South Darfur is known as a troubled region, beset by years of conflict, poverty and human suffering. Yet the Honey Value Chain Project - part of the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) early recovery activities in Darfur - is bringing hope and economic opportunity to this distressed state in Sudan.
The project - implemented in partnership with a local non-governmental organization- is only one strand of a broader programme which aims to promote peace through the creation of environmentally sustainable businesses for 40,000 micro-entrepreneurs in 45 communities in Darfur, under a total budget of nearly US$3 million.
The objective of the project is to train farmers and other inhabitants of Kubum - an area in western South Darfur - on how to sustainably manage beehives, or man-made receptacles used to house bees, including how to improve the handling, inspection and quality of the honey produced from the hives.
"I have been working with 'tangels [traditional beehives]' for 26 years," said Haj Ibrahim. "I take some hay and tie it with rope, before coating it with mud and putting it on top of a tree for three to four months. The bees then enter the tangel and produce honey."
Although there is no natural honeybee population in South Darfur, beekeeping has become a lucrative occupation for many farming families, especially as honey from this region is increasingly in demand. As a result, beekeeping has become a popular money-making activity for farmers and vulnerable groups, such as young people, internally displaced populations, ex-combatants and women. In an isolated community like Kubum, the availability of local materials to make traditional beehives has also helped encourage villagers to get involved in beekeeping.
The UNDP-supported Honey Value Chain Project provided a start-up grant of 1,000 traditional beehives to beekeepers' associations in Darfur, which was then distributed to groups of beekeepers. Those beekeepers then shared collective responsibility of the hives from production through harvest. The project also organizes regular fairs in Kubum to introduce new farmers to beekeeping management techniques, providing them with a vital opportunity to market and exchange ideas and experiences among local producers.
As a result, the number of members in beekeeping associations in South Darfur increased from nearly 60 in May 2011 to more than 1,000 in March 2012, demonstrating a strong interest and commitment to beekeeping within the community. An estimated 5,000 families are currently benefiting from the project.
The case of the Kubum beekeeping producers is an example of how technology, and cooperation with national and local partners, can generate jobs, decrease poverty, encourage micro-entrepreneurship and foster the rekindling of relations between communities even in the most unlikely of places.