One Bee at a Time

Entrepreneurial ecosystems
In Kyankwanzi District located in Central Uganda, lives Grace Nambasa, a 32-year old wife and mother of four children aged 16, 14, 8 and 4 years. She happily tells us her life story. One that has seen her overcome several hurdles and start living her best life as a result of the knowledge she has acquired from Swisscontact's Inclusive Markets Uganda Project – Improving Markets for Cocoa and Honey in Uganda.

“My siblings and I stayed with my grandfather and attended school in the neighbourhood. My father worked in Kampala and would send money home for our upkeep. One day, he just stopped supporting us. I was in my second year of high school and felt completely destabilized. My siblings felt it too. Since I was the eldest child, I had to carry the weight of my father's responsibilities on my shoulders. I had to get creative and find ways to fend for myself and support my siblings,” explains Grace.

“It can't be that hard", I thought to myself. “Little did I know that my life was about to take a drastic shift and I was not ready for the reality of it. After months of struggling to find a job, I accepted my fate as young people did not get many opportunities to make money. I spent most parts of my day idling around and had become extremely desperate,” reminisces Grace. “After some time, I found a man who fell in love with me and we got married. He gave me an acre of his land to farm on.” 

Grace chose to plant maize despite her not having any agronomic skills. Naturally, she made several mistakes and was not able to realize a profitable yield. She was barely making enough to keep her afloat and to sustain the venture. “I started losing hope in my future and when I looked at my children, it saddened me that I could not provide the comfortable life I dreamt for them. I did not like that I constantly borrowed money from my husband to attend to most of my family needs. I desired to be independent and was willing to try new things.”

One day, she heard about Ntwetwe Area Bee Co-operative Society, who were encouraging beekeeping within the area. After paying the office a visit, she was convinced to join and was deeply immersed in the cooperative's activities. This came naturally as she was keen to learn as much as she could to change her life. Because of her devotion, she was selected to be a Community-Based Trainer (CBT) in beekeeping and community savings.

Grace harvests a honeycomb while a group member smokes the bees away.

Grace smokes out the bees.

“Swisscontact through Ntwetwe Area Cooperative Society Ltd. facilitated the capacity building of 15 CBTs. We were all trained on apiary management, leadership, business skills and financial literacy using the group savings and lending model. I was thrilled to be selected to participate in the training sessions because I learnt new skills and improved my social standing in the community. Im now a respected member who is helping equip several smallholder beekeepers with adequate skills to flourish in beekeeping,” Grace says proudly.

She decided to continue farming on half an acre to secure her food and used the other half to venture into beekeeping. At first, she harvested 18 kilograms of combed honey from 4 beehives and sold her entire harvest to the cooperative earning CHF 48.

“I prefer beekeeping to other farming enterprises because it isn't labour intensive. Today I own 48 beehives and I actively train other beekeepers within my community. Each group pays me a training facilitation fee for my services. It feels good to have more income to attend to my family needs. I currently save CHF 3 a month with my savings group and plan to increase the amount in due course. I aspire to have a forest full of beehives one day.”

“Initially, people were sceptical about beekeeping as bee stings can be fatal, and they didn't believe they could make notable profits out of the trade. Now, more people within the community, even women, are warming up to the idea. I'm extremely happy to see them grow and reduce their dependency on their husbands.”

“The capacity building sessions facilitated by Swisscontact have really helped Ntwetwe Areas Bee Cooperative Society Ltd. to promote beekeeping in my area. Many community members have now embraced the trade and are able to manage their apiaries well which means we are able to get more honey and products for sale. The linkages made with Centenary Development Bank has helped our farmers access money and improve their businesses. We currently have 800 registered beekeepers and hope to increase this number to over 2,000”, reiterates Henry Jaggwe, the Cooperative Manager at Ntwetwe Area Bee Cooperative Society Ltd. 

The Inclusive Markets Uganda Project (IMU) - The Improving Markets for Cocoa and Honey in Uganda aims to increase the incomes of smallholder farmers and micro-enterprises within the cocoa and honey market systems. It does this by increasing farmers accessibility to markets, enhanced production technologies and agricultural value chain financing mechanisms. The project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Medicor Foundation.