Awards 1999 The Worldaware Award for Not-for-Profit Organizations

The Worldaware Award for Not-for-Profit Organizations

Short-listed: Bees for Development

Bees for Development, a small agency run by a staff of three in Wales, is exploring a new way to help the people who promote beekeeping in developing countries. It is enlisting them as hosts for British people on beekeeping safaris. Having learned how to handle parties of this sort, the hosts are beginning to arrange similar holidays on their own.

Beekeeping provides the only cash income for people in some remote parts of Africa. It has good cash-earning potential. The remoteness from roads, towns and farming means that some of the honey is organic and so earns a premium when sold in densely populated Europe where little honey can be organic. Traidcraft recently acquired three container loads from the Tabora bee-keeping co-operative in the centre of Tanzania.

The Tanzanian government, however, has had little money to support its national beekeeping institute at the Nijiro Wildlife Research Centre near Arusha. Nicola Bradbear and Helen Jackson of Bees for Development used to send students there for training. The safaris offer continued help to the Nijiro Centre and also raise its profile in the Arusha area.

For the visitors a fortnight costs 1,985, a lot more than a package tour to Arusha and the nearby national parks. On beekeeping safari however, visitors do more than visit the Ngorongoro Crater and the Masai Mara. They also visit beekeepers I remote miombo woodland and get to know Africans as friends. One visitor wrote: "I gathered and experienced more information and understanding about true Tanzanian life and culture than any tour company could have provided."

Beekeeping is more sophisticated in Bees for Development's second holiday destination, a remote part of Karnataka, South India. Here the beekeepers earn extra money by putting beeswax into ointments and soaps. They also introduce their visitors to the colourful city of Mysore.

Kathleen Chapple wrote in the magazine Bee Craft:

"For the British beekeepers, Indian beekeeping is like keeping bees in heaven. The bees are gentle, friendly and hardworking. It was a joy to watch the beekeepers approach a hive, often just outside their front door or under a nearby tree, give a little knock on the top of a hive, then gently open it and take out the frames. There is no need for veils or gloves as the bees seem perfectly docile ...

"Although the temples were wonderful, the handicrafts and the fruit, too, the jewel in the crown of India was the people. They were so hospitable, so willing to show us their co-operatives, their homes and their bees, that our lasting impression is of sweet smiles, glorious honey and their gentle, simple way of life ... We met country people who had few material possessions but they could not give us enough."

In 2000 there is a third host, The Tobago Apicultural Society. This offers an interesting contrast between Trinidad which has angry African bees, and Tobago where bees remain unaggressive. Keeping bees beside the Caribbean cannot be bad.

Life and beekeeping overseas are different from Britain. So Bees for Development holds short courses for visitors before they go. Don't, in India, eat with your left hand. Don't pack your best overalls which could discourage less fashionably dressed local people. Visitors must use the local overalls.

Nicola Bradbear and Helen Jackson set up Bees for Development in 1993 after the International Bee Research Association in Cardiff closed its International Development Department. They offer training and advice in beekeeping and publish the quarterly magazine Beekeeping and Development which gathers knowledge from beekeepers throughout the world and offers it to other beekeepers. Readers who cannot pay in money can pay instead in beeswax or beeswax candles. With help from a German agency, the magazine now appears also in French under the title Apiculture et Developpement.