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April lends a hand building beehives in Africa

           

Leading businesswomen construct beehives in Tanzania.

Next week April Preston, group director of innovation and new product development at 2 Sisters, is leaving her regular round of meetings to build beehives in a Tanzanian forest and support Farm Africa, the charity working to end hunger in eastern Africa.

April, who is from Budleigh Salterton, is travelling to northern Tanzania on 31st May with eight other senior women business leaders from the UK food industry to take part in Farm Africa’s Big Beehive Build and improve the lives of women farmers in this remote area.

The group will land close to Mount Kilimanjaro, one of Africa’s prime tourist destinations. But they are not tourists or climbers. Instead they will be travelling along dusty rural roads to the Nou Forest, an area literally off the beaten track, where they have a particular mission – to construct 90 beehives in just three days. The hives will be used to kick-start profitable and sustainable honey farming businesses for the Erri beekeeping group.

Women with their Langstroth hives in the Nou Forest, Tanzania. The hives, provided by Farm Africa, enable farmers to produce more honey than traditional ones. © Farm AfricaThe 300 sq km Nou Forest is situated at 2,300 metres above sea level and is noted for its biodiversity of plant, animal and insect life. But Tanzania is losing forests at a disastrous rate of 300,000 hectares every year - around 1,500 football fields every day. As forest loss reduces water supply for local communities, they struggle to grow enough food to eat and turn to cutting down trees for income to survive – a vicious circle destroying the very resource they need to survive for the long-term.

The forest is home to millions of bees, and bee-keeping is a forest-friendly business that enables communities to make money without cutting down more trees.

But for women the traditional-style beehives, situated high in the trees, are inaccessible as it’s not culturally acceptable to climb trees. That’s why Farm Africa has introduced the Langstroth beehive, a type of that can be placed on the ground and used by women. Harvesting the precious honey will bring the women a new and valuable source of income that will enable them to pay for clothes, medicines and school fees for their children.

The first step is to construct the hives – and that’s where April and her companions come in. They will receive training from Farm Africa and have a model to follow but even so, it will be a new experience, far from the business meetings and email exchanges that constitute their normal working day. They will have just three days to build and paint the 90 hives, to exacting standards.

As if that wasn’t challenging enough, the team also has to reach a £50,000 fundraising target, funds that will be used by Farm Africa to help more rural families in eastern Africa build a more prosperous life that allows them to take charge of their futures.

April Preston said: “I know that there will be many differences between my life and those of people in Tanzania but underneath I feel that people are the same. They want to improve their lives and their children’s future. It’s about building something sustainable, supporting people’s livelihoods.  This is a forest project and I am a massive supporter of trying to stop deforestation. Having been brought up on a small family dairy farm in Devon, I am used to rural life and hope my hands-on experience there will stand me in good stead when it comes to building the bee hives. Of course I am expecting blisters and broken nails, but that’s a small price to pay for taking part in such an exciting challenge.”

The Big Beehive Build is one of the events organised this year as part of Farm Africa’s  wider ‘Food For Good’ campaign, the UK food and hospitality industry’s response to the global challenge of hunger.

Follow the progress of April the Big Beehive Build and you can also follow all the action on Twitter via #BigBeehiveBuild

Sponsor April on her  Just Giving page or donate £10 is by texting FARM91 to 70070, you can add giftaid at no extra cost.

For further information contact the Farm Africa press office: Libby Plumb, head of brand & content, 020 7067 1237 / libbyp@farmafrica.org