women in beekeeping, Bees for Development, Beekeeping
Lucy Benewaa in her apiary in Ghana | Photo Credit: Isaac Mbroh/Bees for development Ghana

Women in beekeeping: Bees for Development’s experience

Until recently, the involvement of women in beekeeping was not common, though beekeeping is an important activity for many rural people – both men and women.

Increasingly both governments and NGOs are working to encourage women’s participation in rural development and beekeeping has been identified in many places as a means of additional income generation that is suitable for women.

Few cultures have any taboos forbidding the involvement of women in beekeeping. Keeping bees can be started cheaply and built up as resources allow, there is little need for land ownership and, with some technical know-how, hives can be located close to home.

The demands of time are not great and these can be fitted in with family responsibilities. These are all positive attributes that should encourage women.

For example, keeping bees can generate income in rural areas for the disadvantaged populations who don’t own crops or farms.

It can also generate income and improve food security in areas where agricultural production is minimal.

Read also: Rural women urged to go into beekeeping to alleviate poverty and improve their livelihoods

Nonetheless, beekeeping is frequently perceived to be a male activity and women’s participation in beekeeping projects is often lower than might be expected.

Therefore, the promotion of beekeeping as an income-generating activity for women raises interesting issues.

Bees for Development’s experience on women in beekeeping

In Ethiopia, a recent research project by Bees for Development (BfDJ 86) investigated the issue of low participation of women in beekeeping.

The reasons uncovered were: women were afraid of bees; they could not climb trees; keeping bees was considered a ‘man’s occupation’.

Moreover, traditional ways of leaving restricted women to carrying out domestic activities close to the homestead which hindered participation in beekeeping.

Bees for Development (BfD)’s experience suggests these reasons mirror those given for limited access of women who keep bees in other parts of the world.

However, women commonly use the fruits of keeping bees to make value-added products such as candles or beer. The production of secondary or value-added products made from honey, beeswax, or other hive products offers a unique space for women’s traditional skills.

Read also: Picture-based insurance protects smallholder farmers from climate change

Where work and childcare commitments constrain women to remain within the vicinity of their homes, enabling women to produce value-added beekeeping products can be an ideal opportunity for income generation.

Male beekeepers are often not interested in this field so it is not challenging to the cultural status quo.

Top bar beekeeping offers advantages for female beekeepers because it moves away from traditional methods that may be seen as more ‘male’ orientated.

In addition, top bar hives remove the requirement for tree-climbing that can be associated with fixed comb hive types in East Africa.

Interestingly, where women were given materials and training in basic beekeeping some women beekeepers admitted to becoming dependent on assistance from men for colony management (BfDJ 86).

Read also: No perfect solution: Smallholder farmers must use both traditional, modern practices

In Ghana, Bees for development Ghana (BfDG) trained honey hunters living on the fringes of Digya National Park on the basics of keeping bees and local style hive making in 2019.

The result from that project is unbelievable with one of the best performing beekeepers being a woman — she [Hawa] won an award in December 2021.

women in beekeeping, Bees for Development, Beekeeping
Lucy Benewaa standing by her hive in the apiary in Ghana | Photo Credit: Isaac Mbroh/Bees for development Ghana

Lucy Benewaa is one of the many women in Ghana BfDG supported to keep bees in their cashew orchard to benefit from the pollinating activities of honeybees under the Cashew, Bees and Livelihood project.

Lucy has benefited from keeping bees in the last four years — harvesting and selling more cashew nuts in addition to honey and beeswax she gets from keeping bees all from the same piece of land.

However, many management activities are also a problem for men who are beginner beekeepers and developmental organisations could be more successful if people were given both theoretical and practical training in basic methods of keeping bees and were able to obtain (or be shown how to make) affordable protective clothing and smokers.

When women gain skills and knowledge their instinct is to help raise others. I’m excited to meet the women taking part in this programme from all over the world. I look forward to getting to know them and learning about their culture and environment and the role bees play in that. I hope the training will strengthen their independence, their livelihoods and their communities. Angelina Jolie, godmother of the Women for Bees programme, UNESCO.

Focusing on local and native bees, their welfare and maintenance, as well as education on bees, the emerging projects in apiculture aims to enable women’s empowerment through an expertise-driven sustainable professional activity.

Also, to contribute to raising awareness of the importance of all bee species as pollinators, bearing in mind that animals play a major part in the pollination of 90% of the planet’s wild flowers.

The Choice Press
thechoicepress.com is an online news portal that seeks to project what the gallant small-scale farmers in Africa are doing. We basically report on everything that has to do with agriculture and agribusiness, especially in Ghana.
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