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Sweet Valentine

5 min read

Updated 01 February 2022

The Maa Trust, Kenya
Picture of Chris McIntyre

By Chris McIntyre

Managing Director

*A version of this article originally appeared in the February 2022 Bush Telegraph newsletter. You can read our recent newsletters and sign-up to receive these in your inbox on our Bush Telegraph newsletter page.

Aside from love, Saint Valentine is also the patron saint of beekeepers. And given the global plight of bees, with their numbers plummeting to disturbing levels, we should all be celebrating apiarists.

There are more than 20,000 species of bees, both solitary and social, found across the globe. Sadly, a warming climate, harmful pesticides and habitat loss are contributing to a decline in their populations. The loss of these vital pollinators has dire consequences for us all.

In Kenya, the Maa Trust Honey Project is hoping to reverse the trend in the Maasai Mara ecosystem. This terrific project combines the conservation need to support African bees with the needs of local people, especially women, to earn a sustainable income. For a US$50 investment, which is matched by the Maa Trust through donations, women’s groups in the Mara can buy a hive and receive beekeeping training. The hives are wholly owned by women’s groups who then manage, harvest and bottle the organic honey. With the help of the Maa Trust, they sell their products on to safari camps and lodges across the Maasai Mara, with 100% of the profits going back to the women who own the hives.

There are currently 105 women, across three groups, engaged in the Maa Honey social enterprise, with expansion on the cards and ambitious plans to have 400 hives in the conservancy over the next three years. And given that the wild blossom honey sells out before it’s even bottled, it’s a thoroughly sustainable business.

For the women involved, the profits make an enormous difference. Collectively they save their earnings to operate micro-finance schemes, from which members can take loans to start small businesses, or purchase ‘wish-list’ items, like water tanks. By working together and pooling their earnings, they can effect significant changes within their communities. While an individual might take years to purchase a water tank for their family, the group can afford to make this kind of significant investment every week. Within months, they can transform a community and the lives of many women. Harvesting clean rainwater from roofs is far healthier and easier than spending hours every day carrying potentially contaminated river water to their homes. Moreover, the time they gain can be used to embark upon new projects.

On top of the huge social and economic benefits, and the delicious honey, careful beekeeping also helps to strengthen the bee gene pool by adding healthy bees back into the population. Just one more reason to feel elated while biting into your honey-drizzled toast on your next Kenyan safari!

If you’ve been inspired and want to find out more, give us a call or enquire now to speak to an expert.

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