Many farmers in the village of Agogo, Ghana are earning wages equaling less than one U.S. dollar per day. Some struggle at harvesting several crops, others double as day laborers.
The production of honey allows these African farmers an additional form of revenue. Yet because of a lack of updated tools and education, they continue to struggle.
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In an effort to assist the farmers, six students from the Honey Project in Fort Lauderdale traveled to Agogo to deliver several beekeeping suits, buckets and bottles. The equipment will enable the farmers to begin selling honey on the local market.
The 10-day trip began on April 1, and was funded in part by a $10,000 challenge match grant from Citrix, a major sponsor, according to Nathan Burrell, the Honey Project’s founder and executive director.
“We had fundraisers as well as private and individual supporters,” Burrell told the South Florida Times. “It took about three months to raise the entire $20,000.”
The Honey Project is a youth-based enterprise that focuses on educating young people about social entrepreneurship and providing the tools to develop leadership skills. The students are taught about finding solutions to complex business and social problems, and are involved in ways of alleviating global poverty.
The students landed in Accra, Ghana’s capital, where they stayed for two days before traveling to Agogo.
They had an opportunity to visit the Elmina slave castle, one of the largest slave castles during the slave trade more than 600 years ago. The castle became one of the most important stops on the route of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
“It was a very moving experience, and I believe it had a profound impact on the entire delegation,’’ Burrell said in an email. “However, the biggest story would be our meeting with the newly elected president of Ghana, John Evans Atta-Mills. President Atta-Mills, a former professor, ran on a very similar platform to that of President Barack Obama—change and a new Ghana.’’
He continued: “I was honored to have had the opportunity to present him with an award and to pledge our commitment to the rural development of Ghana through the Honey Project.’’
When they arrived in Agogo, the students settled into the dorms of a Christian college, said participant Sean Heron, 17, of Lauderhill.
“Once we saw the village, met the people [farmers] and could assess their needs, we began working on a project proposal,’’ Heron said. “This was basically a draft of programs that could be implemented in Agogo that would directly aid the villagers. It was more administrative work than hands on. We had not been there before and needed to take at least an estimate of things before we started making any kind of plans.”
Heron added that the farmers in Agogo “did not want a handout, they wanted to work. I felt good about helping to make that possible.”
The students extracted the honey, bottled it, and then gave it to the farmers to sell, according to 18-year-old Clinton Lucien of Lauderhill.
“Our purpose was to develop a co-op, and develop an export business with them [the farmers] as well. Instead of making a dollar a day, they will not only be able to earn an actual living wage from the honey, they will [also]have their own businesses,” Lucien said.
With the farmer’s current method of honey extraction, the entire hives are being destroyed, Burrell added.
“What we are trying to do is find a safe, sustainable way to get it [the honey] out and put it into jars. That way a little at a time can be removed,” Burrell said.
The students decided to blog their journey, said Marissa Gross, 17, one the project’s vice presidents.
“We wanted to show our customers and others who reach out for information on the Honey Project how much of a tangible experience it is,” said Gross, of Davie. “And through the entries, have them go on the journey with us. We made entries daily. I kept my personal diary as well.”
The experience was also filmed for a documentary to be posted on the project’s Web site, she said.
The project, according to Burrell, plans to build a resource center in Agogo in which the students will be able to stay.
“Each year, we can take a new group of students who complete the training,” he said. “They will go on the grounds and build on what the students before started. That’s how we’ll be able to develop and make sustainable change there.”
Gross, who has participated in the project for two years, compared her experience in Agogo to that of living in the United States.
“We have services here to collect the garbage,’’ she said. “They have nothing like that, and burn what little they do have. In America, we can say whatever we want; you can hear anything on the television or radio. Freedom of speech never came to mind as much as it did there.”
Heron said he witnessed “both sides; the highs and the lows. It’s not like what you see on television. Kids don’t have swollen bellies. Still, it makes me more thankful for the opportunities I have here. I’m inspired to take advantage of all my advantages and not just fritter away my time.”
Social entrepreneurship is a powerful tool, he said.
“It empowers you because you are providing for your own needs as well as helping others do the same,” he said.
For more information on the Honey Project, visit www.honeyproject.com or to read the student’s blog, www.honeyprojectfll.blogspot.com.
Photo: Nathan Burrell