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Planet and Prosperity: The Chiseka Beekeeping Project

Empowering Tiyambenawo Community to use honey businesses to break the cycle of poverty so they can invest in their children.

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
23 14

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Whether we are with beneficiaries in the field, brainstorming with our 100% Malawian program team, or fundraising in New York, we rely on creative problem solving, teamwork, and feedback to build brighter futures for children, and lasting change for their communities.

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

High HIV/AIDS mortality, extreme poverty, & climate change have profoundly increased childhood vulnerability in Tiyambenawo. To address these challenges, local women seeking to give vulnerable children food, education, & psychosocial support founded the Community Based Organization (CBO) in 2003. Despite efforts, scarce resources made it impossible to meet the need. YM will uplift these efforts with empowerment programs that address the multifaceted nature of childhood vulnerability & break the cycle of poverty.

In addition to early-stage community buy-in meetings, Tiyambenawo is making significant contributions to ensure the Project’s success. To maximize honey yields, YM negotiated a lease of private forested land with respected community leaders who helped found the CBO. Additionally, the community donated infrastructure for the Honey Hub, where honey will be processed & sold, as well as three acres of land to be converted into community forest for future growth of the program.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

Many households engage in livelihoods (i.e. making charcoal) that damage the environment & perpetuate childhood vulnerability. This increases children seeking support from the CBO, which cannot meet the need. The Project provides a marketable, environmentally-friendly business, financial & childhood wellbeing training which provides sustainable income for the CBO’s life-changing programs, all while empowering households to address root vulnerabilities that necessitate the CBO’s existence at all.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

The Project’s ripple effect will impact the entire community through comprehensive conservation & reforestation, decreased need for emergency interventions, & increased local economic activity. Moreover, by planting >20k trees and encouraging the return of honeybees to areas with high farming activities, our program increases crop yields. This impacts childhood nutrition, which is correlated with improved health & school enrollment, as well as decreased child labor & marriage.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

YM is committed to empowerment & sustainability so beneficiaries can become independent entrepreneurs building brighter futures for children. The Project begins realizing results at first harvest, 3 mo. after enrollment. After 3 years, the community graduates with resources & skills to run the business, manage profits, & invest in food, education, & care. They are trained to grow their businesses, conserve their environments, & maintain peer relationships that reinforce best practices.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

We conducted focus groups to understand how might we improve baseline surveys to ensure we target the most vulnerable children. Surveys were in their 2nd version, having been adjusted after a different intervention. The focus groups gathered feedback about beneficiaries’ rapport with interviewers, their understanding of the questions being asked, & thoughts about the overall process (i.e. location, timing).

Findings confirmed key pillars of our approach. I.e. one person mentioned another NGO’s survey, noting “similar questions [but] in a group discussion, so we did not have privacy to speak freely.” Feedback also uncovered anxiety about NGOs not returning, something many noted previously occurred. This shared anxiety reemphasized our commitment to clearly articulating when regularly conducted field visits will occur. We will also use this feedback to improve peer mentor trainings, as these leaders are important liaisons for our team & the first line of support for beneficiaries.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

The Project is a 3-year program that will be ready for initial asset transfers & training in August 2018. Please see the attached for a detailed breakout of activities in 2018.

The Project includes training & coaching in 3 key areas: technical training, financial management, & childhood wellbeing, which will continue for 3 years. Enrolled households meet with our team to develop individualized case plans, which are used for coaching. With YM guidance, peer mentors provide each household individualized support through monthly one-on-one sessions, and biweekly group meetings develop a support system around best practices, troubleshooting challenges, and creating a safety net for vulnerable children. YM’s team of experts oversees these sessions, & our experts reconvene peer mentors every 6 months for extension learning that helps us adjust content areas & respond to the unique needs of each group. Trainings continue for 3 years, after which training is available but not mandatory.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

Partners —
Tiyambenawo Community Based Organization: Provides programs for vulnerable children (i.e. feeding program, nursery school). Community-level business will generate revenue for existing programs. Coaching sessions will elevate support to children
Hive Group: Private sector experts providing business inputs & technical expertise. Guaranteed buyer for harvested honey
CARE International: NGO specializing in financial training and resources like VSLs. Advises on financial coaching areas

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

YM seeks support for startup costs for the Project, including business assets like hives, beekeeping suits, & tools, as well as initial trainings around beekeeping, financial management, & childhood wellbeing. This support will not only reduce the vulnerability of ~2,000 children in the community with revenue generated from an estimated 11,667 pounds of honey per year, but also protect the environment by preserving over 10 acres of natural forested land, & by planting over 20,000 trees.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

1. Given the historic presence of nonprofits in Malawi and the lingering power dynamic related to this history, how might we ensure we are getting honest feedback during user interviews (both in assessing needs before program launch and successes/challenges after the program launches)? In particular, what strategies can a small nonprofit employ given limited team capacity?

2. In addition to early and frequent community sensitization meetings, how might we best mitigate expectations for support while conducting baseline surveys, as not all those interviewed will be chosen for the program (but all answers are important for baseline data)? More specifically, how might we best mitigate resentment towards the project and/or jealousy towards those participating?

3. Peer education is a critical component to maintaining and scaling our program. Outside of monetary incentives, what strategies or approaches might we employ to encourage and empower peer mentors to engage with their beneficiary groups?

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The Project recognizes childhood vulnerability is dependent on many factors, from the economic stability to how climate change impacts communities. Therefore, Yamba Malawi bridges Prosperity and Planet with a holistic approach to childhood wellbeing that centers on sustainable, environmental, and scalable businesses, financial training, and services that reduce childhood vulnerability. Inspired by lessons from our pilot, these extended services create safety nets that empower communities to move out of extreme poverty into livelihoods that help them improve nutrition, health, education, and the environment.

The Project includes 50 household-level businesses that benefit 200 children, as well as one community-level business, which generates revenue for community programs (i.e. feeding programs, early childhood education) that benefit 1,500 children. At both levels, the Project includes individual, peer-to-peer, and community training that ensures the use of best practices across honey businesses, financial management, and childhood wellbeing. At the request of the community, we are simultaneously launching household and community-level businesses, which results in a both a meaningful impact on thousands of children and the improvement of economic stability at the community level.

In addition, the environment surrounding the apiaries will be fortified with over 20,000 trees, 4 hectares of forest will be protected, and low-producing farmland will be converted into a community forest to house future hives. With this, the Project will mitigate the effects of soil runoff, deforestation, and desertification. The community will conserve the ecosystem, while simultaneously providing jobs that benefit the most vulnerable children. In short, caregivers and communities will have the resources, knowledge, and support systems needed to be fully independent, to break the cycle of poverty, and to give the next generation the happy, healthy childhoods they deserve.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are vulnerable children and youth aged 0-24 and their caregivers in Lilongwe District, Malawi. Seventy percent of all Malawians live on less than two dollars a day, and eighty percent live in rural areas with economic instability, diminished infrastructure, and poor health and education outcomes. Recognizing the impact these challenges have on children, the Project uses community feedback to target vulnerable populations who are outside of traditional market approaches. Because beekeeping is a more passive livelihood, it is well-suited for caregivers who are ill, elderly, or impoverished and lacking sufficient farmable land. Honey is a critical source of income that helps caregivers supplement their current livelihood and purchase necessities like food, school supplies, and healthcare for children in their care. This economic stimulus is paired with mentorship to ensure caregivers have the training necessary to maximize the impact of profits on childhood wellbeing.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

While inspired by poverty graduation theory, Yamba Malawi created a unique, holistic child-centered livelihoods program comprised of three components—business investment, financial training, and mentorship on childhood wellbeing—that empowers communities to invest in their children’s futures. Our all-Malawian program staff leads human-centered, expert-led, and peer-to-peer trainings with a scalable model that addresses the specific needs of each child and caregiver. This means increased opportunities to address immediate and long-term needs, more engaged community changemakers, and sustainability that translates into a bigger impact across the entire community. Additionally, our program uniquely addresses the intersection between Prosperity and Planet by addressing short- and long-term climate issues while also providing sustainable incomes that can impact other areas of vulnerability.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Yamba Malawi uses business, financial training, and mentorship around childhood wellbeing to empower vulnerable communities to break the cycle of poverty and invest in their children’s futures.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

After years of partnering with communities, community feedback indicated many other NGO interventions failed due to issues that are outside of their intended scope—i.e. scholarships being wasted because climate change results in low farm yields and increases in childhood labor. The multifaceted nature of vulnerability requires a holistic approach, and our child-focused livelihoods program now addresses key needs around food, education, health, protection, and environment.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

In Malawi, Prosperity and Planet are inherently intertwined, as the agricultural economy leaves the country particularly susceptible to climate change’s negative consequences. Recent droughts and floods have led to poor crop yields, food shortages, hunger, and the spread of disease, all of which have a serious impact on children. With increased economic instability, households are turning towards unsustainable businesses like charcoal making, selling land, and practicing unsustainable farming practices, which further degrade the environment. By introducing a livelihood that not only mitigates these environmental concerns but directly counters them, the Project provides a model for climate-smart businesses that can generate income independently, can incorporate reforestation, conservation, and environmental education components, and can increase crop yields by encouraging the return of honeybees to areas with extensive farming activities.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Partnerships with communities, NGOs, local governments, and the private sector are critical to our programs and plans to scale. We work with local leaders to identify community needs, to facilitate baseline interviews, and to help with our orientation process. These leaders are fundamental resources to our beneficiaries, as they troubleshoot challenges, act as social safety nets, and increase the sustainability of the program. We partner with government agencies, such as the Ministry of Forestry and the Department of Social Welfare, to reinforce best practices across content areas. We also work with Hive Group, a private sector company, to source inputs, to provide expertise, and to act as a guaranteed buyer for harvested honey. We are partnering with NGOs to provide additional support and expertise around our financial and childhood wellbeing training models.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Learnings from the pilot and a strong community relationship will result in improved viability and sustainability. We have significant community participation, including the lease of protected forested land from respected leaders, community involvement in beneficiary selection, a donated building for honey processing, and donated land for conversion into a forest for future program growth. Together, these factors increase profitability and position the Project for growth.

Geographic Focus

Rural villages in Traditional Authority Chiseka, Lilongwe District, Malawi

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The Project’s three-year graduation timeline centers on empowerment and sustainability. Upon graduation, caregivers will have the resources and skills to run successful businesses, manage profits, and invest in food, education, and healthcare for their children. They will be empowered to continue practicing what they learned, to further grow their businesses, to conserve the environment, and to maintain peer relationships that reinforce best practices across all content areas.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No
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Attachments (3)

Program Info Abridged.pdf

A short infographic describing the components of our program theory.

How Bee Projects Work.pdf

A short infographic showing our beekeeping model—from what happens when someone is enrolled in the program to the outcomes and impact on children.

Human Centered Design Thinking.pdf

Visual depictions of how Yamba Malawi incorporates inspiration, ideation, and implementation as we work together to best address the challenges facing Malawi's most vulnerable children.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Matt Lineal

Hi Kathleen,

The Chiseka Beekeeping Project provided a thoughtful and robust proposal. As a reviewer, I want to provide feedback on your questions of concern. Out of a place of deep respect for local communities and implementing partners, I want to recognize that the right answers will come from the people in the communities working with the project. I may provide some examples and insight that worked other places, although of course these will need to contextualized and gauged for appropriateness.

1. Given the historic presence of nonprofits in Malawi and the lingering power dynamic related to this history, how might we ensure we are getting honest feedback during user interviews (both in assessing needs before program launch and successes/challenges after the program launches)? In particular, what strategies can a small nonprofit employ given limited team capacity?

First, let me start by saying that placing a high value on gathering honest feedback means you are already more than halfway there. Gathering honest feedback may involve shaping culture as well as employing the right mechanisms and tools. Providing training on feedback and its value can start to shape culture around feedback in the community and with the respondents. In contexts where feedback might be seen as disrespectful or inappropriate, having a conversation about the value of feedback may open up a conversation.

Once you have established an understanding of what feedback is and why it is important, then it becomes about using the right tools and strategies. Mobile data collection including responses on net promoter score could be one way to start to get a picture together. From there, individual interviews, focus group discussions, participant observation, or other techniques may best work to gather detailed feedback.

Lastly, once you have feedback on what's working and what's not working, it's critical to take action based on this information. Then go back to the respondents, involve them in the response as appropriate. This may mean taking action together, or at least informing them of the action taken based on their feedback. After corrective action is taken, gather more feedback.

Shaping a culture of feedback reinforced by action will begin to slowly add to a reinforcing cycle.

2. In addition to early and frequent community sensitization meetings, how might we best mitigate expectations for support while conducting baseline surveys, as not all those interviewed will be chosen for the program (but all answers are important for baseline data)? More specifically, how might we best mitigate resentment towards the project and/or jealousy towards those participating?

Being sensitive to the time poverty people face is very thoughtful and appreciated. I've seen two strategies work here, although they were both highly context dependent. On the one hand, you can compensate non-participant respondents for their time in participating in surveys - whether for a baseline or later as a non-intervention comparison. It is with great caution this strategy may be used, as in some contexts it may further dependency and promote a poor image of projects, whereas in other contexts it may be entirely appropriate and expected. Moreover, such incentives can and do influence the way respondents answer questions. Another strategy is for non-participant respondents to be invited to participate in the project after the particular evaluation or research is complete. For instance, have them join in a second phase after the three year project is complete. Again, this is highly context dependent, as the participants may not value a commitment so far in the future, and the project may not anticipate ever scaling up.

3. Peer education is a critical component to maintaining and scaling our program. Outside of monetary incentives, what strategies or approaches might we employ to encourage and empower peer mentors to engage with their beneficiary groups?

One practical way to sustain community-based volunteerism is through offering an unofficial unpaid role with the project. This may include outfitting volunteers with a shirt and/or a badge that validates them as mentors with the program. I have seen this be an effective motivator, whether volunteers enjoy the benefits of perceived increased social status, or practically qualifying their efforts as work experience. With this approach, managing expectations with participants and keeping compliant with HR laws is critical.

Thank you for considering my feedback. It was a joy to read about your project! Matt

Photo of Kathleen Rommel

Hi Matt,
Thanks so much for your feedback! We really appreciate you taking the time to review our work and offer suggestions. I wanted to follow up with you on a few specific items you mentioned.

Question 1—
I really appreciate your reminder to close the loop when conducting feedback and include users in changes. This can help us further articulate why we are gathering feedback and, of course, the importance we place on the answers. More specifically, we wanted to follow up on a few recommendations you made.

- We found the mobile data collection option particularly interesting, but given limited mobile phone coverage in our communities, we are not sure how viable it would be. All that said, I’d love to hear any ideas around on specific low cost technology other orgs have used for this.

- We’re interested in incorporating short trainings on the importance of feedback. Do you know of any training modules that might already exist for adaptation in our communities?

Question 2—

We’ll explore these options and continue to gather feedback from community members—prototyping different ideas and monitoring their successes and challenges. Thanks!

Question 3—

Yes! Thank you for your idea. We are exploring incentives similar to these and hope they will act as sufficient motivators. We’ll continue to monitor and iterate!

Once again, sincere thanks for taking the time to support our work. It goes a long way in making the project a success!!

Photo of Matt Lineal

Hi Kathleen,

Thank you for writing such a thoughtful response. Here are a couple resources that I think may help:

Regarding mobile data collection, limited mobile phone coverage is no longer a barrier. There are numerous platforms out there, and many offer offline data collection. Your organization, a community member, or whoever, can collect data offline on a device. Then when they have connectivity or coverage, they can sync the results. Here is an excellent overview comparing and contrasting 15 popular options - Nuru International uses QuickTapSurvey, which I would also recommend checking out.

Regarding feedback, Harvard Business Review has a couple forums that aggregate articles and forthcoming research. Unfortunately, I do not have access to a freely accessible training on this.

Please feel free to reach out to my email if I can be of any further assistance:

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