Beekeeping and Global Development



Bees have been domesticated for thousands of years in one fashion or other. Their honey provides us with a bounty of nutrients and sugars that are hard to find in such abundance elsewhere in nature. Their service as pollinators is one of the most beneficial contributions that any species makes to the survival of the human race. These assets and others are what have led beekeepers from around the world to raise bees, but we are also seeing new models of beekeeping taking shape. This article will explore the innovative ways in which beekeeping has been impacting international development.


1) Bringing Bosnian Serbs and Bosniaks together through Beekeeping

The Sekovici area of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the site of a USAID project called “Women’s Empowerment Through Farming”, which was designed to improve the livelihoods of the women who live there. The women have helped transform an old military barracks into a farming and beekeeping facility, with one of the largest modern greenhouses in the Balkans. The project partnered local women with professional agriculturalists and beekeepers to gain what is, for some women, their first paid job outside of the home. This not only helps bring individual families out of poverty, but helps support local and national economies and boosts overall GDP.

The project has not only helped improve livelihoods for women living in an impoverished area, but helps to create positive change in the structures of community and inter-ethnic communication. The project has provided a safe place where Bosnian Serb and Bosniak women can gather together to work and live in peace with one another and to learn and grow from each other’s stories.

For more information on this project, which closed in 2013, check out USAID’s website.


2) Beekeeping Cooperatives In Rwanda Boost Incomes

Employment opportunities are scare in rural Rwanda, where farmers must survive on the yields that their small farming plots offer. Some people in these regions were accustomed to beekeeping as secondary activities but many beekeepers lacked proper tools or techniques for caring for their hives. Few had the capacity to sell what little honey they extracted further than their local market. In some villages, beekeepers forged cooperatives to pool their resources and profits. Here the Action Rwandaise pour le Développement Intégré (ARDI) saw an opportunity to for a collaboration that would improve the lives of hundreds of rural Rwandans.

ARDI offered to support 45 beekeeping cooperatives with tools and training to ensure that they are capitalizing on their hard work. They provided cooperatives with protective suits, smokers and even honey extractors. The training they provided related to hive maintenance, extraction and once the cooperatives demonstrated their commitment they were provided with a processing company and access to regional markets for their honey. By pooling their resources and labour, these small rural cooperatives have been able to go from selling honey in local markets to shipping their products to supermarkets as far as Kigali.

A member of one cooperative says that thanks to ADRI’s help, she has been able to increase her production from 15 kilos per year to 200 kilos of honey. Another woman says that the project has increased her income from 2000 francs per day ($2.95) to 3500 francs per day ($5.16), allowing her to spend more money on her children’s education. Having access to that much more income changes lives in several measurable indicators. By supporting already existent cooperatives, ADRI was able to avoid the challenges faced with obligating people to work with each other. Also, unlike projects that offer individuals and family’s tools, this project has the potential to reach an ever widening beneficiary group and may even survive to outlive its current members.

To find out more about this project have a look at ICCO’s Cooperation page here.


3) A Beehive Fences Saving Human and Elephant Lives in Kenya

In parts of India and Sub-Saharan Africa, packs of elephants roam the countryside looking for food and water. What they often find are farms laden with crops that they desire and nothing but ineffective fences to keep them out. These night raids on farms often leave farmers with little else to do but confront the elephants. They use fire crackers, stones and even bullets to attempt to scare them off. This causes aggression from the elephants, who charge farmers, leading to casualties on both sides. You may see where we are going with this: enter the Elephants and Bees Project founded by Dr. Lucy King with support from Save the Elephants. This project has developed a technique of using bee hives as “fencing” around farms in elephant prone regions. The elephants have a natural fear of bees and thus know to keep their distance. The project has proven successful with implementations in Bostwana, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.

The project has been able to successfully offer a conservationist and agricultural solution to a problem that has been plaguing the region. By dissuading elephants from traversing onto farms, farmers no longer need to confront the endangered species, leading to fewer elephant deaths. While the elephants aren’t directly benefiting from this win-win scenario, their lives are better protected when they stay away from human activity.

An added benefit to this project is that farmers are now in the business of beekeeping, adding yet another agro-economic activity to their farm. Organizations like Honey Care Africa are getting on board by helping participating farmers manage their beehives and sell their honey.

To find out more about this project and learn about elephants, check out Elephants and Bees Project site here. For more on the work that Honey Care Africa is doing in parts of East Africa, check out their site here.

Checkout this great video by the Elephants and Bees Project:



This article was originally published in April 2014.


Eric Pires

Eric Pires

Eric Pires is a writer and co-founder of Innovate Development. He has worked in various sectors in Latin America and is currently working in Antigua, Guatemala.

One Comment:

  1. Arlene Fontanetti

    Excellent article, Eric.
    Keep up the good work.

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