There is an enormous amount of potential for beekeeping and honey production in Zambia. Located an hour and half outside of Lusaka, the Rufunsa District, is an ideal spot for honey production because bees thrive in the miombo woodland that cover the rolling hills.
With assistance from the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported Community Forests Program, BCP is proud to announce a new partnership with Bee Sweet Honey Ltd, and the launch of a long term and scalable beekeeping initiative. This new partnership provides a large scale opportunity for communities involved in the USAID funded Community Forests Program implemented by BCP to earn an income from the sale of honey to Bee Sweet and protect standing forest on community lands. Due to the fact that bees depend on a healthy forest, this provides an incentive for farmers to keep these trees standing for their bees to collect pollen to make honey. Furthermore, the hives that Bee Sweet provides to farmers will last for many years instead of the unsustainable traditional bark hives.
Since 2012, BCP has been working with local communities neighboring the protected forest of the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (LZRP). We have worked hand in hand with the community to identify and implement alternative livelihood projects that create sustainable sources of income to help reduce poverty and incentivize conservation of the local forest. Beekeeping is one of these livelihood projects. The initial pilot project trained local farmers and distributed over 200 beehives, and was funded through a VIGOR grant from USAID. With the initial success and interest, BCP realized that there is potential for beekeeping and have decided to enter into a partnership with Bee Sweet, a honey production company based in the Copperbelt in Zambia.
Bee Sweet met all necessary criteria for this venture: they are experienced in honey production with local small scale farmers, and have a well-established market for honey products. In 2015, they exported over 300 tons of honey internationally. The company already works with 12,000 farmers throughout Zambia operating over 70,000 Top Bar beehives. They have also been granted organic certification by ECOCERT (an organic certification organization from France) in 2013 and 2015, and a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) certification is in progress.
The initial partnership between BCP and Bee Sweet under the Community Forests Program will run for 3 years, establishing 6,000 beehives among at least 200 new households in Rufunsa. There are opportunities for expansion, both within Rufunsa, and into new areas in Eastern Province. If beehives achieve a standard 40% occupancy, communities can expect to earn as much as $30,000 per year (K300,000), from honey production. New producers are being enrolled into the honey production program and we anticipate 100 new households participating by the end this year. Currently there are approximately 1,200 households living in the zone and about 2,000 hectares of intact forest along the boundary of the protected forest area, in which honey production could take place.
The expansion project got off to a good start. In July, three individuals from Ndubulula, Namanongo and Chilimba communities travelled to the Bee Sweet factories in Ndola for mentorship training on beekeeping and honey making. These three individuals are now primarily responsible for project operations through beehive installations, honey harvesting and storage. Following training they returned with enough materials to initially assemble 1,000 top bar hives which will be distributed to the new beneficiaries they train. The USAID Community Forests Program implemented by BCP and Bee Sweet staff will be on-the-ground to assist farmers in installing hives, monitoring, harvesting, and purchases of honey from the participating farmers. Since the longevity of beehives is 20-30 years, this partnership with Bee Sweet is anticipated to provide a regular and long-term market for honey.
We see honey production in Rufunsa becoming a significant source of income for local farmers and creating an incentive for local communities to keep their forests standing. We are very excited to announce this partnership, and the launch of this expansion project and anticipate a bright future for the communities and forests of Rufunsa District!
This blog is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content of this blog are the sole responsibility of BCP and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.
Photo Credits: BCP