THERE’S MONEY IN HONEY: Webinar to Highlight How Supporting West African Farmers’ Beekeeping Initiatives is a Win for Farmers, Agribusinesses, and the Environment

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WHAT: Webinar: From Farm to Beehive: Why Introducing Farmers to Beekeeping is a Win for Farmers, Agribusinesses & the Environment.”

WHEN: Feb. 24, 2022, from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. WAT (1 p.m.–3:30 p.m. GMT; 8 a.m.–10:30 a.m. EST).

WHO: Presentations and panel discussions by industry experts and representatives from USAID-supported projects supporting beekeeping initiatives.

Feb. 14, 2022—The ancient practice of beekeeping, which produces millions of pounds of honey annually to meet growing worldwide demand, can be beneficial for smallholder farmers in West Africa whose incomes have been hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic and is further being impacted by climate change. A Feb. 24th webinar, “From Farm to Beehive: Why Introducing Farmers to Beekeeping is a Win for Farmers, Agribusinesses & the Environment,” will serve as a starting point to encourage non-governmental organizations and agribusinesses that work with West African farmers to learn more about beekeeping.

Beekeeping dates back centuries before farming itself and has early roots in Northern Africa, where ancient Egyptian tomb paintings show the domestication of bees and beekeeping in pottery vessels. Considered a “superfood,” honey from bees has many antibacterial and antiseptic properties and is frequently used in pharmaceuticals and medicines such as cough syrup. According to a study by Facts and Factors Marketing Research, the global honey market alone is estimated at $8 billion and is expected to grow to $10.8 billion by 2026. Besides honey, beekeeping provides beeswax, pollen, and other substances used in cosmetics and healthcare products.

Regardless of the crop they farm, smallholder farmers stand to benefit when they double as beekeepers and take advantage of the local and worldwide demand for products made through beekeeping.

“Beekeeping, quite literally, is a golden opportunity for smallholder farmers in West Africa,” said Robin Wheeler, Chief of Party for the West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub), a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and a co-sponsor of the webinar. “We want farmers and those that support them to learn how the art of beekeeping can allow them to substantially increase their incomes through the production of honey and beeswax, while also supporting food security in their communities,” Wheeler added.

Along with the Trade Hub, the 2.5-hour webinar is sponsored by the USAID-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Low Emissions Development project (WABiLED, which has its foundations in WA BiCC) and the Global Shea Alliance, funded in part by USAID.It will feature a presentation led by WABiLED’s Biodiversity Conservation Specialist, Nouhou Ndam, on the economic and environmental benefits of supporting West African farmers to learn beekeeping.

Participants will also learn about some of the challenges and best practices to consider when launching beekeeping initiatives through a panel discussion of project managers from Universal Outreach Foundation (UOF), Koster Keunen, and Burt’s Bees.

Liberia-based UOF has been operating beekeeping training programs for 9 years and buys honey directly from the farmers it supports for its Liberia Pure Honey brand. From 2018 to 2020, WA BiCC supported UOF to expand its beekeeping activities into 44 forest communities around Liberia’s Grebo-Krahn and Gola National Parks. Koster Kuenen, a leading processor and marketer of natural waxes, currently operates a USAID and Prosper Africa-backed beekeeping initiative designed to support 1,200 farmers in West Africa, including those living in Ghana, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire. Burt’s Bees®, an American natural skincare brand, has begun implementing a 3-year beekeeping project with hundreds of Ghanaian women from the shea sector, together with Partnership for Natural Ingredients and Burt’s Bees ingredient suppliers. The project is funded through USAID/Ghana.

A primary focus of the webinar is highlighting how helping smallholder farmers diversify their incomes is critical to poverty reduction in Africa. According to the World Bank, 82 percent of people living in extreme poverty in Africa rely on subsistence farming as their primary source of income. Beekeeping, when done successfully and sustainably, is recognized as one of the most important additional income-generating activities and safety nets for smallholder farmers in Africa. For example, a WA BiCC case study examining the impact of UOF’s beekeeping initiative found that farmers could generate approximately$87.50 per year in income from a single beehive—a significant amount for most Liberian farmers.

Yet while farmer beekeeping initiatives are largely undertaken for economic gain, Stephen Kelleher, WABiLED’s Chief of Party, said the case for introducing beekeeping as part of conservation efforts is equally compelling.

“Honeybees are one of the most important insects in the environment, as they play a major role in maintaining biodiversity and enhancing forest regeneration,” Kelleher said. “Close to 75 percent of the world’s crops that produce fruits and seeds for human consumption depend, at least in part, on pollination by bees.”

Aaron Adu, Managing Director of the Global Shea Alliance, is keen to have the organization’s members join the webinar given that shea trees benefit from bees moving pollen between their flowers to produce fruit (nuts). Thus, beekeeping is an activity that could increase shea farmers’ crop yields and lead to additional income streams.

“As a forward-thinking organization, we are always seeking ways to help our members explore opportunities that could help generate additional revenue and contribute to sustainable development,” Adu said.

Interested parties can register for the webinar here: https://bit.ly/farm-to-beehive