Written by Diamonds for Peace Liberia staff
Diamonds for Peace (DFP) found that artisanal diamond workers (miners and diggers) are trapped in a cycle of dependency on local investors and poverty. The miners are Liberian men and women who have (or are supposed to have) an artisanal mining license to own and operate mining claims; the diggers are mostly men who dig the ground for diamonds; while the local investors, called supporters, are those who provide financial and/or material supports to run the mining activities. In return for the financial and material supports, the supporters who don’t necessarily have broker licenses buy the recovered diamonds at their own conveniently low prices.
It is their biggest hope that miners and diggers will be able to run their own mining activities with their own funds and sell the recovered diamonds to a buyer of their choice.
DFP thinks bee keeping can be a side business for artisanal miners/diggers to increase their income efficiently and it would also be beneficial to protect the forests in which they live. DFP found an NGO in Liberia providing bee keeping training and a company which buys all the harvested honey for a fair price. Diamonds for Peace received funding from the Toyo Tire Environmental Fund to introduce bee keeping to the cooperative in Weasua, Liberia.
Bee keeping/bee farming is a form of agricultural activity through which bees are domesticated for the production of honey. Bee keeping is a locally available option for effective and efficient income generation for artisanal diamond workers and other rural community dwellers. According to a study conducted by USAID, honey production in the USA and Europe has decreased, which brings about the demand for imported honey. At the same time, there is high domestic demand for honey in Liberia. According to Universal Outreach Foundation (UOF), a local NGO that provides training in beekeeping, it is estimated that it will take about five to ten years to satisfy the domestic market. Giving the efficiency and the availability of a market for honey, it is viable that the artisanal diamond workers get involved with beekeeping to generate income and improve their work and lives.
DFP and UOF Working Together
To ensure the cooperative receive beekeeping training, DFP has hired the services of UOF to conduct the training. In partnership with DFP, UOF has conducted the beekeeping training for 70 participants. Following the training, UOF has been conducting monthly practical training to provide continuous support to the participants until they master beekeeping.
The training Participants
The training targeted 20 official participants and 50 observers, total 70 participants. The 20 official participants included 7 cooperative members, 5 women group members, 4 diggers’ association members and 4 members of the community leadership. The observers list included 16 cooperative members, 9 members of the diggers’ association, 21 members of the women group and 4 members of the community leadership. The enthusiasm was high, people expressed a high level of interest in the training, as there were even more people who wanted to participate in the training.
The training comprised of three activities, the class room discussion, the field activity which involved the installation of beehives in the bush and the building of beehives. During the class room discussion, the participants were taught the lifecycle of bees, bee behavior, the types of bees and the work they do, how to keep safe when beekeeping, and how to manage the beehives.
On day one of the training, the trainer introduced beekeeping as a very essential income generating activity that brings economic relieve to a whole community. During this session, the participants learned that the queen bee, the drone bee and the worker bee are the three different sorts of bees that live in each bee colony. The queen bee is the mother bee that is responsible for all the egg laying; laying 1000 eggs every day. The queen bee dictates the behavior of the worker bees. The drone bees’ only job is to mate with the queen bee for the production of eggs. The worker bees are responsible for all the work in the hive; they collect pollen and nectar to make honey.
After the discussion session, the trainer moved the participants into the field for site selection. During the site selection exercise, the participants were taught to look out for flowering trees and water; these two factors highly support the success of beekeeping. They were also taught to watch out for the bee’s enemies which include ants, termites, etc. Termites eat up the beehive while the ants drive away bees.
On day two, the participants recapped the activities from day one and learned beehive management and how to keep safe when domesticating bees. Following these discussions, all the participants moved into the field for a (ready-made) beehive installation exercise, under the trainer’s supervision. The participants learned the techniques to be applied when installing a beehive in the field.
On day three, the participants recapped day two activities, discussed their experiences with the field exercise and then continued the beehive installation exercise.
On day four, the participants again discussed their experiences of the field activities and then continued hive installation, and on day five, the trainer took the whole day to teach the participants how to build a beehive with wood planks. This exercise was an entertaining learning exercise that involved the participation of both men and women training participants. They were taught the different measurements and the skills for using the saw and hammer to cut and join the wood to make the beehive shape.[Acknowledgement] A Japanese jewelry designer, MIO HARUTAKA, donated 150 planks. Participants and DFP are very grateful for her donation.
All the training participants found the training very interesting, they liked the exercise a lot and were highly motivated about the training activities each day. The participants turned out on time daily for the training and were willing to complete all the activities for each day. They see the training as a boost in their quest for economic relief. The cooperative, the women’s group, the diggers’ association and the community leadership are very grateful to DFP and its donor partners for bringing such opportunity to their doorstep. They asked DFP to provide additional planks to make more beehives, top bars for the hives, and zinc to cover and protect the hives against rain.
Front Photo: Training participants pose for a photo after a beehives installation exercise in the bush