Promoting Sustainable Beekeeping to Alleviate Deprivation and Poverty

The Kwahu Afram Plains North District is in the northern part of Eastern Region of Ghana. The District is a remote island mostly accessible by furry, boat or canoe, with a poor road network. Despite economic growth in Ghana, inequality has been increasing in the country and poverty remains prevalent in many rural areas. The rural communities in Kwahu are suffering from high poverty rates, deprivation and under-development. One of the strongest manifestations of the level of deprivation is low-levels of education with many youngsters failing to progress beyond primary school, so further condemning them to a life of poverty.

“I went to secondary school but when I went to sit my exams I was not allowed to. I had no money to pay the exam fee. I studied hard – but now I have nothing to show for it”, Mohammed Mustafa, Bonaso, Kwahu (Feb 2019).

These people are living on the fringes of Digya National Park. Poverty forces them to exploit the Park’s resources, and men engage in honey hunting, which is against the law. This creates conflict with Park officials. Revenue from honey hunting and small-scale farming is meagre, and communities suffer from chronic poverty, poor housing and inability to pay school fees. People living on the fringes of DNP have access to rich natural resources, especially honey bees and forest.

There are already established trade pathways for honey, people are familiar with bees, and the area is suitable for beekeeping. Honey hunters have expressed huge interest in beekeeping but lack knowledge, experience and means to begin (there is no tradition of using beehives in the area). The aims for this project was to turn honey hunters into beekeepers, and to generate new revenues in order to improve their livelihoods. Women were also interested in keeping bees and honey trade.

Imagine this scenario, a poor farmer in Ghana takes out a loan (from any source) to buy an expensive top-bar hive and bees abscond or never enter (which is usual or like), he/she is burdened by a loan and with no productive means to repay. Such projects make the poor even poorer. Also, assuming Bees for Development Ghana (BfD Ghana) give away beekeeping package including top-bar hive to poor farmers and they are not able to add more hives by themselves but expert BfDG or other similar organization to bring more hives, undertaken such project could be more expensive. A top-bar hive cost about €50.

To those at BfD Ghana, such projects are not sustainable (both situation). How many people can BfD Ghana provide them with hives? How many hives per person can BfD Ghana afford? These are all important questions to ask before starting this project. People sometime fail to understand and appreciate that, it is bees that produce honey and not hives.  It is based on this that the Digya project was conceived.

BfD Ghana approached the people in the area and when we asked the community members what they expected from a beekeeping project, their initial response was that they expected to be given beehives – as they could not afford to buy them. However, later on people admitted, …

even if we had hives – then what? We do not know how to use them. We need knowledge and skills”.

BfD Ghana proposed the idea of teaching people how to make simple, fixed-comb beehives and offered to teach people how to make the hives, manage the bees and harvest the honey. Community members welcomed this proposal. The advantages of locally-made fixed-comb beehives over the top-bar or the frame hives are many.

First, anyone can make one or more – so beekeeping becomes accessible to even the poorest. Secondly, this is more sustainable approach – as it reduces donor dependency. Thirdly, it reaches more people – a relatively low investment of resources can reach many people. Fourthly, it is scalable which means once people know how to make hives they scale-up at a rapid pace if they wish. Finally, fixed-comb hives are proven to be more practical, sustainable and successful. This project is a self-sustainable one which offers practical training in beekeeping skills and as an income generation activity for its beneficiaries.

As a result, a ten-day intensive training workshop has been organised in Apesika, Bondaso and Abomasarefo for the honey hunters and other people in those communities under our Digya Project. In terms of attendance, BfdG exceeded the target of 100 people. There were 72 participants (31 women and 41 men) at Bondaso centre, 65 participants (27 women and 38 men) at Apesika centre, 66 participants at Abomasarefo Center (45 men and 21 women). At the end people from about 10 communities were trained.

The participants were taking through topic such as (1) making fixed-comb hives from local materials, (2) baiting, setting hives and maintaining them and (3) protecting apiaries from bush fire (this was very important because bush fire is very common in the area) and other pests of bees. The training workshop involved theory and practical training on the above stated topics.

We can report that the participants have successfully made fixed-comb hives from Borassus palm logs, palm fronds, bamboos, forest vine, grasses and banana leaves. They can successfully select and prepare site for an apiary, and bait hives using locally available materials such as bee wax, lemon grass, citrus fruit peels and leaves, and other herbs. They can also set hives on stands and in the branches of trees in an apiary and maintain them as well as protect them against bush fire, ants and other pest of bees. Many wonderful ideas or methods for protecting the hives were discussed and agreed on during the workshop by the participants. There was also a discussion of the characteristics of the bees – what they like and dislike, when to work on them and when not to among others.

Apicultural Development Coordinator of BfD Ghana indicated confidently that this project is already a success though it is early days yet. BfD Ghana have this conviction because it was observed that, the participants got deeply involved and assembled all the training materials including Borassus logs they had hollowed out and made ready for completion. Some of the participants had gone ahead of the workshop to obtain pieces of Borassus palm logs, hollowed them out ready for further instructions to complete these as bee hives. One interesting example was, Isaka Konde in Bondaso who got ready 35 hollowed Borassus palm logs! Some of them shared their impressions during the training and expressed their excitement about the start of this project. For example, “we are happy because we can now make more money using cheap means to take care of our children, especially their education”.

The Future of this Project

This workshop saw a blend of different age groups coming together to learn beekeeping that they believe will help see an improvement their livelihoods. It is our hope that the knowledge they have acquired will spread to other communities in Kwahu Afram Plains of Ghana and help improve their livelihoods as well.

The presence of the young ones at the workshop gave us hope for the sustainability of this project. Something interesting happened – i.e. seeing these kids observing what was happening during the workshop. The children were amazing as they keenly observed what was going on and there and then tried their hands on building hives on their own. In fact, these kids paid critical attention to details of our discussion from the beginning to the end.

The aim of promoting sustainable beekeeping in Kwahu Afram Plains, Ghana, to alleviate deprivation and poverty would be realized after seeing what these kids did during the workshop. The future and sustainability of this project can be seen in these kids.

At the end of an intensive training week, the workshop was ended with high hope that the participants were going to make good use of the practical knowledge transferred to them. BfD Ghana also hope participants will build upon the knowledge acquired at the training workshop. BfD Ghana again motivated and encouraged them and tasked them to work collectively to develop the beekeeping potentials of the area. The participants were poised for action to make sure they succeed and improve their livelihood. It is also imperative to note that the participants are well motivated and are working so hard to start beekeeping. The workshop was very successful and 203 people were trained in the end.

If you are touched by this piece and would want more people to be trained, do not hesitate to contact Bees for Development Ghana through myaimreport@gmail.com or @BfdGhana on twitter and they will be glad to accept your donations. Together we can help improve the livelihoods of these disadvantaged people.

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