When our initiative was launched two years ago, the Ferme-École SAIN already had some projects in the field of eco-tourism and sustainable agriculture, but there was no apiculture until then. In the last two years, apiculture has become an essential farm branch, and we would like to highlight the development in three core areas of impact.
The entire initiative is based on the idea of sustainability and places particular emphasis on social, environmental, and economic sustainability. The cooperative forms long-term relationships with the surrounding communities, educates and brings people together. Besides, we try to make the economic benefits from nature conservation tangible.
In the coming year, we will focus our sustainability efforts on creating a biodiversity hotspot on the project site. Biodiversity is important on a global level, but locally we are primarily concerned with increasing the productivity of bees by providing them with a healthy, more natural, and flower-rich environment. To this end, we will reforest an area with new trees and plant a flower-rich undergrowth. When selecting the plants, we work together with the Botanical Garden of the University of Hamburg and with a local research group. We take care to promote native, endangered and easy-to-grow plants in order to create a diverse tertiary forest.
Mouvement Miel empowers so effectively because keeping Bees is not bound to owning property. This makes the sources of income accessible to a broad population, including women and children. This is one of the key reasons why we chose to implement a beekeeping project in the first place. Moreover, the form of cooperative enterprise encourages the participation of equal stakeholders.
From the beginning, the construction and equipping of a processing room for honey and wax were at the centre of our efforts in the field of empowerment. The space should be freely accessible so everyone can share the equipment and start beekeeping without making a significant initial investment. In 2022, the foundation stone was laid for the building, which is to be completed by summer 2023.
The current cohort of project students is therefore working on importing the necessary beekeeping materials to equip the building. It is vital that we finance only the construction of the building and the purchase of the materials and that Mouvement Miel is self-financed in the long term because financial independence is a central component of empowerment.
In order to make the academic framework surrounding the Movement Miel initiative tangible for the people of Benin, we have carried out several training programs in the past. It all started in the summer of 2021 when the first three project students arrived in Benin together with the advising beekeeper Frank Snijders. They started the project and laid the foundation of knowledge by bringing along books and online classes that we developed together with the organisation Bees for development. They trained Daniel Dah Messe to become Mouvement Miel's first Beninese beekeeper. Today, Daniel is the head beekeeper and passes on his knowledge in seminars.
In the seminars, with about 30 participants each, he imparts broad entry-level knowledge. He teaches the four production steps: production, harvest, procession and storage, which are very important for the quality assurance of honey and wax. He also explains the negative consequences of the adulteration of honey, which is unfortunately often practised in Benin. In total, the ‘formation à l’apiculture’ seminar takes 2-3 days and has been offered once a year.
In 2023, we will help Daniel to carry out the seminar for the last time and equip him with all the tools he needs to conduct them on his own in the future.