Harvesting honey is a job traditionally associated with men because they are more able to work the late hours required to harvest honey at night, when the bees are most calm. Now, more women are getting involved.
The USAID-funded Forest Incomes for Environmental Sustainability (FIFES) Activity team works with beekeeping groups to promote community forest management best practices and enhance alternative livelihoods, such as beekeeping, that do not deplete forest resources.
In September 2017, the FIFES Activity supported its private sector partner Universal Outreach Foundation (UOF) in conducting beekeeping training for 52 participants, including Rita Klee. Rita, 38, is a single mother caring for seven children and a member of the Kwakerdo Beekeepers Association in Kwipea. Due to her enthusiasm, drive, and commitment for beekeeping, Rita was selected as the co-chairperson for the association and assistant lead trainer for UOF.
Through UOF, she learned a more sustainable means of harvesting honey. Most importantly, the training she took part in created a more hospitable working environment for women, in which beehives were installed close to town and harvested during the day.
To share her beekeeping skills, Rita has helped establish and train new beekeeping groups with a total of 15 members in Gboutuo Gblor Community Forest and in Volay Sehzuplay Community Forest. She regularly provides hands-on training to the new groups in beehive construction, baiting, installation, and management.
Prior to this, Rita engaged in shifting agricultural activities and unsustainable harvesting of non-timber forest products to earn an income for her household. Rita now owns a total of 47 beehives. This year, she extracted 17 gallons of pure honey from her first harvest, which she sold to UOF at US$20 per gallon, totaling US$340. From her sale, she was able to buy enough food items for her household, purchase clothing for her children, engage in a small commercial enterprise buying and selling snails, and save for the future.
“Thank God for FIFES for bringing Universal Outreach Foundation in our town to train us how to do beekeeping and how to make our own beehives. After the training, [UOF] told us that when any member of the group produces their honey the way they teach us they will buy it from them. This is the kind of thing I was really looking for, and FIFES come and give it to me,” Rita said.