The business of bees

A social enterprise (not an NGO) from Kenya, Honey Care Africa, recently won the 2005 Africa SMME Award – the first time in the history of the award that a non-South African company has won (SMME: small, medium and micro enterprises). The Africa SMME Awards, initiated by the Africa Centre for Investment Analysis in Stellenbosch, South Africa, was developed to recognise smaller businesses that strive for excellence in order to be competitive in regional, national and international markets

Honeycare, which operates in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, has encouraged small-scale farmers to start beekeeping as a sustainable source of income. It has many international funders.

To date, Honey Care has doubled the income of several thousand small scale farmers through its "Money for Honey" programme, which trains them in commercial beekeeping and then buys their honey at a guaranteed price. Honey Care then packages and sells the highest quality African honey.

Besides producing a range of different honeys for export, Honeycare also produces some value-added export products, including beeswax in a variety of sizes as well as wax-related products such as candles.

Equipment and technology

Most countries in Africa produce beekeeping equipment locally. However, says, Dominique Marchand, managing director of Honeybee Foundation & Products, one of South Africa's largest suppliers of equipment, technology and consultancy, says much more honey and derivative products could and should be produced in African countries for export.

What is required, he says, is mentorship (which his company, for instance, offers) as well as the build-up of networks of marketing and value-adding systems.

Value-added products include confectionery and medications.

Among confectionery products are honey peanut brittle, sunflower seed brittle, fudge, French nougat, honey drops, lollipops, muesli bars and honey gingerbread men.

Among medication products are honey and/or beeswax soap, body lotion, shampoo, hair conditioner, lipstick with sun protection, face cream with royal jelly, propolis heel and foot balm, propolis tincture, royal jelly and creamed honey tonic, pollen, super pollen capsules, propolis and honey throat lozenges.

Alcoholic drinks which can be produced are:

l Mead – Marchand produces an off-dry mead with an alcohol content of 11.5%, which is oak-matured.

l Honey Liqueur – a sweet, aromatic cocktail or after-dinner drink with a 24% alcohol content.

l Honey Beer – a dark bitter-sweet brew with a 7% alcohol content.

Marchand, has written a book on all aspects of beekeeping and related products in Southern Africa.

A general beekeeping and product associated products website: www.beekeeping.com

Marchand

Tel.: +27 (0) 21 511 4567- Fax: +27 (0) 21 511 9962

honeybee@global.co.za ; website: www.beekeeping.com/honeybee-africa

Marchand's book: Beekeeping – a practical guide for Southern Africa, isbn 0958478570.

Honey Care Africa: Tel/Fax: +254203874448/50

Mobile: +254735574448/723574448

E-mail: info@honeycareafrica.com  ; Website: www.honeycareafrica.com