“Beekeeping has become a true vocation and source of income for all the women trained through our association, though none of them would ever have thought themselves capable of setting up their own farm one day,” says a delighted Mohand Ouamer Ould Braham, president of the Association for the Promotion of Mountain Apiculture (APMA).
His association is based in Aïn el Hammam, 45 kilometres to the southeast of Tizi Ouzou, (150km to the east of Alger), and for several years has nurtured Apiary School projects based in Djurdjura.
This ambitious initiative has granted dozens of enthusiasts - particularly young women - the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of beekeeping. “The first Apiary School project in Djurdjura was established in 2010 with the aid of financial support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Here at the headquarters of the association we organised training days in mountain beekeeping that were open to everybody.
“We had assistance from beekeeping professionals from the region as well as a group that came over from France, especially through the workshops they provided on the practical side of things,” he says.
Ould Braham adds that the methods taught on these training courses are those that emphasise environmental values and sustainable development, ensuring an organic product.
“In fact, what we do is couple modern techniques with ancient customs. Here, in the region, there is a tradition of beekeeping and the honey is known for being 100% organic. The bees are protected here in the mountains because they forage in the smallholdings, often family-run - that you can see there – far away from the pesticides that are harmful to them.”
Farming in the mountains makes it possible to avoid the use of chemical products that have a negative impact on the environment and thus on human health. Bee mortality is also reduced thanks to these natural cultivation techniques. Close to 4,700 beekeepers have been counted in the wilaya (province) of Tizi Ouzou, and the vast majority of these holdings have been set up in the mountains. Honey production came close to 500 quintals (or 25,401 kilograms) in 2016. “Organic honey, of a very high quality,” our interviewee assures us.
The Apiary School project contributes to the development of beekeeping by helping some of the trainees to set up their own farms. Ten hives were given out to five trainees, three of whom were women at the end of their first training course. Learning is being passed on in a way that has almost become a tradition at the heart of the APMA association.
“Our partnership with the NGO ASMED (Association for Solidarity, Migration and Exchanges for Development) means that other Apiary Schools are regularly set up, with support for obtaining a hive thrown into the bargain. We place a lot of emphasis on women from rural areas, having noticed a growing interest among them for beekeeping,” says the president of APMA.
No less than 18 women - from Aïn El Hammam as well as other areas in the Tizi Ouzou province - have set up their own farms thanks to the hives provided by ASMED. Ould Braham adds that these trainees, “benefitted from the learning framework of the association, and also received guidance in finding financial support related to creating work, for developing their farms.”
The president of the APMA introduces us to Messad Djoudi, one of the beneficiaries of the Apiary School programme in Djurdjura, who was a trainee a little over three years ago. Her farm today holds almost ten hives and makes her very proud of the work she has achieved.
“My father is a beekeeper but I never really took an interest in what he did. I signed up to the APMA course out of curiosity, and I ended up gaining the necessary know-how, and then also the will, to throw myself into this activity,” the young woman says.
She says that she can now earn a living through the honey produced by her hives. “It is not difficult; it’s enough to know how to look after the hives, respect the bee’s downtime in the winter period and keep looking after their well-being in all seasons. It is also important to enjoy what you do and not be afraid to go for it.”
The association is now spreading its work out into all sectors of mountain agriculture, with other training courses being offered by professionals in cattle farming, poultry farming and rabbit keeping.
- This is one of 60 stories tackling global problems with innovative solutions for Impact Journalism Day. City Press is the South African partner of this worldwide movement.