Honey for peace in Darfur
South Darfur is known as a troubled region beset by years of endemic conflict, poverty, destruction of natural resources, and deterioration of livelihoods. However, the land is also a dynamic region that defies its popular conception as intractably and inevitably conflict-ridden. Recently, new projects being implemented by the UNDP Darfur Livelihoods Recovery Programme are slowly but surely changing that view.
Although there are no natural honeybee populations in South Darfur, today beekeeping has become a viable means of economic enhancement for many farming families. The honey produced in South Darfur is particularly favored by an increasingly wide base of national and regional markets. Beekeeping has become a profitable activity undertaken by farmers and especially vulnerable groups including youth, internally displaced populations, ex-combatants and women.
The honey value chain project, which started in May 2011 and is currently being undertaken in Kubum, South Darfur, is part of a bold set of initiatives laid out by UNDP’s Darfur Livelihoods Recovery Programme. The project, implemented in partnership with local NGO, Rehed el Fursan Development Network (RDN) works with different stakeholders, especially farmers, to identify a suitable structure to introduce essential training and methodology. Trainings delivered have focused on how to inspect and manage bee hives sustainably and how to improve handling and quality of the honey produced.
A start-up grant of one thousand traditional beehives was provided to the beekeepers’ associations. The hives were distributed to clusters of beekeepers, who in turn share collective responsibility of the hives throughout the stages of manufacturing, production, and harvest. This cluster management not only fosters collective production and marketing but also encourages community ownership and builds trust amongst the people.
Progress has been remarkable. The number of members in beekeeping associations has risen from nearly 60 in May 2011 to 1050 in March 2012, which shows just how strong the interest and commitment is amongst the community. It is estimated that five thousand families currently benefit from the project.
In an isolated community like Kubum, the use and availability of local materials to make traditional hives has helped and encouraged villagers to get involved in the beekeeping business thus providing them with an additional income.
Today the project holds a regular fair in Kubum to welcome new farmers to techniques and management of beekeeping. The fairs provide a vital opportunity to promote an enabling business environment to market and exchange ideas and experiences amongst local producers. A planned mission in September 2012 will see a group of producers led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources participate in the ApiExpo Africa International Beekeeping Event in Addis Ababa to share their unique experiences.
The case of the Kubum beekeeping producers in South Darfur is a prime example of how appropriate technology and adapted interventions carried out together with national and local partners can generate help, decrease poverty, encourage micro-entrepreneurship and foster the rebuilding of relations between communities even in the most unlikely places. For the beekeepers of Kubum and their families and friends, their new livelihoods never tasted so sweet.
This project has been made possible through the generous support of the Government of Switzerland and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).
For a video from Sudan TV on the beekeeping activities in Kubum: youtube.com/watch?v=b3Kdw4AErpA
For more photos of the beekeepers in action: http://flic.kr/p/cvakJh