When we have papers on our right to this land, then we know that the apiary industry is on our land and we can invest. Tecla David is a member of a cooperative association which creates opportunities for financing and loans to members.
Tecla is paid by yet another customer and counts the money on a little desk in the shop in the village of Sussundenge. Tecla David began work as a beekeeper in her teens. Eventually she also began buying and selling honey and has now been able to start her own shop. The little white building is decorated with a yellow bee, and inside the shop there is a cupboard filled with jars of honey, a desk and a bench where various tools and equipment for honey production are lined up in neat rows.
Tecla is a member of a cooperative association, Asociacao de Chizizira. The members have 100 beehives between them, and last year they produced over 350 litres of honey. This does not signify huge incomes, but it is an important addition to the agriculture in the area. Here, the production has mostly covered their own needs and little more.
Tecla has no official title in the association, but during the meetings she has a clear role as a leader, and it is obvious that the other members listen to what she has to say. She is the one with the long history of experience in the honey trade; many of the others are beginners. But she lets others fill the positions and become chairman, vice-chairman and secretary.
With support from Sweden, the cooperative association was formed by four different villages.
“The fact that we have formed and legalized our association is important for us given how the system is today. Just by being an association, we can have a direct dialogue with authorities. When we stick together and are united, we can also gain access to financing and loans,” explains Tecla.
The next step for the association is to get help with surveying the land which traditionally, and thereby also in accordance with Mozambique's new land law, belongs to the villages. Then the people living there will also have the right to cultivate the area.
“To legalize the right to cultivate our land is a very important process for us. When we have papers that say we have the rights to this land, that it belongs to the association, we know that the bee colonies are on our land and we can invest,” says Tecla.
The money that the association receives from sales will be mostly used for investments, and Tecla has big plans.
“If everyone contributes with a fee from the production, we will build a capital sum which we can put into a fund, such as an investment fund. That's why it's important that we have an association. We are discussing the purchase of more beehives in order to enable us to increase sales and in this way create larger incomes for the families and in the villages. But we also want to plant orchards because they can help to improve honey production. When the fruit trees blossom, we get more honey.”
Through the land rights project and the education which the association has received through ITC, a better understanding has been gained of the importance of conserving the tropical forest in the area; its great biodiversity is the secret behind the honey's excellent quality. A threat is represented by families which move in to the area and burn down areas of forest so that they can use the ground for small allotments or “machambas”, and others who make fires to smoke bees out of their natural hives.
“If we get support from Sweden to legalize the land, we will also be able to better protect our forest from people who burn it down, because the forest is ours, and we have a certificate to prove it. It is ours,” Tecla emphasizes once more.