University of Nottingham students have set up a co-operative that ensures beekeepers in Ghana receive a fair price for their produce.
The Tichamma co-operative — which means 'let us advance' in the local Dagbani language — has transformed the lives of its members, more than trebling the profit that they make on their honey.
Most Ghanaian beekeepers work in remote rural locations and, previously, were forced to sell their honey in bulk to pedlars earning around 75p per kilo. Now the beekeepers are able to sell under the Tichamma brand and earn around £2.50 per kilo.
Tichamma has united 45 of Ghana's co-operatives. This 'strength in numbers' approach has been hugely successful and transformed the lives of the 1,315 individuals involved.
Previously beeswax had simply been thrown away as a waste product but the University team helped the beekeepers turn the beeswax into a range of value added products including candles. This year the beekeepers have made more than £130,000 from the sale of beeswax products.
Two years ago, students at the University created the 'Beevelop' project as part of SIFE — Students in Free Enterprise, a global non-profit initiative which encourages students to create economic opportunity for others.
Undergraduates first travelled to Ghana in July 2006 to set up a beekeeping co-operative in the rural village of Agomeda. In 2007 the students hosted two conferences, 'Golden Opportunities' and 'Bee Wise'. These were attended by more then 250 delegates; representing 65 beekeeping co-operatives, Ghanaian Ministries, the United Nations and several non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The success of the conferences led the students to create the 'Tichamma' co-operative. Most beekeepers in Ghana are trapped at the bottom of the value chain — with poor access to markets their incomes were extremely low. On average, the co-operative's members have seen their incomes treble over the last six months and the SIFE team is now working to help the beekeepers reinvest their profits into new ventures. The success of the project means that more than 1,000 children will be able to go to school next year for the first time.
Mohammed Ali Ibrahim, secretary of the Tichamma co-operative said: “SIFE has freed thousands of people living in poverty and hunger with by creating a much- needed company, the Tichamma co-operative, which they longed to have in their lives. They have made us what we dreamed to be.”
Chris Skilton, Beevelop Project Leader, said: "The project has been a phenomenal success and we are proud of what we have achieved. We have helped more than 1,000 people free themselves from dependency on aid and given them the dignity to succeed on their own terms."
The Tichamma co-operative has already re-invested some of its profits into the community. It has loaned funds to two deprived communities, enabling them to set up their own beekeeping co-operatives so they too can begin to work themselves out of poverty.
In March the students expanded their programme to work in schools. 'Bee Enterprising' gives students the chance to run beekeeping businesses in their schools. The schools gain much-needed income and the students develop important business skills that will prepare them for their future careers. During the summer the project will be expanding to work in China from The University of Nottingham's campus in Ningbo.
Chris added: "The future of Beevelop looks exciting; our move into schools has been extremely successful. We have already helped students in three schools launch their beekeeping businesses and plan to work with another 12 schools over the summer. Our next challenge is to try and re-create our success as we move to China where we are confident we can have even greater impact."
Students In Free Enterprise is a global non-profit organisation, active in 46 different countries at over 1,300 universities. SIFE teams, together with university and business advisers, develop projects that focus on teaching others the skills needed to bring economic opportunity to all.
This SIFE project allows the students involved to develop diverse business skills that many employers claim graduates are lacking. Projects at different universities compete each year in a national and international competition. The University of Nottingham has a strong track record in SIFE, saving won the UK competition in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Last October the team competed at the SIFE World Cup in New York and reached the semi-finals ranking them in the top 16 teams in the world.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 70 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THES) World University Rankings.
It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy).
Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for three years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.