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By Marie Fry
Women are at the centre of modern beekeeping development. The journal Beekeeping & Development is edited by a woman, Dr Nicola Bradbear, and the definitive textbook Bees and beekeeping was written by Dr Eva Crane. The Uganda Beekeepers' Association is managed by a woman, Geraldine Nsuhuga, and there are many other examples of women taking a leading role in beekeeping activities all over the world. On 8 May 1993 a group of women from overseas will arrive at the Centre for Rural Development Training (CRDT) at the University of Wolverhampton to do something that has never been done before in the world of beekeeping. They will register for a short course which is being run in collaboration with Ian MacDonald Associates (lMA) in Brighton. The title of the eight-week course is "Training Women Trainers in Beekeeping".
In many developing countries beekeeping is something that women do, and even in countries where the men climb trees to get the honey, it is still the task of the women to process and to use the honey.
Beekeeping is especially suitable for women, hives can be placed close to the homestead, thus addressing two of the problems most often ignored by planners, who on the whole plan for, rather than with women. Those two problems, lack of time, and the long distances travelled to collect fuel and water, are daily problems for rural women. Other positive attributes of beekeeping are that it requires low initial inputs so that very poor women can, with a little assistance, set up and run a hive or two. The choices are wide: modern hives which are efficient and easy to handle or the more traditional log hives which may not be quite so efficient but cost almost nothing to get going. The products, honey and beeswax, can be either utilised by the household or sold for income.
That makes it all sound very easy and simple, and of course anyone who knows anything at all about beekeeping knows that it is a skilled and indeed a sophisticated matter.
The proposed course is not therefore an exercise in "instant beekeeping" or "beekeeping in a flash". Rather, we hope that the women who come for training will have basic beekeeping skills and some experience of managing hives. The course will aim to give them specialised skills in teaching beekeeping to women's groups and to individuals who wish to keep bees as both a subsistence and an income generating activity.
The course will be in two parts. The first six weeks being spent at the CRDT in Walsall, doing skills analysis and curriculum development and generally working out training strategies and lesson plans. Time will also be spent on the development of training material suitable for specific groups and different beekeeping methods, and catering for a wide variety of educational levels and literacy.
The last two weeks will be spent at IMA in Brighton where the emphasis of the training will be on the need to make programme planners and development agencies more aware of the needs of women in overall agricultural development. They will learn how to write proposals to gain funds for developing women's beekeeping activities, and in the broader sense to make the case for the wider involvement of women in the planning and management of rural development. Both organisations will use participatory training methods, which will have to include buzz groups, and create hives of activity.
The timing of the course in May and June is important, as it will allow practical skills analysis to take place in the field with "gloves and veils on" experience, and will enable the group to make visits to processing centres at the height of the season.
Initial interest has been encouraging and the demand for application forms is high.
Whether the funding agencies will have the imagination and the flexibility of mind to support this venture remains to be seen.
At the Fifth International Conference on Apiculture in Tropical Climates in Trinidad and Tobago in September 1992, it was noted that "there are few opportunities for appropriate training". Well here is an opportunity, aimed at and designed appropriately for a specific target group. Most of the major agencies have for some time been trying to encourage more women into the training programmes, and most have now identified the development of sustainable agricultural activities as an objective. In this course the requirements for specific targeted training with the need for sustainable systems and methods have been put together. If the funders do not fund those who apply, then we shall have good reason to think that they are not serious in their call for targeted training leading to sustainable ends, and it will be seen as another triumph of rhetoric over reason.
We hope that the course will be the first of several and that beekeeping as a sustainable, environmentally-friendly activity will prosper because of it.
Marie Fry is a Director of Ian MacDonald Associates.
[Bees for Development Journal #26]