Saturday 31 January 2015

Investing in honey production in Zeze village

Transforming rural lives with bees..

I first met Benedicto by chance in September and was very impressed by the cooperative he founded and his meticulously costed plans to avert poverty in his village by developing agriculture.  I returned to Zeze this week and spent two nights in the village finding out more.

Zeze is 41km from the nearest town and electricity supply.  Water is problematic.  Almost all of the inhabitants are farmers growing maize and beans, with an average annual income per family of around 300,000 shillings (£112).   This explains why many of the children have ragged clothes and no shoes.

Benedicto and his group have many plans to raise income, including growing more lucrative crops such as Moringa.  Currently his immediate concern is to put in hives before March 15th when the bees begin to swarm. He has worked out that by sourcing the wood from one farmer and carrying it on foot to the local fundi he can get the hives made for around £20 each.  He estimates each hive will generate 30 litres of honey and he has already found buyers willing to buy in bulk.  Therefore when he harvests in October he should be able to make a good profit that can be used to support projects in the village. 

His problem is capital.  He has identified
150 good sites for hives. Currently he has funds for 15 hives.  He would like to set up at least 40.  Therefore he is offering anyone who invests £20 in a hive now a return of £25 in November when the honey is sold.  That's a return on investment far better than your bank, and a good cause to boot..  

If you would like to invest in a hive in Zeze village, or to know more about this project please email

Monday 19 January 2015

5 girls bodies thrown into the bush

An update from our FGM safe house in Mugumu, and the girls who didn't reach it

I  first met Rhobi in September at the Safe House in Mugumu which was then a building site,  and had the privilege of witnessing some of her anti FGM work in the surrounding villages.  At these girls spoke movingly of the dangers of this traditional practice and their desire to avoid being cut.

Driving into the lit up compound which is the Safe House today with Rhobi,  we were met by 32 laughing girls running to hug Rhobi shouting mama, mama.

These are the lucky ones.  During the cutting season which ended on January 15th,  there were 134 girls sheltering here.  They had run from their homes, often at night,  with just the clothes they were wearing.  Often they had been beaten by their fathers for their refusal.  One 10 year old, Bhoke,  was found lying on the ground unable to stand as her legs had been so badly cut by her father's machete. She spent 2 weeks in hospital
and he is due in court today.

Other girls failed to escape.  Seven girls escaped and a volunteer was bringing them to the safe house when his car broke down and their relatives captured them.  Two of them managed to escape again.  They ran all through the night and managed to reach the safe house, but the other five were cut. 

Five  girls in Machochwe village died during the cutting.  As is the custom, their bodies were thrown into the bush at the edge of the village as they are thought to be cursed.  Their families are not allowed to grieve or ever mention them again, it is as if they never existed.  One girl from Machochwe, Elizabeth, managed to escape.  She is desperate to continue her education and wants to be a nurse.  She fears if she returns she will be badly beaten by her father and married immediately.  

The cutting season began on 8th December and ended on January 15th.  The 134 girls in the safe house had a graduation ceremony as alternative rite of passage, at which they sang songs they had composed about the dangers of FGM and their desire for an education.  After this 102 girls returned home, after their families had signed an undertaking not to cut them.

Of the 32 girls remaining, 22 will start on a tailoring course this week.  The other 10, who have passed their primary exams , are desperate to continue their education.  They know that if they return home they are in danger of violence and will not be able to go to school.  Today we will meet with the District Education Officer to try and secure secondary school places and try to find the approximately £45 needed  for their school fees and uniforms. If you would like to support this please click here.