A forest left to grow is the biggest asset to a beekeeper

1st May 2018

How long have you been beekeeping and how did you get started?

“I love the taste of honey. I’m from man’gati tribe: we keep cows in the forests near where we live. I started seeing bees in the forest so me and my friends harvested bees wax and honey for fun. I started taking some honey to offer to homes in old glass bottles which I washed and reused. I learned many people like honey. I thought, why don’t I try to sell some? Two years ago, I sold my chickens and made a beehive (‘mzinga’ in Kiswahili) by myself. I bought some wood for a beehive, but I couldn’t just make it, I needed some help. So, last year I visited a village called Kisanga where I knew there were some beehives.  I saw three different beehives there. I was so interested in them that I drew images and went back home where I knew a carpenter in my village [to whom] I could explain what I had seen. Within a few days we built our first beehive together.”

Ninga whilst shopping for new materials for his mzinga last Saturday 28th April. Image by Communications Officer, Rebbie.
Have you found beekeeping challenging?

“I have had a lot of success selling honey and bees wax. Today, thanks to the support of Raleigh Tanzania I bought more materials like corrugated iron [pictured] to make 10 more beehives. My business will be sustainable because I can produce honey every month rather than just a few times a year like I do now. I want to help people understand that beekeeping is not so hard. If you understand my method you will see. To make pure honey for example I just take bees wax in my hands and knead it into running honey.”

Buying nails to put beehives together
How do you avoid getting stung?

“I wear special beekeeping clothes which I rent from suppliers in Morogoro town. I pay between TZSH5,000 – TZSH10,000 for the rental cost. I wear these clothes and then Iight a fire to keep the bees away. It is then that I start to remove the small pieces of wood in the hive which I made myself. When my business is more successful I hope to buy my own suit so that I can have control over when I harvest the bees.”

Negotiating costs in Kilomero

Project partner, Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG), have been encouraging entrepreneurs to share sustainable livelihoods’ practices to contribute to a nation-wide understanding of how forests can be sustainably consumed in rural Tanzania. Beekeeping also helps people recognise the importance of preserving their natural resources. In rural Tanzania, slash and burn farming is still a big problem.

Volunteer Julius who is currently part of the ICS Livelihoods team in Ihombwe. Image by photographer, Hilary Sloane.

Standing forest is one of the major sources of nectar, which bees turn into honey

Thus, a forest left to grow is the biggest asset to a beekeeper. Once local agriculturalists like Ninga realise the ability to profit from the land without slashing the forest, they will be more conscious of the fragile ecosystem they live in. TFCG help people to see that they can make a living from the forest by respecting it.

Tanzania has about 48.1 million hectares of natural forest and woodland resources. However, 69% (almost 33 million ha) of this land is spread in and around villages and general lands. Forestry contributes much to the livelihood of the great majority of Tanzanians, mostly in the informal economy. Through the sale of firewood and charcoal, forestry has continued to form a large part of the informal sector. This has had a huge impact on forests and woodlands.

Team leader, Robert in discussion with an entrepreneur

Raleigh Tanzania’s partnership with TFCG ensures entrepreneurs work in accordance with the Forest Policy in Tanzania. The overall goal of the policy is to enhance the contribution of the forest sector to the sustainable development of Tanzania and the conservation and management of the country’s natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

“There is growing recognition in many countries in Africa (and elsewhere) that forest management succeeds best where communities living close to the forest are involved in the management process.”

[Source: http://www.tfcg.org/conserve.html].

The ICS Livelihoods programme facilitates a relationship between community members like Ninga and TFCG to use forest resources sustainably. Together, they can work in partnership to achieve the aims of the Forest Policy of Tanzania, which promotes sustainable forest management and participatory approaches to forest management.

Raleigh ICS volunteer team on the pitching day

Interview conducted by Communications Officer, Rebbie and volunteer, Dewji. Discover more entrepreneur stories in our recent blog posts.

Youth Economic Empowerment Tanzania