Food industry women break beehive building record

A selection of 14 leading businesswomen from the food industry have united to build 120 beehives in Tanzania in just three days. 

Organised by Farm Africa, this beats their previous record of 90 hives in a three-day period in 2015. 

The project is part of the Big Beehive Build initiative in Bermi, a village in Babati, Tanzania. The beehives will help boost local farmers’ income from honey, as well as raising funds for Farm Africa.

“A 72-hour challenge is the beginning of a local community business,” said Lorraine Hendle, managing director retail and manufacturing at William Reed Business Media - publishing house of Meat Trades Journal. “The women, men and children of the Bermi community will all benefit from this resource.”

The beehives, which were built in collaboration with women from the community, will remain in the village and be used as a source for honey. The Langstroth beehives boost productivity for the locals as they are based on the ground and not suspended high in the trees as traditional beehives are. As well as being more difficult to access, it is culturally unacceptable for women to climb trees.

Celebrating the completion of the build this year, the builders and community held a closing ceremony to officially hand over the beehives to the locals, attended by politicians, NGO workers, the community and the businesswomen.

The recipients of the Big Beehive Build will be able to use the gifts to create sustainable beekeeping businesses.

“I can harvest 15-20kg of honey a year from the Langstroth hives, but only 8-10kg from the traditional hives,” explained 45-year-old Regina Alfred. She will receive five beehives from the recent build, allowing her to earn more money and help secure the education of her youngest child. “The money from this year’s honey harvest will pay her school fees,” said Alfred.

As well as giving the local women a source of income, the beehives are helping to build a greener future for the Nou Forest which has experienced significant deforestation. The loss of forest reduces water supply for local communities, meaning they struggle to grow enough food to eat and turn to felling trees for income to survive.

The beehives provide an alternative to cropland conversion and timber harvesting, as Jenni Bright, head of fundraising for Farm Africa, explained: “The Big Beehive Build’s premise is beautifully simple: No bees, no trees. No honey, no money. Bees, as pollinators improve the forest ecosystem and, equally, fruit trees improve honey production, which helps local women earn more money.”

Upon completing their challenge, the businesswomen visited the village of Erri to reunite with the women who received the beehives constructed during the first build. The recipients of the first build have greatly benefited from the project and have been able to add value to the honey they produce by creating a range of products such as beeswax, soap and candles.

Although the 2017 build is over, the fundraising hasn’t stopped, with a target of £80,000. Between 14 October 2017 and 14 January 2018, donations will go towards Farm Africa’s Growing Futures appeal, helping young farmers living in western Kenya develop sustainable horticulture businesses. Gifts made from individuals in the UK will be doubled by the government through UK Aid Match.

Arni Oddur Thordarson, CEO of Marel, which is the Queen Bee sponsor of the challenge, commented: “Marel is delighted to be able to take part and support the Beehive Build project in Tanzania, which has the aim of building up future businesses to support locals to produce food in a safe and sustainable way. Sustainable food production is a key factor in supporting the future generations of the earth and Marel is proud to support initiatives that have the sustainable development of the food industry as their end goal. The project fits well with Marel’s vision to transform the way food is processed.”

Kirstie Jamieson, marketing director at Valeo Foods UK, said the company was delighted to be partnering with Farm Africa on the Big Beehive Build. “This initiative provides a natural fit with the Rowse brand, building on our continued investment and commitment to make a difference to people’s lives through bee farming. The Big Beehive Build is a project that will have a lasting impact for the community of Bermi.”

The Big Beehive Build is just one event organised by this year’s Food For Good campaign, uniting the global food and hospitality industry behind Farm Africa’s vision of a prosperous rural Africa.

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