Over the course of three days in June, 22 bee farmers from all over Lekutu district converged in Kavula village to learn how to sustain and further grow their community bee farms.

As part of the training, participants discussed various topics such as bee sociology, pest management and equipment maintenance. They shared lessons and experiences through sit down talanoa sessions at night with bee keepers from neighbouring districts.

Workshop participant and chairman of the Kubulau Resource Management Committee, Mr Paulo Kolikata of Namalata village said that he liked the training as he was able to share with others, what they have learnt so far in Kubulau. Almost every village in Kubulau has been running bee farms since 2011 to bring much needed income. The bee farms are not owned by individuals, but by the village as a whole and so everyone benefits when there is a successful harvest of honey.

Mr Kolikata said “Lots of trainers come with different types of experience but they are not bee farmers themselves. I liked this training because the trainer, Mr Lewis shared his own experiences as an fellow bee farmer. He taught me that I can’t just set up my hives and walk away from them. I need to be active and inspect them every two weeks to make sure the hives are working, and the bees are getting enough food to make the honey”

With national efforts underway to grow the currently $15M industry further, the training coincides with WCS-Fiji’s efforts to foster sustainable livelihoods in communities.

“Our sustainable livelihoods project began in 2012 through an existing bee beekeeping protect in Bua and continues today through a grant from the Flora Family Foundation. As part of this training there were seven women honey makers and these women are delighted to be able to get the support they need to further their skills” said WCS-Fiji Community Engagement Officer, Akanisi Caginitoba.

While the majority of the participants were existing bee farmers looking to improve their knowledge and skills, there were also a few who were new and were interested to take it up this livelihood as a source of income for their community.

Akanisi added that as part of the workshop, the bee expert Mr John Lewis brought in new equipment such as frames and waxes to be part of the practical exercises. The participants assembled these themselves as part of their training to improve their equipment handling techniques which will in turn increase their honey yield.

Working with women bee keepers, WCS-Fiji is continuing discussions with surrounding resorts and Government departments to identify new markets for locally sourced honey, access and incentives for the bee farmers. Asked what was the highlight of the workshop, Akanisi said “it was seeing how much the men admired the hard work and physical strength of women bee farmers from Kavula. As one participant said to me, if these women can do it, so can our young men in the village.”