African Bronze Honey Project
The African Bronze Honey Project is a for-profit, social enterprise B Corp, partnered with Forest Fruits of Zambia, committed to sustainable practice and preserving traditional heritage while creating economic opportunity for independent beekeepers and their families.
6000 beekeepers have been trained and 800 tonnes of honey are exported annually.
Empowerment in a bottle.
Terroir: African Bronze Honey comes from the vast 12,000 sq. km West Lunga Forest, an African miombo woodland forest preserve in the northwest region of Zambia that borders Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the headwaters of the mighty Zambezi River – remote, undeveloped and pristine.
Flavour and Properties: Gathered twice a year, African Bronze is a dark, antioxidant and micronutrient rich, full flavoured, tropical forest honey. Our honey has notes of treacle, whisky, dried fruit, smoke and maple syrup.
The bees gather nectar from a vastly diverse array of plants, trees and flowers, many of which are embraced by traditional medicine for their healing properties. Modern science has begun to substantiate the nutritional benefits of raw honey as well as its natural antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
Organic: Our honey is raw, unpasteurized, gravity filtered, natural honey produced by wild bees. It comes from an area free from chemicals, pharmaceutical compounds and GMO’s. African Bronze Honey is Certified Organic by EcoCert. This certification exceeds Canadian and USDA Organic standards.
Fair Trade: Our honey embodies the principles of Fair Trade: opportunity, transparency, capacity, fair price, safe working conditions, environmental stewardship and respect for cultural identity.
Traditional Harvest: Forest Fruits of Zambia and the African Bronze Honey Project are dedicated to preserving and promoting traditional practices in a sustainable manner. Hives are made from bark or hollow logs and placed high in the forest canopy. The hives are baited with honey to attract a colony of wild bees, then the honey is carefully removed from the end of the hive to protect the colony. Twice a year the honey is brought to the edge of the forest for sale to Forest Fruits. This means a hot 20 kilometre or longer trek carrying buckets that weigh 50 kgs or more.
Four-wheel drive trucks are used to collect the buckets of raw honey from across the forest after harvest. Forest Fruits and the beekeepers agree on price and payment is made in cash. Pre-purchased goods ordered by beekeepers at the last harvest are unloaded from the trucks. Meetings and discussions are held long into the night. Plans and forecasts for the next harvest are made and everyone enjoys another profitable season.
The big, lumbering overland trucks depart with thousands of buckets for the provincial town of Mwinilunga for ‘primary processing’. Here the honey is separated from the comb by hand, packed in barrels and then trucked to Forest Fruits’ factory in Lusaka for bottling. The factory employs nearly 100 people; at least 60% are women. They carefully label, fill, cap and pack every bottle by hand.
After inspection, a container is packed to the roof with thousands of cases of African Bronze Honey. It crosses the Namibian desert by truck to the coastal town of Walvis Bay, where it’s loaded into the hold of a container ship. For three weeks it sleeps as the massive boat makes its way up the coast and on to Europe, then across the Atlantic to Montreal for unloading and inspection. Then by truck to our warm warehouse… where it waits for you.
African Bronze Honey is like no other... it is Africa.
The Backstory and Dan Ball
Almost 20 years ago, Zambian Canadian eco-entrepreneur, Dan Ball went into a remote part of Africa to help two dozen struggling beekeepers sell their honey. He said, “I can help you, let’s start a business.” Today Dan has trained over 6000 beekeepers and exports 800 tonnes of honey every year to Europe.
But Dan had a problem; with a growing list of 3000 people waiting to be trained and equipped as beekeepers, he needed to generate more income. So he turned to long-time friends, Canadian artist-entrepreneurs and former Zimbabwean residents, Paul Whitney and Liz Connell, “Help me value add our honey,” he said, “help me bring it to Canada and the US.”
The Story of the African Bronze Honey Project
With virtually no retail or grocery sales experience, Paul and Liz decided it was time to think outside the box; maybe even design a new box. In 2012 they launched the African Bronze Honey Project to bring the honey to Canadian schools as a fundraising project. The Project is an innovative, healthy and educational way for school kids to learn about some of the issues rural Africans face while earning substantial fundraising dollars for their own school projects. Students learn a valuable lesson with every bottle sold.
The African Bronze Honey Project sets aside a percentage of profits for more training – supporting entrepreneurship and beekeeping in Africa. African Bronze Honey is one of the most delicious foods on the planet produced from one of the least developed places in the world. Call it, “Empowerment in a bottle.”
Progress and Achievements
The power one, the strength of many.
Since Dan’s humble beginnings in the Zambian bush, many great things have happened. Dan and his company Forest Fruits Ltd. have successfully trained over 6000 independent beekeepers. They produce over 800 tonnes of exceptional organic forest honey each year. In an area where there is almost no employment and cash was non-existent, these efforts have transformed thousands of lives.
The beekeepers are trained and equipped for free and are taught numeracy and literacy. Earning money by beekeeping can mean a metal roof, a bicycle, books or school fees. They earn a reliable source of income from their own efforts, in their own environment with a positive environmental and social impact. Honey collected from wild bees is a practice as old as time. Dan’s idea was to use tradition and local assets to create a sustainable solution to poverty and unemployment.
Organic, Fair Trade, Benefit
In 2014 Engineers Without Borders (EWB) noted the work of The African Bronze Honey Project by granting the Project a ‘Social Entrepreneurs for Change” Fellowship. Known for its ‘game changer’ philosophy, EWB had sent a number of young engineers to Dan’s project over the years. The Fellowship allowed the African Bronze Honey Project to up its game by reaching a broader audience and forging important new connections.
One of those connections was the Fair Trade Federation. In the fall of 2014, the African Bronze Honey Company was granted membership to the Fair Trade Federation in recognition of its’ fair trade and fair business practices. Toward the end of 2014 the African Bronze Honey Company also received certification as a B (Benefit) Corp. B Corps use “the power of business to solve social and environmental problems”.
In December, 2014 another door opened and we walked through it. Organic foods retail giant, Whole Foods Markets called. With more than 360 stores in the US, Canada and the UK and with their unwavering commitment to high quality, sustainable and fair trade food, we knew we found another place to call home. In the newly opened Lansdowne Whole Foods Markets store, African Bronze Honey sold out all stock on the first day. 2015 will bring expansion to Whole Food Market stores across the country in addition to many other health food and specialty stores throughout Ontario and Quebec. Watch for us coming your way soon!
Changing the world… one bottle of honey at a time.