On the 1st of September 2015, three students from SIDshare’s committee and a staff member travelled to the Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania to meet KEDA (Kilimanjaro Environmental Development Association). KEDA was established in 1992, and since then it has run a number of environmental and social projects including: educating local farmers about the benefits of organic agriculture; training in irrigation, soil and environmental conservation.
By Abigail Hutchings
KEDA’s Hive Project began in 2004 when American charity ‘Heifer’ donated 10 bee hives to the charity. The intention was to take advantage of the low supply/high demand economic value of honey in Tanzania, following the lead of the current Tanzanian Prime Minister who boasts over 2000 industrial hives of his own.
KEDA gave 8 hives to Mr Njau and other Midlands villagers. A hive was also given to a lowland farmer and another to Mr Nyange (KEDA leader). After 2 weeks of training, the beneficiaries of the hives were ready to attract the local Kilimanjaro bees.
KEDA determined the initial hives a success after Mr Njau reported extracting 10kg of honey from just one harvest! Harvesting seasonally (twice a year) means beneficiaries collect up to 20kg of honey a year, thus dramatically increasing their income, as 1kg of honey is worth 40,000 Tanzanian shillings (80,000 shillings from two harvests).
However Mr Shirima (KEDA leader) has described the hives project as ‘declining’ because of the challenges involved in beekeeping. One issue, for example, is that no equipment was donated alongside the hives – equipment which is necessary for facilitating successful harvesting. No safety equipment (such as overalls and hive smokers) is available to the beekeepers, meaning no defence against the ‘killer’ bees’ stings – the main reason the highland villages reject the offer of hives.
Other general challenges facing the beekeepers include pests (wasps and termites), diseases (mites) and land use change (decreasing food supply for the bees from herbicides and heavy toxicity from industrial farming practises in the lowlands)
As Mr Njau explained, whether beneficiaries should harvest the honey or not is a battle which they annually face. Are the economic gains worth the stinging cost?
After recognising these initial issues KEDA have discussed the potential of hiring two (local) experts to harvest the honey for the beneficiaries and pay them in honey. This will ensure both the beneficiaries and the experts are paid and benefit from the hives.
The hive project therefore seems like a worthwhile project as long as beneficiaries are provided with necessary equipment needed for beekeeping. However where the funding for the equipment and/or experts comes from is another issue facing KEDA. Similarly to other KEDA projects, funding is the pivotal factor in the success and sustainability of the hive project.
Update as of 29th January 2016:
Update on Mr Njau the bee keeper. Following the work of our students, as of today we have fixed Mr Njau up with protective clothing and other equipment to harvest his honey using some of the money generated by SIDshare’s fundraising activities. He and other bee keepers will now supply the field centre with honey, and KEDA is developing a marketing programme whereby honey will be packaged and sold to visitors to the centre as well as in other locations.