Sustainable Livelihoods – Beekeeping in Zimbabwe “Bees Keep Trees”

Chigondo Honey produced by communities in Wedza

With the UN’s 2011 focus being International Year of Forests, to encourage global forest conservation and sustainable consumption for green growth, we share another successful initiative from Zimbabwe.  It is recognized that forest goods and services remain very critical to the poor and marginalized.  They can contribute to rural poverty reduction, therefore, sustainable use of forests to uplift livelihoods should also top the list in government policies and environmental and development organisations’ programmes.

Beekeeping  has a very long tradition in Africa dating back over 5000 years when beehives were first used for producing honey in ancient Egypt.  Beekeeping promotes economic self reliance and for some of the poorest people has become a life sustaining source of income and livelihoods.  It is an ecologically and technically appropriate form of income generation for communities in some of the poorest areas of Zimbabwe.

Recognising the value of protecting and conserving forests through beekeeping Environment Africa initiated and implemented a number of beekeeping projects in various districts within Zimbabwe.  One of the communities  successfully involved in the programme is in Wedza.  They are fortunate to have the beautiful   Miombo Woodlands within their local environment and through Environment Africa’s beekeeping programme have not only managed to uplift their own livelihoods to an economically sustainable level, but they are also now protecting and conserving their local environment.

Beekeeper Training in Songo

A New Hive – Beekeeper Training

One of the other initiatives encouraged by Environment Africa which the Wedza community adopted was forming EAG’s (Environmental Action Groups).  These EAG’s enabled individual farmers to join together and develop from subsistence beekeeping to commercial markets.   Previously, individual farmers were producing honey which they were selling in unmarked bottles.  The honey from the Chigondo EAG was sent for testing to the Standards Association of Zimbabwe and was given full compliance with SAZ349:2004 and the Food Safety Standards Act 2001, assuring consumers that the Chigondo honey they buy can be consumed safely.

Environment Africa have also supported the farmers to build a honey and agro processing centre that processes locally produced honey, peanut butter, sunflower cooking oil among other products and to market these products.

The construction of the Honey and Agro processing Centre will see even non- members selling their products to the centre thus providing an accessible market for the local communities.  The ultimate goal is that the project is a long term sustainable, community-owned business.

Beekeeper Training in Songo

By utilizing a holistic educational approach, when participants have completed the Environment Africa training, they have acquired the knowledge and skills to understand the importance and benefits of beekeeping how to select suitable sites for mounting bee hives, how to construct modern hives from local materials readily accessible identify and control pests and diseases, manage bees and harvest honey sustainably market honey and by-products for income generation and more importantly conserve forests as the practice of beekeeping Beekeeping is a natural way to discourage local communities from cutting down of trees and burning.

One beehive produces an average of 15kg of honey, approximately 12kg once processed.  Decanted into bottles of 500g this equates to 24 bottles, sold at a market price of $4 a bottle realizing an income of $96 from this one beehive.  The input costs are relatively low being less than 50% of the income generated, making beekeeping a thriving business that can contribute invaluably to a household income.

With adequate input and training, local small scale honey production in Zimbabwe could satisfy the local market demands and long term growth and sustainability could lead to export potential.

Honey bee populations have declined dramatically world wide in the past 10 years due to a number of factors including climate change, human intervention  and this has contributed to a global shortage of honey.  Zimbabwe is well placed to not only produce it’s own honey but to explore the export potential of honey.  Apiculture is a positive programme that not only contributes to uplifting the livelihoods of rural communities but protects the trees and ultimately contributes to protecting our planet earth.



  1. odrich m.hanamwiinga says:

    Beekeeping in Affrica is a Good Business vanture But We Lacky Sposnor.For Me I am looking For Same one I Can Work With And Funding BeeKeePing In Zambia.

  2. Please I may you send me a plan of a Beehive Warehoure for my virgin land. Also send information about how and where I can also attend to get the Environment Africa Green Certificate in Zimbabwe
    Iam based in the Midlands province in the drought prone Mberengwa District and have done a project proposal for my Apiculture area Moble 0712023451

    • A nice Project I believe you will carry it across Zimbabwe countrywide

      • Yeah, i agree with you. Our beekeeper doesn’t use any of the cliaecmhs in the hives. However, it is disturbing and I think problematic that as many cliaecmhs end up in the hive. The bottom line is that humans tend to do a lot of things that aren’t real great for insects, and we will probably pay the price in the long run as evidenced by what is happening to honey bees. Thanks for your note.

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