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Beekeeping: Meet a mentor

Kaloko’s beekeeping programme is well established and the more experienced beekeepers now have the expertise to offer invaluable support to the newcomers. Our mentoring scheme links the two groups. The mentors support other beekeepers with technical advice, share their experience, and encourage diligence and tenacity.

One such mentor is Thomas Kafula Chipasha, a 58 year old widower from Old Fubela, with five children who he has raised on his own since his wife died 10 years ago. He is a well-regarded, intelligent and likeable member of the Kashitu community. Thomas’s biggest difficulty is ensuring he has enough income over the course of the year to feed and clothe his children and send them to school. In the past he turned to burning local woodland to make charcoal, a physically demanding and environmentally devastating job. However, three years ago Kaloko Zambia’s natural resources officer Martin Jere came into his village looking for volunteers for a beekeeping livelihoods programme. Martin explained that participants would be trained and given the information and equipment they needed to start harvesting honey. The selected trainees would need to dedicate time and effort to understand the process of beekeeping, learning the skills to work most effectively with bees. It can take at least two years for new beekeepers to successfully grasp the key principles. Thomas was not put off by the commitment required and said he considered this a great opportunity to supplement his meagre income and see if he could build a small business with the skills and tools provided.

Since then Thomas has successfully tested and adapted his approach to working with bees and is now regarded as one of the most knowledgeable members of the expanding beekeeping community. He earns a steady low level of additional income through the sale of honey locally and is also part of the group leading the growth of the cooperative. The coop plans to start bulk marketing so that their honey can be sold at a higher price in the major cities.

Earlier this year Thomas readily volunteered to become a mentor to new beekeeping farmers in the programme. Kaloko provided him with a bicycle and additional training in monitoring and troubleshooting beekeeping problems. The additional training and support has given him even greater skills and knowledge as well as status and respect within the community. Thomas has a message for new beekeepers, saying ‘the key to long-term success with bees is respect and patience.’