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The specialist international beekeeping organisation

Forming associations

Beekeepers can help themselves by organising themselves into associations or producer groups. Groups may be large associations of several thousand members or may be small clubs of less than twenty people. Groups form for different reasons and having a clear objective is essential if groups are to be successful. Some reasons for forming groups are as follows:

  • to receive training
  • to share work
  • to organise local marketing
  • to share information
  • to solve problems
  • to access external resources
  • to reduce the risks and isolation of working alone

Many associations form with the general aim of promoting beekeeping in their district and to provide an organised way for members to receive training or help from external donors. Some groups form for the main purpose of selling their honey collectively. There are some very important differences between forming a group for social or development reasons, and forming a group for business reasons. When groups start off they may try to achieve more than one aim but groups which are most successful are those with clear and focussed goals. 

New associations or co-operatives should be established as simply and as cheaply as possible. There is no need to develop formal structures straight away and small groups do not have to register with the authorities. As groups become larger and more established they may need to develop a more formal structure. A simple format is sufficient at first with the election of suitable and trusted post holders (chairman, secretary, treasurer to keep clear and transparent records and organise regular meetings to make decisions. Firm agreements about the saving and spending of funds are necessary and accurate records must be kept. These agreements should be written down in the form of a short constitution. Ideally the people who act as Secretary and Treasurer should have some experience of this work but it is more important that they are reliable, honest and trusted by all group members. Training should be sought for roles where people feel they need more knowledge. Some countries will require or encourage registration of groups. For small groups this may not be necessary but for larger groups it could assist in gaining access to formal means of funding.

For larger groups and co-operatives model constitutions can be downloaded from the internet. These should be modified to make them appropriate to the particular circumstances of the new organisation. For many associations an annual subscription system is used to confirm continuing interest. Subscriptions are usually expected to cover the running costs of the association but this may not always be appropriate. In many places subscriptions are paid in honey rather than money.

Groups which are run only by the leaders, for the benefit of the leaders, tend to fail in the long run. Membership organisations which rely on the input and participation of all members must deliver benefits to all members, if they are to stay loyal to the group. Benefits do not have to be financial, they may be social, educational or be concerned with reducing the risk of doing things alone.

Groups which aim to enable members to sell their honey in bulk - collective marketing groups - need to be very business-like. They may establish themselves as limited companies. For marketing groups to succeed they need to make a profit, and some of the profit will be needed to cover the costs of running the organisation.


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