Following the Honey

Beekeeping offers an additional income source in Côte d’Ivoire

Bees are arguably the most vital creatures on the planet. They are responsible for pollinating the vast majority of the world’s crops, a process which is crucial for the reproduction of many plants, including those that provide us with food.

Of the 100 crop species that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees. Without bees and other pollinators, the production of many crops would be greatly reduced. Bees also help to increase crop yields and improve crop quality. Studies have shown that pollinated crops produce larger, more uniform, and higher quality fruits and vegetables, which can command higher prices in the market.

Without bees, coffee farmers would see a 25 per cent drop in crop yields, a loss of roughly €1,000 per hectare of coffee. The same goes for cashew, with pollination by bees increasing cashew production by up to 50 per cent.

By pollinating crops, bees ensure the production of food and contribute significantly to the global economy. This not only benefits farmers but also consumers by providing them with better-quality produce. Farmers who know the value of bees can increase their crop yields, grow higher-quality produce, and also sell honey, all of which translate into increased income.

New Opportunities

Implemented in Djouroutou with the support of GIZ, the ‘Hana River Project’ created a natural barrier between the Hana River in Côte d’Ivoire and cocoa plantations, providing a refuge for insects, mammals and birds crossing between the Tai National Park and neighbouring Grebo-Krahn National Park in Liberia. Under this project, a group of 34 women and 2 men, who together had formed a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA), were invited to join a pilot income-generating scheme in Béoué and receive training in beekeeping.

Beekeeping workshop led by Sébastien Gavini

The non-governmental organisation VASCO-CI, working in Côte d’Ivoire since 2017, have extensive experience working with rural communities and already produce and market its own honey. With their know-how and expertise, they were well-placed to train and advise our budding beekeepers.

From the 19th to the 24th of April 2023, the first session of the training was carried out in Béoué. The training by Sébastien Gavini and Mathieu Offi, covered key topics such as understanding bees and their behaviour, beehives, the flowers and trees of the region, and how to take care of a hive and produce honey.

Practising New Skills

The group then practised their new skills. In the dead of night, when bees are more docile due to lower temperatures, they visited a hive in the forest in full protective gear. Using their smokers to calm the bees they collected some honeycombs and brought them back to extract the honey.

Opening up a hive in the night when the bees are more docile

One of those trained, Massa Natacha a VSLA member, said “This is an amazing opportunity that will help our group. It is new but exciting. Now we won’t have to buy bad honey anymore because we will be making our own.”

Two months from now, there will be a follow-up training to review progress, recap the essential concepts and install new boxes in the hives, and the first honey harvest will take place in December 2023.

Some of the beekeeping tools provided to the participants

“Around the Tai National Park, there is always a high demand for honey,” says Joel Angoran, Project Manager Agroforestry & Environment for Beyond Beans in Cote d’Ivoire, “By providing professional beekeeping equipment and proper training, we are opening up access to a high-paying and sustainable business model. With the income generated and the training received through our VSLA programme, the participants will be able to reinvest and expand the business. This will help improve livelihoods in local communities, safeguard the environment, and empower the women in our supply chain.”

Intercropping cocoa and coffee with other crops and trees, alongside beekeeping, increases biodiversity, which doesn’t just bring in extra, much-needed income for farmers – it also protects crop from diseases and is good for the planet and for the consumer, more than enough to generate a buzz.

Find about more about Sébastien Gavini, Mathieu Offi and beekeeping in Côte d’Ivoire in this documentary:

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