The Lebialem Hunters' Beekeeping Initiative was launched in November 2007 to investigate the potential of beekeeping as an economic alternative to bushmeat hunting.

During a pilot phase, two prominent hunters were trained by a local beekeeping group, Menji Beekeeping and Environmental Education Consortium. The success of this pilot was reviewed and the market opportunities for selling honey and beeswax explored in April and May 2008.

Following receipt of a grant from the International Primatological Society, the second phase of the project began in September 2008 with the training of 33 hunters from two villages. Since then, the project has expanded to work with eight communities and more than 140 hunters.

During a five day workshop in March 2009, hunters appointed by ERuDeF as community-based coordinators for the project were trained and certified as beekeeper trainers by a team of successful beekeepers from the Northwest Region of Cameroon. This training was also attended by Brian Durk from Bees Abroad UK.

Initial training sessions in the communities are conducted over a period of one week. The implementation team consists of an experienced local beekeeper, Amingu David, and the project coordinator from ERuDeF, Asong Gladys. The community-based coordinator in each village provides vital support to the project team by making the necessary local arrangements, informing hunters about the trainings and assisting David with practical demonstrations.

During initial training sessions, participants are provided with the materials and instruction necessary to construct their own top-bar hive. These hives are made out of timber, bamboo or sticks depending on what is available. Local-style hive types are also encouraged because they tend to be cheaper to produce. In Lebialem, these are often in the form of hollowed-out palm trees or clay pots.

Common Initiative Groups (CIGs) are established in each community following initial training sessions. Each hunters' beekeeping CIG has a democratically elected executive committee to manage its affairs. The purpose of establishing these groups is to encourage the trainees to assist one another with their beekeeping and marketing activities.

Learn more >

Starter packages of equipment are given to new CIGs. These packages contain smokers, harvesting suits, gloves, construction tools for making bee hives and a selection of beekeeping training resources. Most of this equipment has been sponsored by the International Primate Protection League and Bees for Development Trust.

The CIGs have the option of joining ERuDeF's Environment, Microfinance and Enterprise Development Programme. This will enable them to apply for micro-loans from the Lebialem Highlands Environmental Protection Fund to expand their beekeeping enterprises.

Follow-up visits are made to each community every six months because it takes 2-3 years to learn to keep bees successfully. Support over the long-term is essential to ensure that any problems encountered by the beekeepers are resolved. The community-based coordinators are the link between the CIGs and the implementation team. They are encouraged to report on progress as well as any setbacks that the beekeepers experience.

Once the CIGs have become established as functioning beekeeping networks and local demand for bee products has been saturated, the CIGs will join together under a beekeeping association in order to access distant markets. Members of the association will be elected to different roles to deal with quality control, processing, distribution, marketing and further training.

Research is an integral part of the project. The collection of data from participants is necessary to evaluate the potential of beekeeping as an economic alternative to bushmeat hunting. Data are collected during initial training sessions and follow-up sessions using standard of living questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with trainees.