Kikukwe is a community initiative in Tanzania where advanced beekeeping hives using Langstroth technology have been provided to help impoverished widows earn a living.
The hives have combs that can be reused and the honey is of extremely high quality. The beehives are easy to keep and can be placed in backyards, on small plots, or laid out over large farms.
Beneficiaries make a good income selling the honey and wax. An additional bonus is that the bees have increased crop pollination and record harvests have been seen in banana, maize, beans and groundnut farms in the region.
The project has influenced national agricultural policy – the Tanzanian government is now looking at how to promote and support beekeeping on farms. The judges believed this project “is innovative, creates employment for women and it is easy to replicate and upscale”.
Women in the region have limited access to land and work. The initial goal of the initiative was to provide them with the tools they needed to create their own thriving businesses and to build sustainable livelihoods.
“Widows in Kikukwe were living in poverty, caring for children left by their deceased husbands,” said Frederick Mayanda, the initiative’s co-ordinator. “They are not permitted to inherit land, so they don’t have space to cultivate crops to feed their families.
“We sat with the widows and looked into alternatives, and modern beekeeping using Langstroth hives was one of the most viable.”
The women receive the required training to ensure professional beekeeping standards, as well as the hygienic harvesting of the honey.
The Langstroth method was selected due to it offering significant advantages over traditional hives. The comb is not damaged or destroyed when the honey is removed, which means the bees can re-use the existing comb, saving time as the bees then do not need to rebuild before the honey can be harvested again.
In addition, no bees are hurt or killed during the harvest and the women don’t use smoke or other such methods, resulting in a honey that is free from impurities.
The initiative has had an impressive impact on the community, empowering the lives of women and children who previously struggled to find money for basic needs such as food and clothes.
More than 200 widows receive a steady income from the sale of both the honey and the wax and, to date 300 Langstroth hives have been installed.
“Today many of these women are able to meet basic needs; they can send their children to school and pay for primary healthcare,” said Mayanda. “They can afford three meals a day and buy clothes for their children.
“Before the initiative they were earning less than a dollar a day doing casual labour on farms. Now they are earning more than two dollars a day selling pure honey.”
The initiative runs on an annual operating budget of US$235 000 with six permanent staff, three part-time staff and 14 volunteers. It plans to expand into new areas to reach more women and to encourage the use of the Langstroth hives as an effective and reliable means of making honey and caring for bees.
Mayanda said these words, from one of the women the initiative has helped, made him realise that all the hard work and effort has been worthwhile: “Without the honey my child would not have been able to join secondary school. I saved the money from the sale of the honey and paid for the fees, porridge and more, and now my child has an education.”