools, government institutions, NGOs and organisations worldwide.

And this enables them to advise donors who need expertise on beekeeping for development projects.

Free training programmes encourage local bee-keeping skills and develop bee-keepers knowledge of marketing and business this improves access to markets and ensure a better price for honey and beeswax. And the charity encourages using hives and protective clothing made from local materials, managing bees, collecting honey safely, handling and storing it hygienically so as to developing other saleable, value added goods from the products of bee-keeping: beeswax, propolis and honey, and teach marketing and business skills to ensure the sustainable generation of new income by poor, rural communities in developing countries. A worthy cause, and recently accepted by the the Big Give to take part in the Big Give Challenge a scheme in which donations made in challenge week (4th to 9th December, may be effectively doubled or even quadrupled. At the time of writing, about 4,000 has been promised; if this is matched by donations via the Big Give website, then that could become worth 16,000 to the charity.

And hence this article! If you would like to find out more, you can visit the website and if you’d like to help, then please do so by donating, via the Biggive website, and the date and time you do so are critical! The dates are the Challenge Week – 4th to 9th of December; the time, as soon after 10.00am as you can, as the matched funds are limited and the new allocation starts at 10.00 am each day. So the sooner after 10.00 am the better!

Visit their donation page where you can even gift aid your donation.

Thank you.

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