BEECause started work in The Gambia towards the end of 2009 and is now firmly established as the leading organisation in its field. Thanks to our small, highly professional and committed team, some excellent progress has been made towards several of BEECause Gambia’s strategic objectives. We are demonstrating that beekeeping and making bee products can help individuals and communities to significantly improve their economic well-being. At the same time, the need for the project remains as strong as ever and there is a long way still to go. Several strategies have yet to begin and new opportunities present themselves daily. More resources are urgently needed to enable the project to make a greater impact. We began by conducting a survey of beekeeping to find out what was happening, the problems and obstacles as well as what works. Since then, we have been putting the lessons learned into practice and to date the results are very encouraging. So far we have trained some 600 people in beekeeping and over 300 in making beeswax products. The market support and development programme is underway, field support is becoming an increasingly important service and the Youth Engagement Programme (YEP) which offers training and encouragement to young people to enter the industry has made a modest start.
Training is carried out in villages and at Kumoo Kunda* our training centre near Lamin.
*Mandinka for home of the bees.
Kumoo Kunda is a beautiful, unspoilt site of nearly two hectares near a tributary of the Gambia River. Bordered by a community garden and orchards, the site has a number of important indigenous trees, including grey plums and flame mahogany and is an excellent bee habitat. It attracts many native birds, red colobus monkeys, monitor lizards, and occasionally snakes! The training centre comprises a series of grass roofed roundel buildings and we have a demonstration apiary of over 40 Kenyan top bar hives (KTBs) with examples of traditional, top bar woven grass and hollowed log hives and catcher boxes. We carry out technical, design and equipment trials and experiment with new methods and techniques to find ways of improving performance and management. The top bar grass hive was designed by Micah Wood, the previous country manager.
Our experience in The Gambia to date has demonstrated the possibilities but also underlines the need for a dedicated and focused organisation, to provide sustained sources of knowhow, support and finance. It has also drawn attention to the critical importance of bees – not just as producers of honey and beeswax but to ecology and the human food chain.
Read our article reporting on the survey in Bee World – click here.
Read our follow-up article in Bee World – click
To go to the International Bee Research Association website, click here.
First, beekeeping is a low tech, relatively low cost activity which is practical in most rural areas and offers the opportunity of additional income, especially to people engaged in small scale agriculture and forestry. Bee products (honey, beeswax, propolis, royal jelly) are valuable and easily marketable. In The Gambia, beekeeping is traditionally a male activity, although there is increasing interest from women. Locally-made products, using honey and wax as ingredients, such as confectionery, wax based soaps and creams, offer possibilities of employment, particularly for women, and bee products are very suitable ‘cottage industry’ products.
Secondly, bees, particularly honey bees, directly impact on food production and benefit the environment. Bees are the main pollinators of many plants, including most trees and 60% of food crops. A strong bee population can increase crop yields by 40%.
For more information about why bees are important, click here.
We aim to …
- significantly increase the number of rural people keeping bees
- provide training in sound techniques and good practice
- increase the range, volume and quality of bee products
- improve access to and develop markets for bee products
- improve returns to the producers by improving efficiency and output
- improve availability of supplies and reduce prices to the consumer
- seek innovation, particularly in breeding and colonisation techniques
- protect and expand bee habitats and increase bee populations
- inform, educate and encourage positive attitudes towards bees.
We welcome opportunities to co-operate with other organisations with compatible aims. We believe one of the best ways to create a thriving long term industry is through effective partnerships with Gambian national and local organisations, international agencies and NGOs. The Gambia has a growing number of forward looking agro-enterprise and forestry associations interested in beekeeping and sustainable agriculture and forestry but unfortunately most lack essential resources and capacity.
BEECause currently has co-operation agreements with the Department of State for Forestry and Environment, the Kombo and Foni Forestry Association (KOMFFORA) and the US Peace Corps. Other partners and friends include Concern Universal and GiG, Women’s Initiatives in The Gambia, Friends of Nature and a number of village community organisations and kafoes.
The project’s progress to date owes much to the partnership with the Peace Corps. Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) assigned to BEECause work with their counterparts within the project and others carry the flag for beekeeping to the communities in which they live throughout the country. PCV training is carried out at Kumoo Kunda by BEECause trainers.
As guests at a swearing-in ceremony of PCVs in April 2012 we were gratified when Jeffrey Cornish, then the PC Country Director, described BEECause as ‘a very strong partner’ to an audience including the Gambian Minister of Agriculture, the US Ambassador and most of the 90 PCVs serving in The Gambia. In March 2014, we were delighted to be joint hosts of Peace Corps West Africa’s very successful beekeeping conference.