To date the priorities have been a) to establish a sound understanding of beekeeping issues and obstacles as well as good practice, and on this basis b) to implement programmes of beekeeping training and field support. To date most of our funding has been allocated to these activities but there are five other areas where we believe investment is now essential and urgent. These are:
- Raising awareness Although interest in bees and beekeeping is increasing, in our view, there is still a lack of awareness of their importance and potential, and insufficient support at all levels, nationally and internationally for the types of action BEECause is advocating. Our objective is to correct this by a combination of targeted publicity and building alliances with development organisations with compatible and complementary interests.
- Education Many people we meet have little or no knowledge of bees or their importance – they often see them as dangerous pests (although the sting of the so-called ‘African killer bee’ is no more dangerous than its European cousin). By introducing the subject into the school curriculum and by briefing groups such as community forest management committees and others, we hope to encourage positive attitudes and reduce ignorance.
- Production, distribution and marketing Much more needs to be done to encourage production and to organise and develop markets for bee products. Only honey and wax are currently produced, on a relatively small scale. Honey is in short and irregular supply and of variable quality. Domestic demand exceeds supply and goes largely unsatisfied in the second half of the year. But is also beyond the means of many and is only used as a medicine. Few beekeepers harvest wax although it is easy to sell. There are of course reasons for the situation, but none intractable.
- Microfinance One of the more obvious obstacles to investment is a lack of capital to buy more and better equipment. Microfinance could be the answer if it is set up in a way which fits the needs of beekeepers. As an example, using conservative estimates, a D60,000 loan (approximately £1,200) to establish a 50 KTB apiary in a community forest could be repaid in 1½ to 2½ years, even if only 50% of the earnings from bee products were used for the repayment. Repayments would be used to form a rolling fund.
- Partnership capacity Whatever the role of organisations such as BCG, ultimately Gambian people will and must act for themselves. To achieve this they need properly financed organisations run by skilled practitioners. This is where organisations such as BEECause can help by increasing local organisations’ skills bases and capacity. Our target is for BEECause Gambia to become an entirely Gambian entity by mid 2015. Encouraging enterprise, not aid dependency, is the key.
We have plans for all the above but our present resources, particularly funding, are insufficient for us to be able to tackle them on an appropriate scale. To do this will require £30,000 per annum more for three years. By then further development of the industry should be largely funded from within. It is manifestly worthwhile. The financial return from a thriving industry would be attractive on any commercial measure, and the livelihoods of several thousand people improved and made more secure. If this were not justification enough, the benefit to agriculture, forestry and the environment would also be very significant.
Please also see our What You Can Do page.