Building Futures Through Wildlife-Friendly Honey
February 3, 2020
In northern Tanzania, African People & Wildlife’s Women’s Beekeeping Initiative is laying the foundation for the wider production and distribution of Mama Asali, a premium, wildlife-friendly honey brand. More than 300 women from 21 groups are building a new Women’s Enterprise Center, which will serve as an entrepreneurial hub for women in the district of Simanjiro. Spanning two acres, the center will include a honey processing and packaging facility, a shop, and a meeting space to encourage the exchange of ideas and experiences around sustainable enterprise.
“It is our hope that the Women’s Enterprise Center will serve as a model for people from other parts of Africa and beyond who want to come and learn about sustainable honey production and distribution,” said Samson Beah, APW’s Beekeeping Program Officer. “We plan to work with Women’s Beekeeping Initiative members in other communities to build more enterprise centers in the future. In the meantime, women from neighboring villages will be invited to share the facilities.”
Plans for the Women’s Enterprise Center began in 2019 when several local women’s groups in need of a centralized place to store and produce their honey proposed the idea to APW’s leadership. APW worked closely with the local government to help obtain the necessary land tenure for the women to be able to begin construction. Following that step, the women took ownership of the project by designing the center, planning how the space will be used, and leading the construction. Scheduled to open its doors in the spring of 2020, the center is now nearly 50 percent complete.
"In the past, our job as women was to cook and give birth to our children, but now we are leaders in our community. This center shows that we have moved from struggle to success. We have earned the honor of being seen and able. Now we are earning income for our businesses by conserving the environment."
NEEMA PHILIPO, WOMEN'S BEEKEEPING INITIATIVE MEMBER
Women lay bricks for the walls of the Women's Enterprise Center. (Photo: African People & Wildlife/Samson Beah)
Additional plans for the expansion of the Mama Asali brand are underway. In 2019, APW hired Conservation Enterprise and Marketing Officer Catherine Nchimbi, who is leading the product’s entry into new markets by making linkages with tourism operators, local craft fairs, and retailers. Nchimbi will also help to grow the Mama Asali product line to include other bee and beeswax products such as soap, candles, body cream, and lip balm.
A Women's Beekeeping Initiative member displays a jar of Mama Asali honey. (Photo: African People & Wildlife/Felipe Rodriguez)
The Women’s Beekeeping Initiative currently provides a sustainable income stream to more than 1,260 women across 75 groups in northern Tanzania. To date, 1,364 beehives have produced more than 11 tons of crude honey.
"In the past, our job as women was to cook and give birth to our children, but now we are leaders in our community. This center shows that we have moved from struggle to success. We have earned the honor of being seen and able. Now we are earning income for our businesses by conserving the environment," said Neema Philip, a Women's Beekeeping Initiative member.
The project also benefits vulnerable wildlife species like lions, leopards, and cheetahs. Under the Tanzanian Beekeeping Act, beehives must be hung at least seven kilometers from human settlements and farms. By hanging beehives in key wildlife habitats and corridors, the Women’s Beekeeping Initiative can protect the surrounding lands from tree cutting and cultivation.
Women's Beekeeping Initiative members hang environmentally friendly beehives in the bush. (Photo: African People & Wildlife/Elvis Kisimir)
APW will build on the incredible momentum of the Women’s Beekeeping Initiative by adding 25 new groups in 2020. This life-changing work is made possible by the generous support of Open Road Alliance, APW’s Collective Giving Program, and other valued partners.
Learn more about how the Women's Beekeeping Initiative empowers rural women and protects the natural world.