Forest beekeeping in Zambia
: Analysing the nexus of sustainable forest management and commercial honey trade

  • Janet Lowore

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The need to achieve human development without harming the natural systems on which all life depends, is one of the greatest challenges of our times. The aim of this research is to deploy and develop social-ecological systems thinking to a miombo forest landscape in north west Zambia where thousands of people make a living from forest beekeeping. There exists significant critique about whether trade in non-timber forest products (NTFPs) can help deliver the dual goals of poverty alleviation and forest maintenance. Trade in forest honey appears to be an exceptional case, yet inadequately studied. This research fills a gap in understanding about the link between forest honey trade and forest maintenance. Honey trade is already commercialised in north west Zambia and so provides a case study scenario within which to ask, Given that the market for honey is assured, do beekeepers maintain forests’? Case study methodology found that trade is driving an increase in forest beekeeping, with income invested in education, in farming and as capital for other enterprises. Self-reported measures of economic wellbeing showed beekeepers to be slightly better off than non-beekeepers. Beekeepers negotiate de facto rights to hive sites and engage in ‘early burning’ to mitigate potential damage to flowers, bees and trees caused by dry season fires. Beekeepers apply this forest protection tool over thousands of hectares of forest. Beekeepers do not manage forests using scientific principles of inventory and planning, and features of a common-property management regime are largely absent. The study reveals entities and components of a forest beekeeping livelisystem – a complex, knowledge rich system where ecological elements and human elements are intricately connected in a robust social-ecological system The system is driven by trade, is productive and works with minimal external costs. The role beekeepers play in maintaining this forest system must be acknowledged and supported by development planners, local authorities and leaders and consumers who buy the honey.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAdrian Wood (Main Supervisor) & Julia Meaton (Co-Supervisor)

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