happening at an alarming rate. Trees being cut for timber products, clearing land for agriculture, and charcoal making are some of the main reasons in the developing world. But, in Northwestern Zambia trees are being cut for another reason; making beehives.
The Lunda people of Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola have been beekeepers for centuries. Their skills are passed down through generations and more and more people are picking up on the knowledge needed to effectively produce honey.
Beehives are traditionally made by stripping a bark section of a tree and enclosing that to make a beehive. Beekeepers then bait the hive with beeswax, put the hive in a tree and wait for a wild swarm to occupy the hive. Once the bees have made enough honey, it is harvested and everything in the hive is taken out. Many of these bees will die in this process.
This practice used to be sustainable when beekeepers were just producing enough honey to use for home consumption, but now that the honey industry is growing in Zambia, some beekeepers can have 400 or more of these hives. This means that thousands of trees are cut every year to replace hives that have fallen in disrepair and make new ones.
Nature’s Nectar has responded to this problem by working within the Lunda culture of beekeeping and working with beekeepers to provide them with a more sustainable option. Sustainably made Kenyan Top Bar beehives are provided to beekeepers in place of bark beehives.
These new hives, can last 3-4 times longer than bark hives and produce more honey each season. These hives are also suspended in trees, baited with beeswax and occupied by wild swarms, allowing the traditional way of beekeeping to be adapted to a modern and sustainable way. When these hives are harvested, harvesting teams work with beekeepers to harvest the honey with beekeeping equipment that is traditionally not used.
This allows for a safer harvest for the beekeepers and a more sustainable harvest. Traditionally, everything is taken from the hive including the brood and pollen. If these combs are left, this allows for the bees to return to the hive and more easily make more honey. And of course, some combs of honey are also left for the bees as it is also their food!
Nature’s Nectar currently has 1000 beehives out now with 100 beekeepers, and aims to have 50,000 out with 5000 beekeepers in the next 5 years.
All of these beehives will be put around the West Lunga National Park to reduce the amount of deforestation in the Game Management Areas and the park itself. This national park is neglected and has had problems with poaching and deforestation for many years.
There is a long term management plan in the works right now, which aims to rehabilitate this park, bring animals back and restore it to the natural wonder that it is. Honey production will be used as an incentive for people to earn an income from sources other than cutting of trees as well as poaching of animals that are in the area.
The West Lunga Area was once a hotbed for elephants, lions, cheetah, wild dogs and many other animals. With the restoration of the park and the protection of the surrounding area through beekeeping livelihoods, the hope is that this area and its natural environment can once again be an amazing natural wilderness for all to enjoy.
Currently, we are running a campaign through August 8th to raise money for more beehives. If you or anyone you know may be interested in supporting this intiative with more beehives, get in touch through our website and/or contribute on the website.
Stay up to date with what we are doing by signing up for our newsletter on our website, and make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Thank you for your support, and never hesitate to reach out with any questions!
This is a guest post written by Kyle Curry and Katherine Milling.
Kyle and Katherine met in 2014 during their Peace Corps service in Zambia, married in 2017 and love Zambia. They live in Ntambu, Northwestern, Zambia and have no intention to leave this country they now call home. They are Field Operations managers for Nature’s Nectar Zambia.