5 minute read

Beekeeping development in Luapula Province, Zambia

by Jeremiah Mbewe, District Forestry Officer and Mogens Wium, Development Worker 

Bark hive beekeeping and honey hunting are forest-based activities commonly practised in rural parts of Zambia. In Luapula Province fishing is traditional and beekeeping is quite new phenomenon, with bark hive beekeeping knowledge starting only in the 1980s. Although Government forestry personnel have existed for many years they practised more office work than field extension. This was mainly due to lack of transport, and of training methods for easy understanding and adoption of extension services.

1996 was year that brought hope within reach of farmers. The Forestry Department was given an opportunity for funding from the FINNIDA (Finnish Government Aid) backed “Provincial Forestry Action Programme”. This led to problem identification at community level, resulting in villagers making their own plans for resource management. Beekeeping was among the forestry related issues that arose. In March 1997 the first extensive beekeeping training was conducted in bark hive construction and use. Other types of hives introduced during the training were grass and calabash, although bark hives predominated.

In July 1997 the Danish development organisation MS -Zambia also started funding Mansa in beekeeping, and Development Worker was attached to advise on beekeeping matters. Drafts of awareness-raising materials were made and distributed to pilot areas, selected according to community demand.

Beekeeping courses were offered in these areas in the first quarter of 1998, with an additional course in July on top- bar hive beekeeping. This was intended to help women participate in beekeeping. Traditionally women are expected not to climb trees, but with top-bar hives there is no necessity for this. 

During the first season of the year theoretical and practical training in bark hive beekeeping are given, with subsequent follow-up visits. In the second season training is given in honey cropping and grading, processing of honey and beeswax, and bottling and marketing honey.

In this quarter we also run courses in beekeeping using top-bar hives made from bricks. Local people are traditionally good at moulding and firing bricks and building with them. This has brought success in hive construction.

However occupancy by the bees, and colony management are two major problems preventing the wider adoption of this innovative hive. Also top-bar hives are more labour-intensive and people return to bark hives that are easier to make. 

The course in bark hive beekeeping raised interest from several surrounding communities such that demand has exceeded both human and financial support. In order to cope with this problem, the best performing beekeepers have been selected for training as Community Facilitators. This training started in February 1999. Training for these Community Facilitators is practical rather than academic. In new pilot areas it is the Community Facilitators who are given training rather than Government beekeepers. The Government Extension Officer is there only to monitor the performance of Community Facilitators during training (to identify pedagogical, technical, participatory and practical shortfalls). These shortfalls are noted and advice is given to the Community Facilitators before continuation in the next pilot area.

Through this approach these Facilitators are training surrounding communities. The response has been very good and there are now 21 pilot areas, and people in over 30 villages trained in beekeeping. 

Honey harvest has risen from four tonnes in 1997 to nine tonnes in 1998. Production is still below consumption because most of the honey is used for field labour, food, Imbile, and honey beer, Imbote. Though the market is there, production is still minimal and it will take another five years to satisfy the local market in Luapula Province. 

The major constraints are:

- Lack of proper organisation by the communities to form structures for co-operation that would help them in fixing prices and exploring the market;

 - Inadequate sensitisation of the business community on local availability and prospects for honey and beeswax business; 

- Lack of knowledge by businessmen on how to go about this type of business;

- Increased beekeeping activities in the long run put pressure on forests.

 We invite the sharing of experience to continue improving rural peoples’ living standards.

Forest Certification in Zambia 

A Report on “Forest Certification in Zambia” prepared for the European Forestry Institute (written by B&D reader Ben Masumba Robertson) provides much information and further contacts. The Report can be seen at www.efifi/cis/english/creports/zambia.html

Bees for Development provides Workshop Boxes to Zambia

“Thanks so much for the Workshop Box of teaching materials containing 100 issues of B&D, wall charts, and other information from Bees for Development” Weston Davy Sakala, District Forestry Officer, Nchelenge, Zambia

“Thank you Bees for Development. am glad to write that the Workshop Nchelenge Beekeepers, Association, Luapula Province, Zambia fe Se Box we received in May 1999 assisted us very much to organise beekeepers’ groups in three different development associations in Nchelenge District.” Gaspard Mwangilwa, Nchelenge Beekeepers’ Association, Zambia

The average cost to Bees for Development of one Workshop Box, which provides copies of B&D, posters, books and information leaflets for up to 100 people, is 50 (US$80). We need help to continue providing this service. Please contact us (address on page two) if you can help.


Miombo woodlands are the largest continuous dry deciduous forests in the world. They extend across much of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa: Angola, DR Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe share some 2.8 million km² of miombo woodland. That is 2.8 million km² of beekeeping!