Field update: Honey harvest in southwest Madagascar

Across the world, Blue Ventures has been mobilising to face the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis amongst the coastal communities that we work with. Whilst some of our team have been repatriated or are having to work from home, many of our field staff are still able to access field sites and provide vital support to the isolated communities with whom we work. 

The main objectives of our field teams are: to reduce community transmission of the virus; to protect the most vulnerable people; to strengthen healthcare systems and support continued delivery of essential services; and to adapt existing livelihood programmes to ensure that communities can sustain channels of income. More information on our response can be found here.

At Blue Ventures, much of our work is dedicated to supporting alternative livelihood opportunities for isolated coastal communities. Now more than ever, supplementing fisher incomes and releasing pressure on their natural resources is crucial; in Madagascar, fewer collectors are buying seafood and most catches are for local consumption, meaning that fishers aren’t able to sell consistently and what they do sell is for a much lower price. Over the past couple of months, our field teams have seen just how much of a lifeline alternative livelihood initiatives can be, particularly during times of crisis. 

Following the ongoing success of our aquaculture programmes, in 2016 we started to explore another livelihood opportunity – beekeeping, also known as apiculture. The initiative was initially launched in Ankingabe, a small coastal village in northwest Madagascar, but has since been launched in the southwest too. Since capturing the first colonies in 2018, community members from the villages of Befandefa, Ankindranoke and Andalambezo in southwest Madagascar have been managing beehives and harvesting the sweet, salty Malagasy mangrove honey to earn additional income and provide for their families. 

 

Beekeeping also helps to overcome gender inequality within these communities, offering women in the villages a chance to earn their own money and learn new technical skills, giving them more authority amongst their peers. 

From a conservation perspective, our apiculture programmes are also proving themselves as a way of preserving mangroves – critical ecosystems for both people and wildlife in Madagascar. Cutting, in particular for the production of lime to using mangrove wood to burn shells, is a persistent threat to the state of mangrove forests.For local communities, the installation of hives in these areas is an additional incentive to protect the mangroves, which provide bees with what they need to produce honey.

Despite the COVID-19 crisis, some beekeepers were able to harvest their honey. In May, Cicelin Rakotomahazo, our Blue Forests Coordinator in Andavadoaka, attended a honey harvest in Befandefa and Ankindranoke. Beekeepers filled three tanks with extracted honey from just one and a half hives – a promising and encouraging sign that will hopefully inspire them to expand the hives, and other community members to get involved in this activity. The sale of honey can help families cope with the current socioeconomic impact of the pandemic, whilst other markets have become unstable.

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