A group of 14 female executives from across the UK food industry have built 120 beehives in Tanzania in just three days. 

The project was part of the Big Beehive Build that is designed to boost local farmers’ income from honey and raise funds for the charity Farm Africa. The women, who were volunteering in the village of Bermi in Babati, eclipsed their 2015 record in which they built 90 hives over three days.

“A 72-hour challenge is the beginning of a local community business,” said Lorraine Hendle, managing director of retail & manufacturing at British Baker publisher William Reed Business Media. “The women, men and children of the Bermi community will all benefit from this resource.”

The group, led by Sainsbury’s brand director Judith Batchelar, also included Frances Swallow from Finsbury Foods and Catherine Allen of Rowse Honey.

They worked alongside beekeepers from Bermi to build the modern Langstroth beehives. Babati’s beekeepers typically use traditional beehives suspended high in trees but these have long presented a barrier for women to engage in beekeeping in this area as it is culturally unacceptable for them to climb trees. Langstroth hives sit on the ground, removing this barrier.

Honey provides an economically viable alternative to cropland conversion and timber harvesting.

“The Big Beehive Build’s premise is beautifully simple: No bees, no trees. No honey, no money”, said Jenni Bright, Farm Africa’s head of fundraising.

“Bees, as pollinators, improve the forest ecosystem, and equally fruit trees improve honey production, which helps local women earn more money.”

After the challenge, the group travelled to the village of Erri to revisit the women who received beehives as part of the Big Beehive Build 2015.

Between 14 October 2017 and 14 January 2018 donations in support of the Big Beehive Build will go to Farm Africa’s Growing Futures appeal that will help young farmers living in western Kenya develop sustainable horticulture businesses. Gifts from individuals based in the UK will be doubled by the Government through UK Aid Match, meaning gifts will go twice as far.

The full team who took part in the Big Beehive Build was:

  • Catherine Allen, Rowse Honey
  • Judith Batchelar, Sainsbury’s and Farm Africa Trustee
  • Helen Brierley, Vitacress
  • Viv Harris, ABP Food Group
  • Lorraine Hendle, William Reed Business Media
  • Ursula Lavery, Moy Park
  • Gillian McAuley, Devenish Nutrition
  • Marnie Millard, Nichols PLC
  • Ann Savage, Marel
  • Judith Simpson, Rowse Honey
  • Helen Sisson, Greencore
  • Hannah-Louise Smith, Metro Bank
  • Alice Stanton, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Devenish Nutrition
  • Frances Swallow, Finsbury Foods