It’s February: heart-covered cards are filling the shops and lovebirds are flocking together. In honour of Saint Valentine, whose special day falls on the 14th and whose name is synonymous with love and devotion, this month’s newsletter encompasses all the things we love at Expert Africa: spectacular wildlife, conservation success stories, science in action, happy travellers and, of course, holidays!
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!
We love hearing safari stories from our travellers and keeping in touch with your unfolding adventures on social media. Your anecdotes, photos and comments are source of real joy. It feels good to know that we’ve done a good job and that you’ve been guided to the perfect place for your holiday. Occasionally, something is sent to us that gets everyone in the team talking.
And so it was when our traveller, Ulrich, returned from his wonderful Kenyan safari and sent us these fabulous pictures from Laikipia Wilderness Camp – unusual photos of a striped hyena and a beautiful melanistic leopard.
Both are spectacular sightings and serve as a good reminder that no matter how many times you go on safari, there are always new and special discoveries to be made.
Please keep sharing your favourite safari images with us – it makes our day! Call us, email us or tag us on your African adventures @expertafrica.
Merits of Mitigation
Across Africa, mitigating human-wildlife conflict is a hot topic, with thousands of people working on the issue. At times, solutions can seem far-fetched, even comical, despite coming from highly qualified scientists or experienced local guides. Together, they are all determined to improve the lives of local people and wildlife alike and their role is critical for wildlife conservation.
Wildlife enthusiasts will want to focus on the conservation of animals, but understanding the circumstances of local people is fundamental to effective protection. Living alongside wild animals is tough: having cattle killed by hunting lions or vegetable patches destroyed by elephants is utterly devastating for a subsistence farmer.
We’ve highlighted some of these mitigation projects in previous newsletters, from the bee-keepers of Livingstone attempting to steer elephants away from town, to the Kalahari herdsmen painting eyes on the rumps of cattle to trick predatory lions. Both projects helped to conserve wild animals and protect local people and their livelihoods.
Monitoring the success of these diverse projects is key to the development of long-term strategies and when the results show tangible benefits for all, they’re worth sharing. The Long Shields Lion Guardian Programme near Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe is one such project, in operation since 2013. In an area supporting one of Africa’s greatest lion populations (more than 1000 lions), this community-conservation initiative set out to reduce livestock loss and conserve lions at the same time.
Local people here are selected by their community and employed as lion guardians, providing what is effectively an early warning system alerting cattle herders to the presence of lions. Blending traditional knowledge with new technology, each guardian is equipped with a bicycle, a noisy vuvuzela (plastic horn), a GPS device and a smartphone, to move around the local area, loudly scaring off approaching lions and giving farmers time to move their livestock to safer areas.
In the early days of the Lion Guardian programme, farmers were angered by the lion conservation objective. Many of them felt there was greater concern for the lions than for their livelihoods. Their feelings were understandable, but gradually, as lion attacks have been consistently thwarted, the programme has won them over.
The findings show that it has, in fact, been astonishingly effective. Researchers compared livestock killed by lions in the four years before and after the Lion Guardian programme was implemented. It revealed a significant reduction in livestock losses and a 41% drop in retaliatory killings of lions by farmers. It’s a win-win for the community and conservationists, and the project is being used as a model for managing lion conflicts elsewhere in Africa.
As we all know, travel has seen significant change in the last few years. For many, the desire to travel has only deepened, while for others new anxieties have arisen. At Expert Africa, we’re keen to understand these feelings, to meet the needs of all our travellers and to always provide the best possible service.
As members of AITO (The Association of Independent Tour Operators), a specialist travel association who monitor our quality standards, we share these aims with other dedicated travel companies in the association. As travel regulations are lifted worldwide, we’re very interested to hear your views about travel and any changing requirements you may have. With this in mind, we would greatly appreciate your taking a few minutes to click here and complete a short AITO travel survey.
The results are anonymous, your details will not be shared, and you’ll receive a free copy of Wanderlust magazine after completing the survey, which is open until midnight on Monday 28 February 2022.
Thank you in advance for your participation!