International volunteering for 18-25 year olds

Meet the Zambian honey makers giving away 50,000 beehives

Zambian social enterprise BeeSweet is giving away 50,000 beehives

BeeSweet isn’t your average social enterprise. 

This Zambian business has set itself an impressive target – to give away 50,000 beehives to local farmers, who can then support their families and communities by producing good quality honey. 

It’s an ethical way of making sure the honey money goes straight to those making the honey - ensuring that local Zambian farmers have a steady income. 

We spoke to Zambian Challenges ICS volunteer Irvin Nkofela to find out why he’s 'buzzing' about the concept. 

Business alternative to charity 

“What I like about BeeSweet is that it is providing a business alternative to charity for the local community,” explained Irvin. 

“It’s adding value not only to every product they produce but also to the lives of each and every farmer they partner with.” 

BeeSweet works on a ‘micro-franchise’ model, which means it allows farmers in Zambia to copy their ideas and processes so they can set up their own businesses. 

“Not only do they produce high quality, certified organic honey for sale but they also help save trees and substantially increase the incomes of rural farmers in Zambia,” said Irvin. 

Democratic process 

The secret to BeeSweet’s success is its strong relationship with farmers. With local areas split up into ‘schemes’ that are well-suited for beekeeping, each scheme is managed by a mentor. 

It’s a democratic process. These mentors are elected by the farmers themselves and act as a link between the farmers and BeeSweet to make sure everyone’s interests are heard. 

“BeeSweet train and equip the mentor and their harvesters with necessary beekeeping skills,” Irvin explained. 

“They are given the task of going round each scheme to check in on the hives, making sure that they are all occupied with bees. Later they also help farmers harvest the honey.” 

BeeSweet invest in local Zambian farmers to produce honey

Nothing but high quality honey 

Everything from visiting the hives to the checking and harvesting are done by the mentor and their harvesters. 

The farmer only needs to take the honey to the collection point, where BeeSweet then buy up all the honey from the farmers in that scheme according to the market price. 

That honey is then transported to a processing plant where it is processed and packaged for sale inside and outside Zambia. 

“Every bottle packaged in the plant contains nothing but high-quality honey with a great natural taste that has captured the hearts, minds, and wallets of customers,” said Irvin. 

Giving away 50,000 beehives 

Now one of the fastest-growing honey companies on the continent, BeeSweet is an incredible idea that has created a queue of companies lining up to do business. 

And it’s not just businesses who benefit from BeeSweet. Consumers are buying into its ethical approach towards improving the lives of everyday Zambians. 

Not only are they supplied with great honey but each and every penny the company makes is used to enrich the lives of local people by building schools, clinics and more hives to expand the business. 

“You’ve got to understand that what we are doing is nuts,” added BeeSweet founding entrepreneur John Enright. 

“We have made 50,000 beehives and we are giving them all away.” 

This article is part of a series on Global Entrepreneurship Week 2016. To find out more about the work of Challenges ICS supporting small enterprises in developing countries, click here.

Tags: 

About the Author

Jack Howson