By Orville Williams
As the call for more women to be involved in sustainable entrepreneurship continues to increase, non-profit group Integrated Health Outreach (IHO) is commending the efforts of females participating in an innovative beekeeping project.
The three-year project, which is set to run until 2022, is focused on equipping women with the appropriate skills to become successful beekeepers.
As the Executive Director at IHO Dr Nicola Bird explained, the project is being viewed as a success so far, due to the efforts displayed by the participants.
“We’ve had an incredible turnout; the first group is 30-something ladies [who] have been trained and the next group will be equal. So, all-in-all, we’re expecting around 70 women to be trained as beekeepers [and] we’ve had not just incredible interest and investment, but the participants are [also] very invested.”
Unlike other agriculture-centred entrepreneurship projects, this one in particular is rather innovative, as it not only provides the women with beekeeping knowhow, but also equips them with other skills necessary to be well-rounded entrepreneurs.
The participants are taught business-related skills, such as business creation, product development, branding and marketing, along with other important soft skills.
“The training is not only beekeeper training…it’s a real rounded project. [The women] will be mentored throughout the duration, so they do the theoretical and then the practical training for the first six months, and then after that, they are mentored for the next two years…through the Antigua Beekeepers Cooperative.
“So, they’re supported all the way through, and they’re also coming together as a group to form a cohort of women supporting each other to become financially-successful beekeepers,” Dr Bird further explained.
The Covid-19 pandemic has pressured many entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs to essentially ‘forget the future’ and focus on achieving financial success/security as soon as possible. While that can be viewed in different ways – depending on the context – Dr Bird added that her group is insisting on maintaining a particular balance with this and other projects.
“When we do any projects, Integrated Health Outreach, we are always looking for sustainability. [Also], when you’re being funded, you really want to make sure that it’s not just a short-term thing, but has long-term benefits.
“And of course, who wants to invest all that time without having – in my opinion – a return on your investment. So, we do want to see this as [both] a short-term and long-term benefit and for [the women] to be able to make money off the project.”
The women’s beekeeping project is being implemented by Integrated Health Outreach (IHO), along with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Antigua Beekeepers Cooperative Society and the Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross. It is also being funded by the Equality Fund, along with the Canadian and Australian governments.