Honey and livelihoods in Sudan

Beekeeping and honey hunting are traditional activities practised widely in Southern Sudan, without the need for external inputs such as fertiliser, seed or complex processing equipment. Beekeeping is undertaken typically by the poorest people, as those with access to capital tend to opt for livestock or cash cropping. Furthermore, those people who lost perennial crops during the civil war are still able to obtain some livelihood benefits from beekeeping, which needs no land tillage, as the primary resources for production - bees and flowers - are freely available, and have persisted throughout drought and war. The poorest people can, and do, harvest bee products and earn money, yet this activity remains commercially undeveloped. While poor farmers do already harvest honey and wax for their own use, for selling in the local market and for making beer, the same products are also in high demand in urban centres within Sudan and neighbouring countries, particularly Uganda and Kenya. Improved handling of honey can ensure adequate quality, while organisation of producers and engagement with the private sector can lead to better market access. Interventions in these areas could achieve increased sales in beeswax and honey, thereby generating greater income flows to the most disadvantaged people in the community.

Tackling rural poverty through trade

In 2008 Bees for Development undertook an investigation in Southern Sudan to identify how we could help beekeepers earn more from the honey trade, through the development of the honey market-chain. This work comprised a survey of beekeepers' activities and livelihoods, a planning workshop with beekeepers, analysis of honey samples in EU laboratory and interviews with honey traders in Yei, Juba and surrounding areas.

Click here for the Beekeeper's survey report

Bees for Development acknowledge the Big Lottery Fund for funding this work.

Honey Analysis Summary

Honey samples were collected in Sudan and sent to QSI, the major European honey analyst able to analyse for all market-significant residues. The test results revealed that the honey contains no residues of medicines used on bees, no heavy metals from environmental contaminants and the physical parameters (such as water content) of the honey are such that it meets all EU requirements. EU honey criteria are the most stringent, and since the honey samples meet these criteria, it can be concluded that these honey samples are of excellent quality. Laboratory tests do not measure subjective qualities such as taste, colour and aroma. All of these characteristics are also good.