Working with local partners we are working to help local beekeepers on the islands of Pemba and Unguja to increase their incomes through beekeeping.
The main goal of the Zanzibar Beekeeping Project is to improve livelihoods for poor families by raising their income by 25% from beekeeping activities. In addition, it is important to raise awareness of the economic importance of honey bee pollination.
Ten beekeeping groups have been selected on each island, each group with 20 members. During the Project period they are being trained in sustainable beekeeping methods with top-bar hives made from different materials. Tool boxes, training books, materials for protective clothing and some demonstration hives are given to each group, but it is an important part of the training to demonstrate that many types of hives can be used, especially hives that are made locally.
Why not frame hives?
This Project is deliberately not focussing on frame hives. This is because top-bar hives and local-style hives produce more beeswax which is an important source of income. Also top-bar hives can be made from locally available materials such as straw and bark or clay. Also they do not need an expensive extractor for honey harvest. When honey extractors are used it is necessary to return empty frames to the hives which may create robbing between colonies, and there is great potential to spread honey bee diseases. Because the frame hive system produces so little beeswax, the Zanzibar frame hive beekeepers often have to buy wax from top-bar hive beekeepers. In spite of all these facts there is still widespread confusion about what makes beekeeping sustainable and and despite the evidence to the contrary, a strong belief that frame hive beekeeping should lead to much more income.
Trade and marketing
Honey trade and marketing are important aspects of the Project. A proportion of honey from Zanzibar is exported to Oman and other Middle Eastern countries, while some is transported from Pemba to Unguja. A lot of honey is imported from mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar and sells at relatively low prices. It is necessary to find a model to ensure that the local beekeepers sell their honey at a good and fair price. There is potential for the sale of 'special Zanzibar honey' to hotels and tourists, but this requires small jars, special labels and information about the importance of the bees and the local beekeepers' groups. It is possible for the honey to be marketed in small baskets together with other bee products. In addition, a network between the producers and buyers has to be established. A workshop was held in Zanzibar in March 2014 to discuss marketing and product development and resulted in an Action Plan agreed with all stakeholders.
Beekeeping with stingless bees
Some beekeepers in Zanzibar look after stingless bees. The advantage of working with them, in addition to their lack of sting, is that they do not need much attention and the price for stingless bee honey is more than double that of honey bee honey, even in villages. A disadvantage is that stingless bees produce less honey. There is also no knowledge about how to divide colonies and how to make the best equipment. However, during the Project we will work on this - a great deal of useful information on stingless beekeeping has been produced already in Ghana and other countries.
This three year project is funded by the Danish Foreign Ministry. The NGOs involved are ZALWEDA (Zanzibar), Bees for Development (UK) and DANTAN (Denmark).
Photo credits: Jesper Kirknaes, DANTAN