A bee-keeping initiative in Tanzania is transforming the lives of 1,200 Maasai women by giving them financial independence while turning them into conservationists of the environment they live in.
The aim is to produce thousands of hives which will be home to natural pollinators in protected landscapes.
At night the women on the Maasai Steppe are busy with their harvest. One by one, hives stored in the branches of the trees are lowered to the ground and the honeycomb carefully removed.
The hives are then again restored high up in the canopy. The Steppe itself is massive, stretching from the Usambara to the Great Rift Valley across the borders of Kenya to Ethiopia.
This initiative is focused in the area outside the Tarangire National Park in Tanzania where most of the people who live here are Maasai. The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.
A non-profit organization called African Wildlife and People (AWP), give the women training and initial funds in the form of micro grants. These women have taken advantage of this. Now they own and run their own bee keeping businesses.
In kind payment of the funds and training, the women have agreed to commit their time to conservation work. This is usually in the form of tree planting, village cleanups, or environmental education where the women go to schools and villages to talk about environmental problems and conservation.
The AWP says that in order to build up conservation attitudes and reactions, the local people have to be involved. Samson John Beah helps to run the beekeeping program for African People and Wildlife.
He says, “Beekeeping is important for this Maasai community because they’ve demonstrated hard work and a long history of protecting the environment. Therefore, the beekeeping project is a venture that protects their environment while also securing some income for them, for their needs through selling honey and other beekeeping products.
Beah says that the objective of this project is both for conservation and generating income from the environment.
AWP believes rural women are the best agents to spread the message for sustainable development. It says almost 1,200 women are involved with the schemes and there are now more than 1,300 hives being planted in the wild bush for harvesting.