A STORY FROM THE FIELD
In December 2016, we asked the Universal Outreach community to give the gift of beekeeping. Three months later and the our beekeeping team was on the road to south-east Liberia to train a community to beekeep. Enjoy this story from Cecil Wilson, Universal Outreach’s Country Coordinator and head of the Beekeeping Extension Team, as he tells you about his journey into south-east Liberia and meeting some of Liberia’s infamous honey hunters.
“When we arrived in the village, community members lingered close by with great expectation. They’ve heard about improved beekeeping practices and many times both government and NGO’s have promised to train them, but never have those promises materialized. This community is noted for having the most fruitful and brave honey hunters in Liberia.
When they were told that the Universal Outreach would help them with training and starter kits, it seems like one of the many promises they received in the past. Now the vehicles were coming into their village full of beekeeping supplies. At this point it seems like a dream to them. Some skeptical people thought that we had come to draw honey from their rich forest where thousands of Kola trees mingle with other forest trees, for our personal gain, but soon enough we knew they would realize our team was set to deliver a beekeeping program unlike any other they have ever seen and dispel their concerns about potential ulterior motives behind our presence.
The training goal was to construct sixty beehives for twenty participants, supply them with hive management knowledge, honey extraction equipment and also a year of intensive extension support for as long as they remain committed to beekeeping’s best practices. They are also going to receive top dollar for their honey when harvest comes.
On the first day of the workshop, the venue was stormed with more then forty people seeking to be admitted into the training hall, but—as the nature of our program is—knowledge is available for those who see the value, so we allow all interested persons to sit and drink from the facilitators. The Universal Outreach facilitators have been trained to help people seeking to jump out of poverty and move up the economic ladder to a life where they have a better influence over the direction their children’s lives take. Up until this point this community generates its income from farming, a little hunting and honey hunting.
Precisely forty-two people went through the training, but at the end only the targeted twenty persons received beehives. The other inputs such as beekeeping suits and harvest equipment will be shared on an “as per needed “basis. They were also told that the extra people who were allowed to sit in on the workshop will receive our extension support if they take the initiative to build their own hives.
This was also the first workshop in which participants elected a person who did not receive beehives to be their chairperson. To our surprise he went on to start the construction of sixty hives in the month following the training—a sign of true resilience!
It is our hope that these people, with their great knowledge of their Kola forest and existing experience with bees, will create the best possible environment for the bees; become the bee’s champion and not its enemy; and become productive honey producers and conservationists.” – Cecil S. Wilson