Written by Diamonds for Peace Liberia staff
Overview of the bee keeping activities
Diamonds for Peace in partnership with Universal Outreach Foundation (UOF) will implement the bee keeping activities in Weasua in order to empower the artisanal diamond workers and community residents to raise their income and live improved lives.
Diamonds for Peace is working with the artisanal diamond workers in Weasua through; the cooperative, diggers’ association, women’s group and the community leadership to help improve their working and living conditions by providing technical support. The cooperative’s structure is comprised of diamond miners (men and women who have license to own mining claims) and farmers; they are working together for common success. The diggers are mainly men who dig for diamonds. The diggers are also a part of the cooperative through their leadership.
The artisanal diamond workers are trapped in a vicious circle of dependency on supporters who exploit them continuously. The supporters are those people (usually Liberians) who provide the financial and material supports to run the mining activities and buy the recovered diamonds from the workers in return. Supporters often buy the diamonds at their convenient low price at the disadvantage of the diamond workers. The workers understand the issues and they want to break their relationship with those supporters. One of the ways to do it is for the workers to gain self-reliance status. As a way of supporting the diamond workers, Diamonds for Peace sees the beekeeping activities as one of the means through which they can raise their income efficiently and gradually be able to support their own mining projects.
View of the Weasua community
Honeybee keeping is the maintenance of bee colonies in man-made hives for the production of honey. However, keeping the bees is relatively strange to the residents of Weasua Town and probably many Liberians as well. Not many people are aware that bees can be domesticated, they are only aware of wild bees. Bees are viewed by many as dangerous insects that have the ability to cause serious injury or even kill people. Only few persons are brave; such people are courageous to go out in search of the wild bees’ colonies in order to collect their honey.
Keeping bees is very efficient, the bee farmers don’t have a lot of work to do after setting up the beehives; they only need to take about 10 minutes weekly to properly care for the beehives. That is why we find it as an effective and efficient side business for the artisanal diamond workers to do in order to raise their income and improve their working and living conditions.
Introduction of the bee project to the community stakeholders
Diamonds for Peace and UOF visited Weasua town and held a community meeting with the stakeholders; in the meeting the team explained the bee keeping activities. Beekeeping is efficient, it brings economic benefits without much stress, and it contributes to the preservation of the rainforest to the advantage of the community dwellers. Bees are dangerous, but they can be domesticated without causing harm with the use of specialized skills and equipment.
Toyo Tire, a Japanese company dealing in tires, will fund the beekeeping project for 20 beginners; UOF will conduct the beekeeping training and follow up with the trained participants for 11 months to ensure they master the beekeeping skills. Diamonds for Peace will supervise, monitor and coordinate the project and maintenance of the equipment/tools to be handed over to the cooperative.
Understanding the benefits of domesticating bees and its efficiency, the community stakeholders think the project is good and it will bring them good results; therefore, they accepted to have the project.
The beekeeping assessment team conducts feasibility study
In order to conduct successful beekeeping activities, a feasibility study to establish the possibility of the project’s success in a community must be conducted first. The team visited Weasua and conducted the study taking into consideration the following indicators:
- Natural resources; tree quantity, and water bodies
- The people skills in traditional beekeeping
- Business environment; community access to market for the sale of honey
- Population of the community
- Other employment opportunities
Conducting the assessment, the team held general meetings with the community stakeholders to discuss the beekeeping activity and the community willingness to accept the project. The team toured the community for sighting to assess the availability of the natural resources that favor the domestication of bees. The team also conducted interviews with individuals to assess their beekeeping knowledge and their experience with hunting wild bees. Another important assessment was checking the community status in terms of employment and business opportunities.
Findings from the assessment
The result from the assessment exercise shows that Weasua community is feasible for the conduct of the beekeeping activities. The assessment found plentiful natural resources including: rivers, creeks, forest and many fruit trees. These conditions best suit the domestication of bees. The community stakeholders accepted the project and overwhelmingly expressed their willingness to participate as they find it profitable and efficient. The community is accessible and is assured of a possible market for the honey they would produced in the future as UOF would connect them with Liberia Pure Honey, a group that buys all the honey produced under UOF’s training.
Artisanal diamond workers in Liberia are living in poverty; they are vulnerable and are subject to many different unfavorable conditions such as exploitation and abuse of their rights. They are trying to get out of poverty so that they can have decent lives. It is against this background that Diamonds for Peace will not rest but will continue to advocate on behalf of the workers in the artisanal diamond industry until they are self-reliant. The people of Weasua are grateful and they extend their thanks and appreciation to Diamonds for Peace and its partners and donors for the decision to implement the beekeeping project in their community. The stakeholders are overwhelmed and enthusiastic about the project; they cannot wait to get started with the domestication of bees and the reaping of its benefits.