As one drives through Buhera in Manicaland, one of the first things you notice is the predominantly dry landscape. Buhera is a district which has been significantly impacted by the current climate extremes being experienced in Zimbabwe. The area is prone to droughts and shifting rainfall patterns which are impacting agriculture and livelihoods in the region.
Like many communities in Zimbabwe, the people of Buhera depend on agriculture as one of their main sources of income. With the dry climate, community members mainly farm small grains like sorghum and millet. The crop yield has decreased over the years due to various factors such as the rising cost of farming inputs and erratic rainfall patterns.
Beekeeping is a long-standing tradition which has been taking place for generations in Buhera. Some of the community memebers learnt how to harvest honey from their fathers. Traditional log hives are still the preferred structure being used for the bee hives however this is promoting deforestation. With support from partners on the ground efforts are being made to transition to the modernised Kenya Top Bar (KTB) hives which are made out of sustainable materials.
With support from partners on the ground efforts are being made to transition to modernised Kenya Top Bar hives which are made out of sustainable materials reducing the amount of trees which are being cut down.
Chapanduka Honey Association
In 2016, with support from the Oxfam-UNDP/GEF Scaling up Rural Livelihoods project implented by SAFIRE, community members built a modern honey processing facility in Chapanduka, Buhera.
Prior to the establishment of the association, the sale and processing of honey was being done informally and without proper market linkages. This affected the overall revenue which was being earned by community members from their honey.
“I used to my sell my honey under a tree near the shops to people in the community. Sales were not easy, and it would sometimes take a couple of months to sell my honey.”
The Chapanduka honey processing plant is open to all community members in Buhera. It is a place where they can sell their honeycombs which are then processed into honey for sale. The association currently has 63 members . All members of the association have been sub-divided into committees which manage the daily operations and are responsible for the production, buying and marketing of the honey.
The processed honey is currently being sold at ZWL25.00 per 500ml bottle with the honeycombs being bought at ZWL15.00 per kg. To maintain the high quality of the honey, all the honeycombs brought in go through a strict quality control process removing any foreign objects.
Most of the honey processed at the association is sourced from apiaries in Buhera. However during the seasons where honey is limited, it is sourced from the surrounding towns in Manicaland.
Passing on the tradition
The tradition of beekeeping and honey processing is one which the association members hope to pass on to their own children ,
“I sometimes bring my children through to the association as they are the ones who eventually be in charge of running it. If they do not take over the association will die.”
Mr Matenga is one of the community members who sells his honeycombs to the Chapanduka honey association. He has an apiary with approximately 160 hives and harvests approximately 180–220kgs of raw honey each season.
Mr Matenga has enhanced his beekeeping skills through the training sessions provided by the Oxfam-UNDP/GEF project. The beekeepers have been trained on how to increase productivity, improve quality and upgrade the value chain, hive multiplications and swarm capture.
Women in Beekeeping
Traditionally beekeeping has been male dominated however the number of women building and managing their own apiaries in Chapanduka has increased through the Oxfam-UNDP/GEF scaling up rural livelihoods project. Out of the 63 honey association members , 25 are women.
Eunice began harvesting honey in 2018 and currently has 10 hives. On average she collects 80kg of raw honey each season.
“It is good for women to be involved in such projects as they will have an income source of their own, can be independent and not fully reliant on their husbands”.
The honey association is playing a vital role in empowering women and diversifying the income streams in the community overall. The association continues to enhance its revenue by developing additional value- added products such as candles, floor wax and lotion from the by products created during the honey making process.
The honey processing scheme is being implemented under the Oxfam-UNDP/GEF Scaling up Adaptation in Zimbabwe with a focus on rural livelihoods project. The overall aim of the project is to promote pro-poor economic growth that is resilient to climate change.