Voices from the Frontline

Tanzania: Beekeeping for sustainable livelihoods and climate resilience

In the Singida region in Tanzania, we meet Sophie who leads the Mashujaa women’s group in diversifying their livelihoods. This is the third of the ‘Voices from the Frontline (Phase-II)’ stories by ICCCAD and GRP.

Written by: Jerry Danny, Charles Mnyororo, Emmanuel Hamisi, and Emmanuel Msumba
GRP Areas of work: Knowledge Theme: Agriculture, nutrition and food security Jobs and livelihoods

One of the telltale signs of climate change in the Singida region in Tanzania is the erratic and inconsistent rainfall patterns each month. The region receives considerably low rainfall, between 500 and 800 mm per year. This has a significant effect on the agricultural sector and small scale farmers during the crop growing period.  

The lack of rainwater and inconsistency in rainfall affects food supply, air quality, and biodiversity. It also impacts livelihoods, sometimes even causing families to be displaced from their homes, which can drive them into poverty. To respond to the impacts of climate change, local community members and smallholder farmers have opted to diversify their livelihoods.

Diversifying with beekeeping

Mashujaa is a group of young women from poor family backgrounds that have come together in a peri-urban village called Uhamaka in Singida Municipal Council. Mashujaa in Swahili means warriors. “We chose this name because it gives us courage to keep on striving to improve our livelihoods,” says Sophia Shaban Juma, the chair of the Mashujaa group.

In 2018, Sophia and her group organised fifteen young women to come together to practice Rotating Savings and Credit Association (ROSCA). This was a way for them to get enough money to invest in sunflower and maize cultivation. Unfortunately, due to climate change the production was low season after season, and this resulted in inadequate income for the women and their families.

After one year of its establishment, the women decided to introduce another income generating activity, beekeeping. Beekeeping is profitable, requires minimal supervision, and is not as easily affected by climate variability. The group acquired a plot for beekeeping, and placed ten local beehives there which would produce 5-7 litres of honey each.

Emmanuel Hamisi

In 2019 the group received technical support from the Sustainable Environment Management Action (SEMA) organisation in partnership with the Foundation of Netherlands Volunteers (SNV) under the Opportunity for Youth Employment program. They took part in beekeeping training and learned entrepreneurship and business skills. Through the training, the Mashujaa group put up an additional 12 modern beehives that produce 20 litres of bee honey. “We found the beekeeping training organized by SEMA beneficial in making our enterprise a success,” says Sophia.

Gender stereotype towards women’s involvement in the beekeeping industry

At the beginning of the project, these young women were misunderstood by the community and encountered strong oppositions. Some of the community members thought the nature of the activities seemed unfit for females, as they involved climbing on big trees to install hives and harvest honey. Despite the opposition, Sophia and her group have worked tirelessly since realizing the potential and opportunities of beekeeping. Instead of being discouraged by the communities’ stereotype, the Mashujaa group plans to multiply their beekeeping investments and extend their markets to the neighbouring country of Kenya. Now they are even seen as role models for other women and girls in their community.

Emmanuel Hamisi

Locally-led Adaptation and strong determination bring success

The Mashujaa group proved they could be successful, even when they faced setbacks and opposition. They were fully determined and ambitious to succeed in their venture. “We feel successful and empowered economically and socially,” says Sophia.

The group members said that their livelihoods and general family status have improved. They are able to provide basic needs for their children and support their relatives with scholastic materials. Sophia says “we no longer stress about rainfall patterns because our investment does not depend much on rainfall like other agricultural businesses.”

Speaking about what lessons others can draw from their initiative, Sophia pointed out the importance of disseminating climate smart technology to the smallholder farmers. She also stressed the importance of being given the opportunity to present the interventions to the community through village meetings and being linked with competitive buyers to improve the market for the intervention. This is crucial as it brings about deeper change in the community.

Interviewers’ perspective: 

Although communities have established other means of livelihoods such as horticulture, beekeeping, poultry, and petty business, they still sometimes lack the knowledge to practice these other options successfully. Governmental organisations and other development partners should lend more support to youth, female-led groups engaged in beekeeping because climate variability affects the productions and productivity of agricultural businesses. Entrepreneurship programs should be provided to youth, and these should be linked with organisations and potential mentors to provide support.

About the interviewers 

  • Jerry Danny is a climate change activist who is interested in and experienced with working with youth in local communities on the climate change adaptation. He also worked with youth through a Catalytic Grant.
  • Charles Mnyororo is an experienced WASH engineer. He applies his knowledge in WASH school interventions and community interventions. He is also interested in working on climate change.
  • Emmanuel Hamisi is a microfinance expert working with women groups in grassroot communities.
  • Emmanuel Msumba is a youth and microfinance expert with vast experience working with grassroots communities.

All authors currently work with Sustainable Environment Management Action (SEMA) in Tanzania.

About Sophia Shaban Juma 

Sophia Shaban Juma is 28 year old entrepreneur. She is the chair of the Mashujaa group, which initially engaged in sunflower and maize farming, and has since added beekeeping as one of its main activities.