The United Methodist Committee on Relief is empowering farmers through sustainable agriculture projects which supplement nutrition and income in rural communities. Projects include crop management and raising livestock. See how farmers in Liberia are turning beekeeping into a successful business.
(Tunukuk Puye, Liberia)
Joe Gatei: "God is answering my prayer, and things are working well."
Joe Gatei is sending his four children to school by selling honey from his beehives. UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, trains Liberian farmers in beekeeping and other trades to supplement income.
Joe Gatei, Beekeeper: "These are African bees, very strong bees. They are very hardworking bees. That's why I am investing all my capital in this program."
Gatei has 50 hives and hopes to eventually have three times that number.
Joe Gatei: "Cause every time I work and I get a little money, I invest it in here."
Ezekiel Freeman, UMCOR Field Coordinator: "We were giving them a sense of generating their own income and also giving them skills, like I said, because improving one's development is a skill by itself."
Ezekiel Freeman is a field coordinator for UMCOR's Sustainable Agriculture and Development Program.
Ezekiel Freeman: "Right now I work as country coordinator for West Africa Initiatives. Sustainable agriculture, as the name implies, has to do with building up the capacity of people, especially rural people who live in rural communities. For the farmer, beekeeping does not actually take up much activity. So it doesn't detract them from what they were doing. There were still farming, and it was other source of income."
The beekeeping program began in 2009. Some farmers who started with five hives have ten times that number now.
William P'Sawolo, Beekeeper: "Since I started, my condition improved. My living conditions have improved."
While the thick Liberian forests provide the majority of the resources needed for harvesting bees, the West Africa Initiative invests in necessary tools and training to help the farmers get started.
Ezekiel Freeman: "...a lot of resources in the community, but sometimes people of the community doesn't know that they have the resources until somebody can help them facilitate the process."
Liberian women are also generating income from the beekeeping industry. Local seamstresses are commissioned to make the protective wear for farmers out of two layers of mosquito nets, a breezy alternative to traditional bee suits.
Hidden within a small village, the bright yellow building housing the Liberia Pure Honey company stands out. It's a processing and training facility that helps farmers get their honey to market.
Ezekiel Freeman: "Cause when we started beekeeping, marketing was a problem. So we organized a company called the Liberian Pure Honey.
And Liberian Pure Honey is collecting from the farmers, package, and then sending it to Monrovia for sale."
Currently, Liberian honey is only available locally. In order to sell it internationally, 50 tons a year must be produced. Five tons are being produced now. Gatei believes that a promising future is not out of reach.
Joe Gatei: "Somebody who came here in 2009, I promised that in 10 years time, Liberia should be exporting real African honey. That's my determination. That's a vision I see, and I'm working towards that. And that's why I'm encouraging the community dwellers here to do that."
The West Africa Initiative has received worldwide recognition for the program's achievements. Liberian farmers and their families are enjoying the benefits of sweet success.
Ezekiel Freeman: "I see it as a good thing. And seeing the praises from people and improving the livelihood of people, it's a blessing from God. And then also people appreciate our work. And so we feel good doing that."
For more information on sustainable agriculture and development programs, Advance project # 982188, visit UMCOR.org.
Posted: May 30, 2013