Our beekeeping communities are at the heart of what we do at ‘Bees with Stories’. Beekeeping is a valuable small-scale practice with many benefits: it contributes to biodiversity conservation; it enhances food production and hence increases food security, and, when practiced commercially, it generates income for the beekeepers. Since we work exclusively in African countries, our beekeeping activities provide all these benefits to African communities.
While beekeeping plays a critical role in elevating the rural communities in which we work, the benefits are mostly reaped by men. This is because the apiculture value chain is mostly run by men. The reasons are well-known; traditional hives are hung in tall trees and require tree climbing, a taboo for women, in addition to being dangerous. The introduction of modern beehives and beekeeping techniques can have a radical impact on the economic empowerment and the social inclusion of women through a substantial increase in revenue from honey harvesting. Modern hives are on the ground; that factor alone plays a pivotal role in giving access to an income-generating activity to women.
In Mauritius, the situation is very different. For one, beekeeping is not a common practice on the island. And, despite the type of beekeeping practiced being modern and, as such, more accessible to women, it still remains a male-dominated activity. Steep start-up costs, lack of land and awareness are some of the reasons for this participation gap.
We, at BwS, decided to change that. Being a social enterprise set on helping people improve their quality of life, we recently launched our very first beekeeping site at La Vallee de Ferney in Mauritius. We targeted individuals who had lost their livelihoods to the 2020 Wakashio Oil Spill >> 10 women, who, after losing their jobs in the fishing and tourism sectors, had gotten together and started a community farm in Ferney. In addition to the weekly training by our expert beekeeper, we provided them with beehives, colonies, tools and protective gear. Through beekeeping, they are engaging in an activity that will not only generate an additional income but will also boost their own food production. Win-win!
These are baby steps we are taking to make beekeeping more inclusive for Mauritian women. We invite others to join us!