Rehema Mbaruku (45) is one of the happiest women in Foroforo village located 48 kilometres from Korogwe district headquarters in Tanga region.
Her happiness comes from beekeeping—a new economic venture introduced in a very remote and drought-stricken village.
The mother of six recounts that before beekeeping was introduced in the area which is close to Nilo forest reserve, her life was tough.
Today she does not regret for her decision to join ‘Jitegemee Beekeeping Group’ whose socio-economic benefits she can attest to.
Rehema joined the group two years ago, after getting information from her husband on the benefits of the project.
“It was a very difficult decision to join the group as some people in the village cautioned me about the project. But turned a deaf ear to them,” Rehema says, as she cleans one of her group’s beehives.
Despite the fact that beekeeping has been there for centuries, for Rehema and her colleagues this was a very new venture.
Last year the group harvested nothing from its 40 modern beehives. This was contributed by a number of factors including prolonged drought that hardly hit the area.
But, this year, Rehema’s group of 12 people, collected more than 180 litres of honey which fetched them 1.8m/-. “I couldn’t believe such a huge amount of money could come from stinging bees, which we used to fear in the past,” she says.
According to her, part of the money collected was distributed to every group member and the remaining was used to buy more modern beehives. Every member was given 100,000/- as a loan to be re-paid in six months with 5000/- as interest rate of 5,000/-.
Taking into account that Rehema and her husband are members of the same group, they managed to get a 200,000/- loan.
“The amount we got from the group was very instrumental to us. We used some of the money to refurbish our grass-thatched house to an iron sheet roofed house.
“We had some savings in the house, which we got from a tree seedlings project. So, we combined the money and used it to buy two female sheep, which had already produced two lambs. To me this is a success from beekeeping,” she recounts.
Rehema’s husband Isaac Kilileko commends the Eastern Arc Endowment Fund (EAMCEF) for supporting the group with technical-know-how and a start-up capital of about 5m/-.
Kilileko says the money earned from beekeeping enabled him expand his farm size in an effort to increase crop production which would guarantee food security for his family of eight.
According to him, surplus produce will be sold to earn some income for his family.
As she continues hanging up a beehive in a tree, Joyce Mboza says: “It was very hard for me to believe when I got my 100,000/- from the group. I never wasted time when I got the money for I bought a goat which has already given birth.”
“With some of the money I paid school fees for my child who is in Form One at Kizala Secondary School,” says Joyce, who is the group secretary.
Joyce who is also a widow takes the project very seriously, saying: “This is a saviour to me…there are all signs of stepping out of poverty through this beekeeping and projects which are friendly to the environment.”
“To us beekeeping is everything. Our future plan is to expand the project to have more than 100 modern beehives in this area,” says Abdallah Juma, who is the group treasurer.
He reveals that the group intends to introduce new projects like buying milling machines.
According to the group chairman, Emmanuel Sheshe, the beekeeping project started in 2011, with the financial and technical support from EAMCEF.
“Before starting the project, we were trained on beekeeping and the industry in general. Thereafter, we were given 40 beehives by the fund,” Sheshe says; adding: “This project is friendly to the environment as it makes us continue protecting the forests in this area.
EAMCEF field officer, Margret Victor, says the project is aimed at enhancing conservation of the local forest and improving the livelihoods of the community members.
She says beekeeping is friendly to the environment and forest management. So the introduction of the venture intends to save the Eastern Arc rainforests, which are under intense pressure from logging, charcoal production and clearance of agricultural land.
Lands, Environmental and Natural Resources officer in Korogwe District Council, Betty Munuo says beekeeping provides a number of potentialities to communities living adjacent to conserved forest resources.
“That is why Korogwe District Council plans to establish a honey processing and packaging plant,” she says.
The district’s move would make beekeepers increase honey production to meet the demand of the proposed plant as well as adding value to the honey produced.
“The plan is to have the plant within the Korogwe Township to make transport easy for communities living in the nearby villages, especially those in low-lands,” she said
“Beekeeping is an area which is yet to be tapped,” she says, calling upon Korogwe residents to invest in the venture.
Munuo assures communities of honey-market availability saying; “Market for honey in Korogwe is no longer a problem…we have plenty market for honey and the honey is not available.”
According to Munuo, right now one litre of honey is sold at 10,000/- within Korogwe area and one modern beehive produces 20 litres.
“So, one beehive can fetch 200,000/-.”
The official reveals that there are about 412 groups of beekeepers in Korogwe District.
Acting Korogwe District Council Executive Director, Kakulu Lugembe commended different partners who have been supporting communities with alternative income generating activities like the Eastern Arc Mountains Endowment Fund (EAMCEF).
He says such projects would make people actively take part in forest conservation initiatives. “When these forests are lost, we lose their unique biodiversity, as well as the ecological services that they provide, including water catchment, soil conservation, pollination, and non-timber forest products.”