In the town of Bamenda, North West Cameroon is a co-operative of women beekeepers. Its founder member is Marianna Fumsi who became interested in beekeeping when she volunteered in a honey shop to gain work experience.
With a passion for women’s issues, Mariana recognised the potential for training women to keep bees as a means of generating income. Through the sale of honey, women can provide food and purchase seeds for the ongoing harvest, but most importantly they can pay for their children's education and medical treatment.
In Cameroon, as with many African countries, families must pay fees for each child to attend school, but with approximately 40% of the population in the country living below the poverty line some parents find it extremely hard to provide for even the most basic needs. No child is allowed to attend class without shoes or school uniform. With this degree of deprivation, children have little or no hope or accessing healthcare and education which ultimately makes all the difference to the future development of the children, their families and the wider community.
Networking between grassroots women's organisations means there are now several similar women’s cooperatives in the North West region including beekeeping cooperatives in the towns of Belo, Fundong and Bamendankwe. While each offers training for those who want to learn about apiary craft, they also aim to address gender-based issues such as violence in the family home and education drop-out; this is a country where teenage pregnancies are common and the cycle of dropout, illiteracy and poverty are self-perpetuating.
The women of such cooperatives have long recognised the need to support each other and work together to enrich their lives and live in harmony with nature.