In a distant part of Madagascar, a buzz is in the air, and a degraded environment is coming back to life.
It’s a warm afternoon in MaMaBay, an area in northeastern Madagascar renowned for its exceptional biodiversity; home to many plant and animal species found nowhere else on earth. 69-year-old Grégoire Totobe is showing his 19-year-old grandson, Fidy, how to build a beehive from dried stems of raffia, a dried fiber sourced from local palm trees.
“Truly, beekeeping has changed our lives,” reflects Totobe. “It is a good source of income for my family and I.”
Beekeeping may also be helping to save the local rainforest. MaMaBay’s bountiful natural environment is under threat from destructive slash-and-burn agricultural practices, illegal hunting, and over-use of forest resources. This has led to a decline in local bee colonies that are essential to sustaining the region’s biodiversity and ecological health. The disappearance of these pollinating insects has also had an adverse impact on the local economy.
Through a project with the non-governmental organization INSIGHT In Development, the USAID Mikajy environment project is helping restore these critical bee colonies and, in the process, is also generating new economic opportunities for people like Totobe. So far, 12 communities living around the Makira Natural Park have been trained in the art of beekeeping. Participants learn how to build beehives from local resources, receive beekeeping equipment, learn how to care for their colonies, and how to manage the business aspects of the enterprise.
Totobe is a stalwart supporter of the project. “I’m now a member of the beekeeping association, and the training we received from the USAID Mikajy project has helped me develop personally and professionally,” he says.
INSIGHT has trained 252 people in beekeeping and monitoring techniques and hive construction using local materials. Participants also learn about the important role bees play for the environment.
Totobe’s grandson, Fidy, did not receive any training or materials directly from the project, but he has learned the trade from his grandfather. He is now able to build hives and feels prepared to launch his own honey business.
“Beekeeping has opened our minds and impacted our daily habits and activities,” says Totobe. “Thanks to the training we received, we now have an activity to entertain ourselves and to provide an additional source of income. We’ve also learned how to take care of the forest.”