Liberian Beekeeping: Myth versus Science
By Landis Wyatt
We arrived in Liberia in 2007 to help rebuild schools after a 14-year civil war decimated the county. We didn’t realize at that time that our main focus would become training adults in beekeeping.
In 2011, there were about five beekeepers selling honey in mayonnaise jars to villagers and the odd vehicle of UN workers. It was a side business, worth a bit of effort, but not worth quitting their day jobs for. In 2012, Universal Outreach funded its first community beekeeping training program. We quickly realized that if people were going to see beekeeping as a viable job option, we needed to create local trainers with experience and knowledge.
Our first advanced beekeeping workshop in 2013 focused on dispelling the myth that you could only beekeep at night. Beekeeping at that time meant placing hives in the bush and hoping that in eight to 10 months honey will appear. This method resulted in some very happy ants, lots of cross combing, a blossoming hive-beetle population and a small amount of honey.
Through this workshop, they started to understand that beekeeping isn’t based on hope and magic—it’s a skill and a beautiful dance with an intelligent partner.
Since 2011, local beekeeping trainers have trained 1,200 Liberians. Liberia Pure Honey, a local honey packaging company mentored by Universal Outreach, provides a strong market to which these new beekeepers sell their honey; a local line of beekeeping equipment is now available; and in 2016 honey production increased by 100 percent from the previous year. In the past six years, beekeepers have generated $72,000 USD in honey money.
There remains some truth in the night-time beekeeping myth: it’s much more comfortable to beekeep in this West African country after the sun goes down. It’s a hot occupation, but it yields sweet results.
Landis Wyatt has lived in Liberia since 2007, working for Universal Outreach Foundation, a West Vancouver-based charitable organization. Along with the beekeepers of Liberia she has spent the past six years marvelling over bees.