Bee keeping cooperative sustains women’s lives

Ten families in Masomere Village have overcome their fear of bee stings and are generating income from selling honey and related products, CLAYTON MASEKESA reports from BUHERA.

Susan Goredema - tourists, villagers and long distance truck drivers stop at the shop to buy original honey.
Susan Goredema – tourists, villagers and long distance truck drivers stop at the shop to buy original honey.

Masomere Beekeeping Society is a co-operative of beekeepers in Buhera district. Founded in 2002 by Evelyn Chari, 39, the aim of the organisation was to economically empower less privileged women in the village.

Chari started the society after attending a bee keeping course conducted by USAID through the Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development (Zim-AIED).

She and her husband obtained funding through this initiative and were very successful with their first harvest of 40 pots of honey and home-made bees wax candles. As a result tbheir neighbours also wanted to learn how to do this and they joined the society.

Access to credit

Zim-AIED is working to increase incomes, employment and food security for 180,000 rural Zimbabweans over four-and-a-half years. The programme will end in 2015.

Key to the programme's ability to meet its goals is the commercialisation of smallholder farmers on communal and non-contested land by linking producers to local, national, regional and international buyers.

The programme is providing access to credit for the farmers and improving efficiencies in production systems. It is also training farmers to adopt good business practices.

Buhera district is hot and dry, causing most agricultural harvests to fail. Luckily, there are many indigenous trees and bushes that flower and produce fruit, even with little rain, and are therefore attractive to wild bees. These bees populate the beekeepers’ hives.

“I am very glad that our group has been introduced to appropriate beekeeping. We have been overwhelmed by the success of the group. We are able to send all our children to school and provide food for them,” said Chari, who is the chairperson of the society group.

Threatened

“During the first year of our engaging in beekeeping we felt so threatened by the possibility of bee stings that we did not see that it could ever work for us. But after being encouraged, motivated and trained, things turned around,” she said.

“The first harvests were not so encouraging but the second and third were good. I can see that the future is bright for us as a cooperative. The beekeeping business will assist us to pay for the health and school needs of our children,” Chari said.

The secretary of the society, Susan Goredema, said the members had built their own shop in the village, where the harvested honey and other products are sold.

Always buy

“We are glad that the shop is easily visible and accessible to all the villagers and passers-by along the road that goes through to Murambinda growth point. Tourists and long-distance travellers stop here and are interested in the origin of the honey and bees wax candles and they always buy,” said Goredema.

An information centre with a permanent display of their products is also at the shop. Facilities such electricity and a computer with Internet are available for use in research and other operations.

She said the society group had embarked on training and guidance of other female beekeepers. Up to now, 50 women in the village have received training.

The society has also set up infrastructure for beekeeping, such as a tree nursery under shade-cloth, an orchard and a eucalyptus-plantation.

Healthy ecology

Sailas Gumbo, the district agricultural extension officer, said beekeeping had a great environmental impact as well as income-generating potential.

“The cross-fertilisation effect promotes crop yields and creates an healthy ecological environment. Traditional bee hunters burn the hives of the bees in trees, but modern beekeeping prevents bush burning and destruction of the bees. Beekeepers are more aware of keeping the environment green, since they benefit from the diversity of plants and preservation,” he said.

“Beekeeping products generate income, with a high profit rate. At the same time it is not very time consuming. Since the women are already busy with farming, taking care of the children, household and other duties, this is very relevant,” Gumbo added.

Post published in: Agriculture

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