Without a way to earn a living, many young women from Domborutinhira village were tempted to Mutare city and a life of prostitution.
In 2012, though, the British Embassy got together with a group of young women in the village to start a beekeeping project – with the aim of breaking the cycle of poverty and hopelessness.
Dombo Beekeeping Society was helped with funding from Environment Africa, and the results are plain to see. The 12 members now have a sustainable livelihood through selling processed honey and related products.
Environment Africa provided beekeeping training, equipment and woodland management training to help the group run the project sustainably.
Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) is also funding Environment Africa under the Protracted Relief Programme, through which Environment Africa is supporting another 1,500 households, mostly women, with beekeeping training and equipment throughout Manicaland.
This UK funding has also enabled the setting up of the Dombo Honey Processing Plant, which has created more jobs for the women in Mutasa South.
Environment Africa director Barnabas Mawire thanked the British Embassy for their help.
“This has vastly improved the income-generating capacity of the rural communities. They are now able to sustain themselves,” he said.
There are extra benefits too. The fruit farmers in the area have realised a 50 per cent increase in their fruit yields when bees are used in pollination. The group’s leader, Beatrice Chiremba, said beekeeping was a fast-growing business in Zimbabwe.
She said: “It is profitable, and the most interesting thing is that we have a ready market and it costs relatively little to start and operate. It also helps to maintain the environment, which is important since it is in our interests to ensure trees and foraging areas are kept intact.”
Chiremba added: “We also received training in honey production and marketing. This training has helped us, as we have customers both within
Zimbabwe and outside the country.”
The group is also giving work to a local tailoring group, who make the clothing they need to protect themselves from bee stings.
The group has been selling by-products, like wax, which other rural families use to make candles and soap, creating an income for them too.
The secretary of the group, Ruth Makombe, said the introduction and manufacture of movable top bar beehives using local materials had also been an important income source.
The treasurer, Cynthia Jafare, said the project had provided them with a new stream of income. “This has helped us alleviate poverty. We share our income equally and provide loans to members. This has changed our lives,” added Jafare.
Chiremba said the project was expanding well and four of the six planned bee-houses had been completed.
Beekeeping has been beneficial for poor rural families becausehoney is subject to fewer price fluctuations than most foods.
Apart from improving their honey production, the group is preparing to build another honey processing plant in Bonda, which will employ local people all year round. The district has already provided a plot for the plant.