Having successfully completed its sponsorship of the fisheries conservation project with the Lepuia'i village in Samoa, Sytel has been seeking another similar project, where we can help local people in a less developed country to help themselves.
In 2018, we decided to look for a project involving bees. A little homework led us to Dr. Nicola Bradbear and her team at Bees for Development, based in Monmouth. Bees for Development promotes sustainable beekeeping as a means of alleviating poverty and promoting biodiversity. They run practical, community-based projects around the world and their principal activities are the development, funding and support of locally-run, self-sustaining education initiatives and supporting market access. With the help of Bees for Development Sytel was put in touch with The Uganda National Apiculture Development Organisation (TUNADO). After introductory communications and discussions about TUNADO's plans, a sponsorship agreement was put in place directly between Sytel and TUNADO.
Life for villagers in the foothills of Mount Elgon in a remote part of Uganda is very tough. They grow bananas, coffee and cabbages to sell, and maize for their own food, on the steep hills. However, landslides in 2010 and 2012 hit the community hard with several villagers dying in the disasters. Unfortunately, the soil erosion caused by growing cabbages on the steep slopes reduced the cabbage output, plus conflict in South Sudan then blocked access to the vegetable markets which closed that line of revenue to them. In 2018 a new problem occurred; a new pest called Fall Army Worm destroyed the maize crops.
The good news is that since 2014 Bees for Development has been teaching the villagers how to make hives and keep bees. This has meant no soil erosion, no pollution and the bees have been pollinating the coffee plants which, in turn, has increased yield. Furthermore, the process is sustainable and completely environmentally friendly. And of course, the by-product of keeping bees is honey! The local community is now producing so much honey they need to address this new challenge and sell the honey in large quantities for a good price. To this end, they have established the Mount Elgon Coffee Honey Cooperative, since the bees feed on the coffee flowers.
Sytel's sponsorship funds will go towards helping TUNADO introduce a system for buying honey from the villagers, checking the quality and providing quality assurance to the onward buyers. To do this they need to secure land and build a permanent Honey Center. This will be used as the marketing hub for honey and help connect the remote north with honey buyers in Kampala. It will also be used as a training and information center, a place where new beekeepers can receive the technical advice they desperately need. This Honey Center will provide the much needed outreach for northern Uganda to ensure that the poorest people in Uganda can benefit from TUNADO's services.
Dickson Biryomumaisho, Director of TUNADO, reports: "The land/ office initiative is a long-term strategy to ensure sustainability to our work in the area. Currently we are working with about 300 beekeepers in 6 groups in Gulu district alone. We do not have a support office or training centre. All the time beekeepers in the area rely on our Kampala office for information, training, business connection etc. Given this opportunity, we would like to concentrate on building a permanent centre for greater impact and sustainability."
Dickson Biryomumaisho, Director of TUNADO, reports:
"TUNADO has recruited a staff member, stationed in Gulu district, in order to monitor and follow up with beekeepers, offer advisory services to beekeepers including Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) involved or interested in beekeeping. He will also help supervise the construction of the centre.
We have already identified land. Negotiations and land search with the Government to ascertain the rightful owner is ongoing.
We have managed to engage the district to appreciate apiculture. We are happy to report that the district has prioritized beekeeping as an environmentally friendly, income generating activity with high absorption potential to create employment for youth and women. Hence the district has increased its annual budget allocation for beekeeping by 15%! On top of that, the district has been able to employ two entomology staff to provide technical and extension services.
We are happy to report that in the both the regional and national multi-stakeholders meetings that were conducted in June, Sytel was recognized and stakeholders informed that with your support, together shall put up Gulu centre."
Elgon Coffee Honey Co-operative
Making bee hives
Elgon Coffee Honey Cooperative