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Planet and Prosperity: The Chiseka Beekeeping Project

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

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

Yamba Malawi is committed to uplifting Malawi's most vulnerable children through community-focused, holistic livelihood programs that bridge Planet and Prosperity. 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. Focus groups have confirmed interest in “working together to uplift the lives of vulnerable children in the community,” & Tiyambenawo is making significant contributions to ensure success. To maximize honey yields, YM negotiated a lease of private forested land with respected community leaders who founded the CBO. The community donated infrastructure for the Honey Hub, where honey is processed & sold, & 3 acres of land to be converted into community forest for future growth.

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 have livelihoods that damage the environment & perpetuate the cycle of vulnerability. As one user said in our focus group, “We take care of vulnerable children, some of whom are orphans who fail to go far...because of lack of resources.” The Project provides an environmentally-friendly business, financial & childhood wellbeing coaching, & sustainable income for the CBO’s life-changing programs, all while empowering households to address root vulnerabilities.

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 to 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: Experts providing business inputs & technical expertise. Helps develop local & external honey markets & acts as optional guaranteed buyer for honey harvest. Is advising on future value chain growth (candles, soap, etc)

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?

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): 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)

During Feedback Phases, our team confirmed program plans & identified areas for iteration. For example, we listened deeply to the following user feedback, “Most of us are failing to send children to school consistently because of lack of food, clothing, school materials.” Articulating education is impacted by a lack of school fees & other components, this user confirmed a need for interconnected approaches to reducing vulnerability—which will inform our coaching curriculums. Our expert provided helpful notes on organizing honest & illuminating focus groups, & his advice echoed feedback from users about returning to close feedback loops. This advice highlighted the importance of prioritizing visits, so our Executive Director & Program Director have recently visited Tiyambenawo to share how analyzed responses & our adjustments (see select photos in the first section). Visits will develop community rapport & ensure open communication between our staff & users during roll-out.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

While this phase of the project is focused primarily on beekeeping, support from the Bridgebuilder Challenge will help YM explore additional possibilities for bridging Planet & Prosperity in Tiyambenawo Community, and we will continue to integrate both creative solutions and constructive feedback from our beneficiaries in as we scale and improve upon our interventions. For example, in a neighboring community, YM is exploring the impact of planting sunflowers near their hives. In doing so, the community can increase honey yields for their household-level beekeeping businesses, produce sunflower cakes for their community-level poultry business, and market sunflower oil that can be sold to increase the amount of money for children’s services at the CBO. Exploring such interconnected solutions will further fortify the impact of our programs and will empower our communities to think creatively in how they can best address the challenges they face around Planet and Prosperity. We particularly appreciated our expert’s willingness to answer follow up questions and provide additional resources around incentivizing volunteers and exploring technologies like mobile data collection. He also gave us particularly helpful advice about the importance of training those conducting our focus groups. To ensure this practice was happening, we discussed its importance with our Program Director, who outlined the program team’s approach to the feedback culture (which is now included as a photo in the Beneficiary Feedback summary above). Thanks again, Matt! Finally, we want to acknowledge the significant contribution of our former colleague, Eliza Rosenbaum Kahn, in inspiring us to learn more about Human Centered Design and how it can transform our programs. Her hands-on approach to prototyping, gathering feedback, and incorporating community reflections into our program model has helped us further develop existing relationships with our communities and the children they serve.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

Responses from our focus group confirmed significant community buy-in, a critical component to our program’s success, and the interconnectivity of extreme poverty and the multifaceted vulnerabilities children face. As such, in this proposal, we’ve incorporated quotes from our beneficiaries that supplement the answers we previously provided. We added a number of photos and visuals that we hope will represent out programs and our values, including our commitment to community empowerment and collaboration. This even includes a photo of our process for the User Map for this application, which involved a number of Zoom calls and brainstorming sessions with our Malawi team. We also further broke out the ripple effect of Planet and Prosperity in the first section, which we hope will articulate how positives and negatives can compound upon each other to significantly alter outcomes for children and their communities. By bridging these two critical areas, we can ensure all children get the care they deserve. In addition to changes made due to beneficiary feedback, we've also continued to work with our coaches to refine our presentation. In particular, we edited portions of our proposal that outlined how we work with Hive Group, a private sector beekeeping expert, and how they are helping us build a market for honey. We developed additional supplemental materials, which include how we are bridging gaps between beekeepers and marketplaces. We are happy to further expand on the questions raised by our coaches, and see a lot of potential in partnerships across sectors. The Hive Group experts are not only acting as guaranteed buyers for all honey our beekeepers wish to sell to them (Hive Group processes the honey for sale in peri-urban and urban markets and shops), but they will also help our beekeepers learn honey processing and marketing techniques that will allow beekeepers to reserve portions of their harvest for sale in their local market. This is particularly of interest for Yamba Malawi, as demand for honey is increasing in villages due to it's use as both a food product and for other health and healing properties. This will allow for increased economic stimulus and diversification in local markets that can otherwise be volatile. Moreover, by working with partners to further expand our value chain, our beekeepers can realize increased profits that they can use for children's care. You can see more information about this in the above sections. Finally, while not explicitly stated in this application, we want to acknowledge the questions and suggestions raised by the Bridgebuilder community. While each question was not necessarily transcribed into our application, these conversations allowed us to explore a number of different areas and thought process that have helped us refine our process and programs.

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. yambamalawi.org

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.

46 comments

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Photo of suman  desai
Team

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Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Kathleen Rommel 

This idea is so interesting. In some ways it is like our idea Rural Synergy Foundation- Bridging Urban and Rural for Peace and Economic Sustainability creating an income for vulnerable populations in rural areas. In our research and advisement we have been strongly warned about going into a community and handing our goods or money but to create a model they can sustain if we are to leave. I see that you are equipping people to make an income and that will translate into them passing it to others. I really love how it intersects with the planet and caring for the bee population. Thank you for sharing your work! Good look in your endeavor. I would love to follow your project after the completion of this challenge. You can connect with me on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christina-schwanke-3660b468/ or let me know if I can follow you on Facebook!

Best Wishes,
Christina

Photo of Marnie Glazier
Team

Kathleen,
I agree with Christina - and am especially impressed by the approach you're taking in providing the tools that can sustain youth and community members well beyond the confines of this program. Great work!

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Christina,

I couldn't agree more! It's so important to engage with the community and to help them build a solution that is appropriate and empowering. It's been amazing to see how impactful this can be, and our organization is incredibly proud of all the hard work our Malawian program team is doing to build relationships that foster real, sustainable change. I am happy to hear you this approach!

I'll find you on LinkedIn, and best of luck!

Kathleen

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Thanks, Marnie! We are incredibly proud of all the inspiring commitment our communities have, including the way they share knowledge with people who aren't directly enrolled in the program. It's this kind of ripple effect that really enables meaningful change!

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Kathleen Rommel 

Thank you for your reply! I could not agree more. You should be incredibly proud! I look forward to your connection!

Best,
Christina

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Marnie Glazier you are always to encouraging! It is fun to engage with you on so many levels! Your project looks great!

Christina

Photo of Marnie Glazier
Team

Likewise, Christina! I just spoke of you today in a meeting with out Philanthropy Director at the college, and he was very interested in your project. I am still hoping we can collaborate as we go forward.

Photo of Richard Seshie
Team

Hello Yamba Team, good job. Sharing this link of Atelier du Miel in Lebanon from whom you can find inspiration in their sales outlets

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Richard,

Thanks for referring us to this shop. At the moment, we're actually selling all of our honey locally in Malawi villages and in surrounding towns. We're encouraged by the way this local production, local consumption then helps circulate money throughout economies that are currently deeply dependent on prices for a small number of products—maize, soybeans, etc. That said, as we continue to grow our honey production, we're looking for additional value chain opportunities, and have already started exploring options about what operational structures would need to be in place for exporting, etc. I'll be sure to add this supplier to the list as we consider these options! Thanks again!

Photo of Marnie Glazier
Team

This is such a fabulous project idea and I am wondering if there is any way we, in the platform community can help support the project. For instance, can we purchase honey through the project, or help spread the word?

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Marnie,

Thanks so much for your kind words! I'm happy to report that all of our honey is currently being sold in-country, either directly in the community or in nearby supermarkets in peri-urban areas. We love how this can keep the economic stimulus going! That said, any support in raising awareness about Malawi and the importance of holistic, empowering programs would be amazing. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook @yambamalawi. Thanks again!! :)

Photo of Marnie Glazier
Team

Thanks so much, Kathleen! Will do.

Photo of Andrew Drain
Team

Hi Kathleen, this application is incredible, and beautifully presented! Congratulations on putting together such a well articulated application.

I really like the holistic approach to poverty alleviation and the importance placed on regenerating the eco-system. I was wondering if you had thought about implementing technical training to allow participants of the programme to also build their own hives instead of relying on external funding to purchase hives? This could fit in nicely with existing capacity building activities.
All the best
Andrew

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Andrew,

Thank you for taking the time to read our application and for your thoughtful questions! In short, yes—we are looking at various value-chain opportunities to improve the profitability of the program and to offer other entrepreneurial opportunities in the community. For the time being, we've seen the most value in post-harvest processing, which has recently translated into beekeepers at our pilot program establishing a storefront where they can sell honey as well as explore markets for candles, soap, etc. That said, we are continuing to research options like those you mentioned above, including incorporating young adults who are recent graduates, etc. in the overall process. Stay tuned, we hope to have more information on this front as the program continues!

Thanks,
Kathleen

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Jean-Marc Mercy and Jaskeerat Bedi thank you again for all your help in the previous phases of this process. We welcome any insight or recommendations you may have about how to make our idea and/or this presentation stronger. In particular:

Are there any areas of our application that are unclear or give you pause?
Are there any visuals that you think could be helpful in making our presentation stronger?
Do you feel like we are presenting the intersection between Planet and Prosperity in an approachable and clear way?
Do you feel like our commitment to partnering with our communities and utilizing ongoing feedback is coming through strongly enough?

Thanks for all your help!

Photo of Jean-Marc Mercy
Team

Hello Kathleen Rommel 
Congratulations on making it to this stage of the challenge!

I have once again your project, and I must say that it has a great potential to make greater impact in Lilongwe District. I commend you for the great work you are doing in Malawi. I like the fact that you provide assets, mentorship and financial training to the beneficiaries of your project.

I just have a few comments, observations and questions:

1. Your business model: You mentioned that Hive Group is one of your partners that provides business inputs and technical expertise. Could you please elaborate more on the “guaranteed buyer for harvested honey” part? I think this is a very important point you should talk more about, as it shows the impact your project will have on the community in terms of prosperity. Have you identified potential markets where honey will be sold? What does the demand look like in terms of revenue? Who buys honey? How is it distributed? What does the supply chain look like? Which leads to my second point.
2. Building bridges to external markets: What is the purchasing power of the local population? Is honey on their top list of priorities in terms of their basic needs for food? Have you thought of building bridges to external markets as well? Does Hive Group link the community to external markets, such as supermarkets in larger cities in Malawi, to make the beekeeping business thrive?
I hope this feedback makes sense. Please feel free to contact Jaskeerat Bedi  or myself if you have any additional questions. We look forward to hearing from you again soon.
We’ll be rooting for you!
Jean-Marc

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Thanks so much for this thoughtful reading of our application and for your questions. We have done significant research around honey markets, etc. and I would be happy to work responses to these questions into our proposal. Stay tuned—I'll update shortly.

Thanks again—fingers crossed! :)

Photo of Tabi Ewing
Team

Hi Kathleen

Great to read through the additional information on the proposal and we're really excited to be part of the team.
We would like to have a conversation on how we can add value to the project via OASIIS.

Please drop us an email at tabi@social-capital.net and perhaps we can schedule a call to discuss!

All the very best
Tabi

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Tabi,

Thanks for taking the time to read through it! Your insight on beekeeping is truly valued by our team, and I love the idea of connecting via email. We'll give you a shout, and best of luck as you finish up the OASIIS proposal. Let me know if you need anything. :)

Kathleen

Photo of Anubha Sharma
Team

Hi Kathleen,
holistic is the right word for your approach and the need is urgent for programs like this to combat neglect and helplessness. Good luck for your work.

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Thanks so much! We're honored to be join in conversations with other groups doing interesting things, and are so grateful for your kind words!

Photo of Matt Lineal
Team

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
Team

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
Team

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 http://lwrdmel.weebly.com/uploads/1/4/3/7/14377648/overview_of_mobile_data_collection_platforms.pdf - 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. https://hbr.org/topic/giving-feedback https://hbr.org/topic/receiving-feedback 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: matt.lineal@nuruinternational.org

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Thanks, Matt! I'll have a look at these resources and see if we have any additional questions. Thanks again for your help and thoughtfulness throughout this process!!

Photo of Katie Messick Maddox
Team

Let's definitely link up - you have an incredible initiative! We are working in supporting one of our local cooperative partners to develop a more structured value chain for honey, that we help to sell locally to return profits to youth and women smallholders, which is linked to larger goals to develop a youth-owned brand. I think there is potential to collaborate, share and learn with one another - even if done remotely as you are in Malawi and we are Kenya-based (working with partners in Uganda, Tanzania and Peru). Cheers and congrats on an inspiring project!

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Katie,

Yes! We definitely should. I'd love to talk more about how you are building the market. At our pilot beekeeping site, our beekeepers shared feedback that they'd like to start a co-op honey store, which we are now piloting and intend to incorporate in the project at Tiyambenawo. I'd love to hear more about your experience in starting small and building a brand step-by-step—it's definitely something that is on our minds, too!

Are there any key challenges your beekeepers / honey entrepreneurs are facing at this point and/or any learnings that are top of mind?

Photo of Jaskeerat Bedi
Team

Kathleen Rommel Thank you for tagging Jean-Marc Mercy  and myself! Let me begin by congratulating you for making it to the refinement phase as well as such a well articulated concept. The visualizations are great and I was able to understand the idea quickly. I must also mention, that your questions for expert feedback are really focussed and positioned for good feedback.

In my opinion, the community you are serving has many challenges,
1. Trusting yet another non for profit to be able to make meaningful impact. Establishing trust can happen through time, consistent messaging, deeper engagement...
2. Dependency on a sustainable business model. People will folk towards bee-keeping if they see direct economic value. Would love to learn how your organization is working towards strengthening commercial partnerships. Meeting quality standards? Thinking about how this honey fares better than others in the market?
3. Impact community- As articulated in your user story, bee-keeping might be a great income generation alternative to people who cannot toil in the farms anymore. This can extend to not just older generations, but also differently abled community.
4. Lastly and most importantly, is bee-keeping a lucrative career option? What is the learning curve? Is it an easy investment vs others? Why would people choose this over another alternative income generation option?

Looking forward to your journey here!

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Jean-Marc Mercy and Jaskeerat Bedi ! Thanks so much for your thoughtful questions. I've outline a few thoughts below.

1. Trusting yet another non for profit to be able to make meaningful impact. Establishing trust can happen through time, consistent messaging, deeper engagement...

This is certainly a challenge we are keeping our eye on. We have a strong relationship with the community, going back many years, and are also hoping to utilize our relationship with local leaders to ensure all our beneficiaries are comfortable with the process and understand the expectations we can have for them, and they can have for us. We’ve been conducting community sensitization meetings, but want to ensure we’ve thought outside of the box on how to best engage as well.

2. Dependency on a sustainable business model. People will folk towards bee-keeping if they see direct economic value. Would love to learn how your organization is working towards strengthening commercial partnerships. Meeting quality standards? Thinking about how this honey fares better than others in the market?

The market for honey in Malawi is growing—and international markets are actually tapping into Malawian markets as well. That said, we are challenging ourselves and our beekeepers to try to diversify where we sell the honey—some beekeepers live in villages where honey fetches higher than average market prices, while others benefit from our guaranteed buyer. To improve the price at point of sale at our pilot, we’ve recently invested in honey processing tools that would convert raw honey to a finished product. This has allowed beekeepers to form a collective that owns a storefront right in their marketplace, which provides an alternate to our buyer partnership with Hive Group. As we explore further expansion of our honey projects, we’re also looking at further developing the market—whether that be by investing in more sophisticated honey processing and refinement tools that improve the grade of honey, or in exploring the value chain for our hives—wax, royal jelly, etc.

3. Impact community- As articulated in your user story, bee-keeping might be a great income generation alternative to people who cannot toil in the farms anymore. This can extend to not just older generations, but also differently abled community.

Yes! Exactly. Although honey is a little less profitable than some of our other businesses (i.e. groundnuts/soya), we purposefully incorporate honey as a business because it reaches populations who are out of traditional market approaches—the elderly, differently abled, single parents lacking time, etc.

4. Lastly and most importantly, is bee-keeping a lucrative career option? What is the learning curve? Is it an easy investment vs others? Why would people choose this over another alternative income generation option?

Beekeeping requires low input costs, is profitable, and is not labor intensive, which makes it a great option for many people in our partner communities. In addition to providing an option for those who are differently abled or infirm, the limited time commitment beekeeping requires means households can continue their current activities—whether that be farming, market stalls, etc—that helps us transition households from their unsustainable livelihoods to more sustainable ones. still have opportunities to pursue secondary sources of income, should they want to. This gradual transition helps ensure overall business sustainability, as our beekeepers build rapport and trust with our team and their peers while pursuing the rewards of their efforts. Moreover, many of our communities are aware of traditional beekeeping practices which often damage and destroy the hives during harvest—posing a risk to the beekeeper and those around him/her, and is associated with high rates of bee deaths. We acknowledge our beneficiaries’ awareness of honey’s benefits—income, health benefits, etc.—while training our beekeepers around the best practices that can help them maximize the impact of their hives. While there is certainly still a learning curve, our on-staff beekeeping expert, our expert partners Hive Group, and advisors in government help us best address the training and upkeep for profitable hives.

Photo of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO)
Team

Hi Kathleen,
What a great idea to help restore and build sustainable livelihoods! This issue is so important, especially for women and children and others who are in a disadvantaged position. It's also great to see that this project has a positive effect on environmental sustainability as well.

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Thank you for your support and kind words! We're excited to see the impact grow as we expand the program, and are inspired by the community's willingness to contribute to planting more trees, conserving existing forests, etc. We know this can have a great ripple effect on food security, etc. that will benefit the entire community!

Photo of Jean-Marc Mercy
Team

Congratulations, Kathleen , on making it to the Refinement Phase. Jaskeerat Bedi  and myself will be helping you further refine your idea. I have a few questions to help you reflect and update your entry:
• What tools are you currently using to get the beneficiary feedback from the community?
• How long does it take for a beehive project to yield results in terms of income for the beneficiaries?
• Have you identified potential honey buyers?
• If so, how do you bridge the gap between honey producers and the potential buyers?
• Finally, how will you measure the impact of your project on the community?
We’d be curious to learn more about the beneficiary feedback.

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Jean-Marc Mercy and Jaskeerat Bedi  ! Sorry for the delay—I was out for the holiday and am just seeing this. These questions are helpful, and I'd be happy to outline further.

1. What tools are you currently using to get the beneficiary feedback from the community?

Tiyambenawo community has been deeply engaged in each aspect of our programs, from selection to implementation. Prior to launching the Chiseka Beekeeping Project, Yamba Malawi met with local leaders to discuss possible interventions in the villages surrounding Tiyambenawo Community Based Organization. During these meetings, Yamba Malawi worked closely with the community to identify pressing needs facing their children, and to brainstorm possible business interventions that both households and the Community Based Organization could participate in. This information informed the decision to expand the Chiseka Beekeeping Project to Tiyambenawo, and also helped inform needs to be addressed within curriculums around financial management and the reduction of childhood vulnerability.

Since initiating the project, we have conducted additional community meetings, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups with Group Village Headmen, chiefs, local leaders, Community Based Organization volunteers, and community members. Our on-the-ground Malawian staff trains and works closely with local extension workers from the surrounding area to get out into the field to meet with our beneficiaries face-to-face. To track the data they are collecting, we have used both analog methods like pen-and-paper interviews as well as digital methods via our M&E software via Taroworks and Salesforce.

2. How long does it take for a beehive project to yield results in terms of income for the beneficiaries?

Honey is typically harvested 3-4 times a year, so first income is generally realized ~4 months after enrollment in the program. Harvest amounts vary based on the season, but generally speaking, they increase as the program continues.

3. Have you identified potential honey buyers?

Our project incorporates multiple honey buyers, which mitigates market shocks and ensures our beneficiaries receive the best prices for their honey harvest. As a safeguard, we have a guaranteed / reserve buyer via our technical honey partner, Hive Group. We are also incorporating a Honey Hub collective business, which will refine and process honey to sell within the local community, where honey markets are rapidly growing.

4. If so, how do you bridge the gap between honey producers and the potential buyers?

In addition to operating as a collective, where beekeepers are the stakeholders in our Honey Hub, we are exploring ways to further improve the market for our beekeepers. This includes exploration of additional value chain opportunities such as beeswax, propolis, royal jelly, etc. as well as the further development of a competitive market by employing at-risk youths as marketers and entrepreneurs, which we’ve seen success with in our poultry businesses.

5. Finally, how will you measure the impact of your project on the community?

In partnership with TaroWorks and Salesforce, Yamba Malawi has developed a custom Monitoring and Evaluation program that will track baseline vulnerability and the progress our households and their children make throughout the program. Utilizing a baseline questionnaire that utilizes the widely accepted Poverty Probability Index for Malawi and our Yamba Malawi questionnaire, our tablet-friendly program measures key indicators across each of our areas of focus: business entrepreneurship, financial management, and childhood vulnerability around hunger, health and sanitation, education, and child protection.

Households in consideration for enrollment in our program will be administered the questionnaire before starting the program. After selecting the most vulnerable and suitable beneficiaries in this pool of households, Yamba Malawi will enroll 50 households and Tiyambenawo Community Based Organization. In addition to regular field visits, Yamba Malawi will conduct the Monitoring and Evaluation questionnaire every six months to track the progress of the program, each of which will be designed for the level of intervention: community or household. Between these periods, peer mentors will be equipped with additional questionnaires, which will be used during monthly individual sessions. While less intensive than our biannual questionnaires, these regular check-ins will serve as safeguards that help us make real-time adjustments and/or responses to challenges facing our households. They also improve validity, as their peer-to-peer relationship encourages transparent and accurate reporting. Yamba Malawi plans to track the progress of our households for the three years they are enrolled in the program, as well as three years after they graduate.

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Jean-Marc Mercy and Jaskeerat Bedi ! Our team has been working hard on our application questions—please let me know if you have any thoughts on how we can improve before we submit the final version tomorrow evening. We really appreciate your thoughts and experience!

Photo of Clarence Chang
Team

In addition to the mission, I'm in love with how well done the introduction video and photos are! This is an absolutely riveting video that really captures the mission and broader impact of the Chiseka Beekeeping Project. Keep up the great media work!

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Thank you so much! We are lucky to have excellent partners over at Cliff Co—an amazing storytelling agency that focuses on causes that have a social good. If you'd like an introduction, I'd be happy to make one!

Photo of Tabi Ewing
Team

Hi Chiseka Beekeeping Project team!
What a fantastic project and proposal here, really love the project.
We thought you may be interested to read about the OASIIS platform which aims to connect business owners/associations with social investment, and other opportunities - we are beginning to establish a Honey Enterprise Cluster and have had a few activities via the members - one of the videos on our project page is from a knowledge exchange between an Italian honey producer and bee keepers in West Ghana.
The platform itself is under development but we welcome you to check out our OpenIDEO page and also the current OASIIS platform, it would be great to keep in touch on opportunities for the businesses you are establishing/working with via OASIIS.
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/bridgebuilder2/ideas/oasiis-bridging-a-network-of-global-citizens-for-a-new-economy

All the best
Tabi and the OASIIS team

Photo of GBBC Grand Bahama Beekeepers Cooperative
Team

Fantastic project! Apiarist is truly a fulfilling hobby/job and the more young and vibrant individuals we educate on the subject the better our planet will be. I hope we can share more in the future as both our projects mature.

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Thank you! I just shared your thoughts re: building the hives with my colleague, and while it's not something we are working on at this moment it's definitely on our "to explore" list. I'll be sure to link everyone up if/when we are ready to explore this idea further. Thanks again!

Photo of Chelsea Takamine
Team

GBBC Grand Bahama Beekeepers Cooperative I thought you may be interested to read this idea and connect!

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Yes! This is so interesting—thank you for sending it along.

Photo of Brian Bauer of Algramo
Team

I really like your project. Did you consider how your bees could provide major benefits to any type of businesses in that rely on pollination services? Perhaps if there are commercial businesses that need pollination services, and you could locate some of your bees in the vicinity of where pollinations services are needed, you could seek modest financial payments from these businesses to help subsidize the program and bring more benefits to your beneficiaries...just an idea that may or may not work, depending on local conditions, hope it is useful. Best, Brian

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Brian,

Thanks so much for your interest! After the pilot, we have been watching the yields of surround community crops, which has been helpful in testing out the idea you mentioned. So much of Malawi is agricultural—and we love the idea of having hives benefit other crops as well! I appreciate your thoughts!!

Photo of Colleen Striegel
Team

Hi Kathleen. I love your idea because I am a beekeeper and I know how valuable beekeeping can be as a livelihood strategy. One thing I discovered when working with beekeepers in a similar environment, is that pooling all of the honey together to sell to a honey processing business or to one larger honey business that will bottle and sell the honey, seems to bring in the most revenue, rather than individual beekeepers selling their honey. Have you thought of this?

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Colleen. Yes! We are developing Honey Hubs that will process the honey, and also have a guaranteed buyer who will purchase honey from the collective. Thanks for asking—it definitely was a good adjustment we made in our pilot. :)