West Africa Trade Hub-led webinar introduces “plan bee” for supporting smallholder farmers  

By Sabra Ayres

When most people think of beekeeping, they don’t associate the trade with helping to prevent the devastating spread of deforestation. But in global biodiversity hotspots like the Tai-Greba-Krahn-Sapo Forest Landscape between Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, beekeeping has proven to be not just an income generator for farmers, but also an incentive for protecting West Africa’s delicate forests. Bees need the forest’s floral diversity to produce honey. By investing in beekeeping in these areas, farmers have more reasons to protect the forests for themselves and their bees.  

This unique outcome from investing in small, West African beekeeping enterprises was discussed along with other ecological and economic benefits the industry can bring to communities at a recent webinar hosted by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s West Africa Trade & Investment Hub. The webinar, “From Farm to Beehive: Why Introducing Farmers to Beekeeping is a Win for Farmers, Agribusinesses & the Environment,” included more than 190 participants. The discussion centered on ways that agribusinesses, non-governmental organizations and beekeeping experts could support West African smallholder farmers to produce honey and beeswax to increase economic resilience and highlighted the successes of ongoing beekeeping projects in the region.  

“We heard all the ‘buzz’ about the positive impact of beekeeping on the environment and the endless possibilities in the economic growth space for all stakeholders, and more importantly, for the backbone of this particular supply chain—the respected and hardworking farmers in the field,” said Bettina Boateng, the Senior Regional Communications Manager for USAID/West Africa, during the webinar’s closing remarks. 

The USAID-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Low Emissions Development project (WABiLED), and the Global Shea Alliance (GSA), a USAID partner, were co-hosts for the Feb. 24, 2022, webinar. 

The discussion was moderated by Chaz Kyser, the Communications Manager of the Trade Hub, and featured panelists Nouhou Ndam, Biodiversity Specialist with WABiLED; Shannon Hess, Director of Responsible Sourcing with Burt’s Bees, a Trade Hub grantee; Cecil Wilson, Project Director of the Universal Outreach Foundation; Sylvain Cattin, General Manager of Koster Keunen West Africa, a Trade Hub grantee; and Joseph Funt, Lead of Multistakeholder Strategy for the Partnership for Natural Ingredients, which works with companies to launch or improve beekeeping initiatives. 

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