Savatu’s First Female Bee Keeper

25 year old Mereilisoni Suraki, of Naiyaca Village has become the latest Bee Keeper to be established in the Savatu area in the Nadarivatu region. Nadarivatu is in the interior of the main island Viti Levu. Mere first became involved in the Bee Keeping industry when ADRA started its Community Empowerment Project activities in the area. When asked what had motivated her, Mere says “Oh it was out of my own interest. I figured it is something new and different from the other ventures that the villagers are usually assisted with. I thought I could give it a try”

Mere was part of the initial training that was organized for the three partner villages with ADRA in the Savatu area. The training was facilitated by the Ministry of Agricultures Bee Keeping National Coordinator and their team of trainers. After the initial establishment of the bee keeping business in her village, Mere was part of the committee that oversaw the daily running of the business. Because of her new found interest, she took on the task of visiting the new hives, checking on the bees, cleaning the area etc. Although challenged by most of her family members and relatives in the village, Mere decided to follow her interest and continue visiting the hives. Because of her active involvement in the village business she was nominated to be part of a weeklong attachment program with Mckenzies Bee Lines Ltd in Rakiraki. During the attachment program the seven trainees, including Mere, were provided with hands on experience on the various aspects of Bee Keeping. This was a capacity building opportunity that was identified by ADRA for its Bee Keeping Community partners. Also during this attachment program, the trainees were linked up with the National Council for Small Micro Enterprises Developments (NCSMED), Business Incubation Centre (BIC) located in Rakiraki. As a result of this new relationship the BIC decided to assist these new farmers expand on the skills and knowledge that they had acquired so far.

On Friday 26th Nov 2010, Mere along with the other six men from the three villages, received their new hives from the BIC. The BIC was impressed with the quality of honey that came out of the area and also saw the potential that the area had in contributing to meet the local demand for Honey. When asked what her impressions were of the assistance and her new hives Mere said “I am truly blessed to be given this wonderful opportunity. I am very excited about it. I will try and make use of what I had learnt from the various trainings I have attended to not only ensure that my new Bee colonies thrive, but that I may also expand my new business in time to come. This could be the future for me”

Mere also acknowledges the challenges she may face. One of her biggest hurdles is the traditional mindset of her family and community. Bee Keeping is seen to be work for ‘men’ in the surrounding communities, and that it is no place for a young woman like her. In response to this she says “ I will do my best to ensure that my business thrives so I can be an example for other women”

When asked if she has a message for other rural women, she says “Grab every opportunity you get. Bigger things will come if you commit yourself to the little things. I never dreamt that I would get this far but I guess, if one has the interest and the passion, then very little can get in their way”

BIC staff unloading Bee keeping equipment Bee Hives being Set up- Mere facing camera in red gloves