“Sweet” program supports families and protects habitat biodiversity
Though undeniably tiny in comparison with a 400-pound silverback gorilla, bees are giants of biodiversity. Through their daily activity, they ensure the health of the habitats in which they work, pollinating crops that humans and animals rely upon to survive. Bees also produce honey, which they eat to survive during the winter when other food is scarce. Careful beekeepers can harvest the excess honey for consumption or sale without harming the bee colonies.
Helping people near gorilla forests
As part of our work to help people who live near the Grauer’s gorilla habitat in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Fossey Fund has been working to teach beekeeping techniques to local community members. At a recent two-day training session, Fossey Fund staffers taught 10 community members how to create their own bee colonies and harvest the honey.
In addition to its nutritional value — honey contains vitamins B and C, calcium, iron and more — honey has a significant economic value. Beekeeping is a potential income-generating activity that can contribute to the development of the local economy while lessening human reliance on the forest. Beekeepers in the area where we work – the Nkuba Conservation Area – are now learning how to produce the honey as well as how to package and market it.
“When I was in Goma, I saw how others pack honey in boxes and sell it in supermarkets. This inspired me to do the same,” said Tondo Mokole, one of the community members who participated in the training. “I hope this training will contribute to the improvement of my living conditions instead of hunting, fishing or mining.”
Beekeeping supports gorilla forest management
Honey production in Nkuba and other villages surrounding the gorilla conservation area will not only provide a source of household income, but also support sustainable management of the forests where the critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas live.
Urbain Ngobobo, director of the Fossey Fund’s Congo programs, says that “we hope that these communities will take ownership of this beekeeping initiative both to improve their income and to preserve the natural environment of the forest by reducing the human pressure on the wild fauna and flora in Nkuba.”
Today, a liter of honey in the region costs $25, and to find it one must walk more than 30 kilometers from Nkuba to a nearby market. Community members should soon be able to source honey closer to home. Participants in our training program also indicate they will be able to use the proceeds to improve the lives of their families.
“This program offers another way for community members to partner with us in saving their own piece of this critical forest habitat,” says Ngobobo. “It’s why we say our mission is ‘helping people, saving gorillas.’ ”