A cooperation between AbTF and the Tanzania-based non-governmental organization ‘African People and Wildlife’ for a project promoting women in Tanzania was successfully implemented. The project provided microgrants and training to 25 local women’s groups, mainly from the Masai community, to start their own beekeeping businesses and laid the foundation for a Women’s Enterprise Centre. By enabling women to produce and sell wildlife-friendly honey in a self-sufficient way the project innovatively links women’s economic empowerment with environmental protection. It contributes to financial independence and gender equity. As entrepreneurs with their own income, Maasai women can increase their involvement and status in the community, invest in health care, send their children to school while reducing their families’ environmental impact. The women’s beekeeping initiative empowers rural women to gain financial benefits of conservation while preserving critical grasslands and corridors for wildlife. Under the Tanzanian Beekeeping Act, areas where hives are hung are protected from tree cutting and cultivation. This has the added benefit of protecting pastures for the Maasai people’s livestock and also for wide-ranging wildlife species. The honey is bottled and sold under the brand “Mama Asali”, which means “Mama Honey” in Kiswahili.
The project was implemented by African People and Wildlife (APW). APW is an NGO founded in 2005. Based in Tanzania APW aims at long-term relationships with local communities, empowering rural Africans to successfully manage their natural resources while achieving significant ecological and financial benefits. With a four-step approach (1. prevent conflict, 2. build community capacity to manage natural resources, 3. support active environmental conservation and 4. foster local conservation incentives) APW aims at environmental conservation and strengthening livelihoods while protecting wildlife habitats.
Originally targeting 15, in total 25 Women’s Beekeeping Microgrants were given out. As a result, APW exceeded the expected number of beneficiaries from a target of 150 to a total of 250 women. Microgrants were given in the form of conservation gains. Instead of directly paying back the grant, the women commit to lead projects such as village cleanups, tree plantings, watershed restoration work, and environmental education outreach.
As part of the project women benefited from a range of Trainings, focusing on environmental, entrepreneurship, project management and beekeeping skills. Topics included creating a business plan, understanding financial management, budgeting and common reasons businesses fail, planning for long-term management and growth. Furthermore, beekeeping policies and environmental conservation, use of beekeeping equipment, beekeeping techniques, including inspection, maintenance, harvesting, weighing and record keeping were trained. Further training that was requested by women’s groups included processing and packaging. The acquired skills enable women’s groups to become more self-sufficient managing all aspects of their beekeeping enterprise along with personal financial management.
The Project also provided Assistance with product development, marketing, and sales under the “Mama Asali” brand. This included printing of marketing materials such as honey labels, posters, and fliers and the development of additional marketing strategies. Marketing materials result in greater visibility of the “Mama Asali” brand along with providing details to potential buyers about the conservation impact of beekeeping initiatives.
The Project additionally contributed to the Establishment of a Women’s Enterprise Centre in Loibor Siret which promotes women entrepreneurial activities beyond honey processing and packaging. Together with the village social services committee women identified resources necessary to build and maintain a honey processing centre while land tenure was secured for the women’s groups.
Currently around 1200 women are involved in beekeeping initiated by APW. They were harvesting 3,899 kilos of honey in 2019. The initiative was able to earn US$13,500 in total.
“Because I have been educated by the organization…. I was able to sell my honey and send my children to school… In the past, I would sit in the shade of my hut waiting for my husband to provide. But now I no longer have to wait on him.”
By ensuring that the Women’s Associations are involved in all aspects of the enterprise, from hive hanging through honey sales and financial management, APW creates an avenue through which members can run their own self-sustaining honey businesses. Income generated from honey sales is distributed amongst members, but much is also saved by the women’s groups. These funds are used to purchase equipment, provide hive maintenance, and ensure the sustainability of the beekeeping business. Each women’s group manages their own finances, with the capacity building support of APW when requested.
Through this approach the initiative leads to increased feelings of inclusion in community decision-making, Increased leadership capacity, Improved confidence in entrepreneurship skills and increased respect as community members who are able to generate income.