When over six thousand beekeepers change their practices, you know that something important is happening
Recognising that traditional honey harvesting damages the forest, Zambia’s rural communities are using modern beekeeping practices that value trees and produce better quality honey. This, and a number of other market measures, has seen Zambia’s honey exports grow by 700% — from EUR 163,000 to EUR 1,316,000 — over the past five years.
“The project has made significant impact on Zambia’s apiculture sector. Not only has it increased the productivity of the sector, it has reduced deforestation and encouraged more women into beekeeping,” says Griffin Nyirongo, EIF Project Manager at Zambia’s Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, which has collaborated with SNV Zambia and the Enhanced Integrated Framework over the past four years to support the development of a sustainable and inclusive honey sector.
Zambia’s economy has grown annually by over 6% in the last few years due to the mining sector and the demand for copper, which is fuelled by the global electronics industry. In rural communities, particularly in northwestern Zambia where mining dominates and access to income is limited, small-scale beekeeping can contribute significantly to livelihood security.
The traditional way of harvesting honey is less like farming and more like hunting, Nyirongo says.
“First you need to cut down trees to make beehives from the bark. You then climb the tree and place the beehive in a spot up high. When it is ready to harvest you have to disturb the honeycomb and you scoop everything out with your hands,” he says.
With EIF's support, the Ministry of Commerce and the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation set out to train 5,000 beekeepers in modern apiary management but exceeded its target, reaching 6,580 beekeepers.
It was able to do that through a training-of-trainers approach with Zambia Forestry College.
“First 50 people were trained, they then each trained 10 people, and before you know it a we have 500 extension agents who were able to support farmers at a local level, which made all the difference,” Nyirongo says.
The beekeepers were given modern beekeeping equipment — hives, protective clothing, harvest and storage buckets and smokers — and trained in harvest and post-harvest techniques, apiary management and entrepreneurship skills. These practices were quickly adopted by beekeepers.
“When I used traditional bark hives, they were warping and easily got destroyed. With modern hives, it is easy to monitor hives for red ants and other predators,” says Richard Kadimba, a beekeeper from Kabompo.