Empowering Indigenous Peoples in sustainable Beekeeping: The case of Mbororo DerkeJoh
The Mbororos are one of the established Indigenous Peoples groups and an indigenous minority semi-nomadic group in Cameroon.
After WWF integrated them into conservation activities in 2008, these Mbororo cattle herders have been so passionate about nature conservation within mount Muanenguba, an important watershed, where they have settled for decades due to the vast grazier land for their cattle.
Several sensitization meetings held with them, and they got to understand the importance of nature, conservation and environmental protection for today and future generations, which inspired them to easily join WWF’s activities within the Kupe Muanenguba Division. In October 2012, some dynamic Mbororo youths created an organised group, named Mbororo Derke-Joh (Mbo-Derk CIG), a Common Initiative Group found in the Muanenguba village on the slopes of Mount Muanenguba in Cameroon.
The group started off with 17 members, and has as objective, to enhance the economic and social well-being of the Muanenguba community; improve the standard of living of its members through savings and income generation and support members in need with funds to start a business through borrowing at moderate interest rate. They also work in close collaboration with related services, Village Development Committees, and NGOs and also educate their members through seminars, training sessions and exchange visits on new farming techniques, especially bee farming methods amongst others. “We have been observing and experimenting the production of white honey within our community for over 10 years, especially from hives installed near Scheflera sp, a strangler plant species that produces whitish blossom during the month of March.” said Oumarou Idrissou Adamou, Leader, Mbo-Derk CIG
Derke-Joh, does not only produce natural honey, but, recently, started harvesting the rare and most cherished white honey, which is not common in the South West Region.
With support from WWF and facilitated by the Community Action for Development (CAD), a WWF Cameroon partner Civil Society Organisation located in Bangem, Derkerjoh have successfully installed 59 hives. Since the beginning of 2022, that is in 6 months, they have produced 80 litres of white honey and made an income of XAF 160, 000 (approximately US$320).
There is a high potential for beekeeping in the Muanenguba slopes due to the very short colonization period which gives an average production of 12 litres per hive, per harvest.
White honey, cherished by many, was known to be produced only in the Oku area of the North West Region of Cameroon.
Honey farmed within the Kupe Muanenguba Divison in particular and most parts of Cameroon, is generally brown in colour, reasons why the white honey produced by DerkeJoh is getting attention from the area and beyond, though with some scepticism. “Each time we produce white honey, some people think that we have mixed the honey with banana and sugar.” Idrissou said. “This does not discourage us because those who can identify good honey still go ahead and buy.” he added.
The Mbororo CIG have become the first Indigenous peoples (IPs) CIG in the South West Region of Cameroon to produce white honey. This makes them so proud of the discovery. During the dry season, both the Mbororo young and elderly men, usually spend many months out of their community in search of green pasture for their cattle.
Some of them testify that it is tedious, and they are not as strong as their parents. But with this alternative activity, they can balance cattle rearing and beekeeping.
From the income this group has begun generating from the small-scale beekeeping they are doing, many Mbororo youths in their community have begun adopting beekeeping as an additional source of income to cattle rearing. This is also a means of encouraging the Mbororo youths not to stick only to their age-old traditional cattle rearing, but to find interest in beekeeping and food crop production. "I love beekeeping, especially this white honey which is our new discovery. I get encouraged when tourists come and buy my honey. It gives me money and increases my popularity as an IP beekeeper.” said Harruna Oumarou, member.Mbo-Derk CIG
Another member of the CIG, Moussa Jai said, “I have discovered that honey production is a good business. It is cost and labour effective, relative to cattle rearing, which is one of our major income-generating activities.”
I very much enjoy beekeeping. I want to become a trainer so that I can empower and inspire more Mbororo IP youths into producing honey. It is important that we have additional income sources other than cattle rearing, but also to discourage honey hunting, which has become the principal sources of bushfire on the Muanenguba mountain.” said Oumarou Saidou, Vice president.
Within the perspective of the Leading the Change project, CAD, with the support of WWF, is exploring the possibilities of linking Derkejoh up with the Tombel Conservation and Development Cooperative (TOCODEC) a specialized beekeeping cooperative in the Bakossi-Banyang Mbo landscape. The aim is to improve their capacity in the processing (extraction and packaging) and marketing of honey but also to support them in the acquisition of relevant beekeeping equipment and the planting of bee-loving plants, particularly those that produce white honey, to enhance their honey production-base.
The honey market for Derkerjoh, is beginning to spread to other areas out of Bangem and Moungo Division. “We sell our honey in Muabi, Bangem and Melong. CAD is working so hard towards linking us up with TOCODEC in Tombel to improve our processing skills and increase our business capacity,” Idrissou said. “Beekeeping is an activity we enjoy, but we also face some challenges, which include, limited capacity in production, processing and marketing techniques, to insufficient beekeeping equipment such as hives, bee suits and honey extractors and more.” he added
We are happy and proud with the passion, skills and knowledge the Mbororo men have acquired so far in the production of white honey within our landscape. We pledge to continue supporting them and to enhance both their technical and institutional capacity.” said Martin Etone, Director of CAD.