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The Big Beehive Build 2017

The Big Beehive Build 2017 team The Big Beehive Build 2017 team

3 days, 14 women and over 100 beehives to build. At Farm Africa, we call that a challenge!

Sainsbury's Director of Brand and Farm Africa trustee, Judith Batchelar has once again led a group of senior women from the UK and Irish food industry to Tanzania to successfully complete the 2017 ‘The Big Beehive Build’ challenge. The team worked alongside the Bermi community in Tanzania to construct 120 Langstroth beehives, which have now been handed over to the local community to kick-start profitable and sustainable honey farming businesses for the Bermi beekeeping group.

This year’s team included: Catherine Allen, Rowse Honey; Judith Batchelar, Sainsbury's and Farm Africa Trustee; Helen Brierley, Vitacress; Viv Harris, ABP Food Group; Lorraine Hendle, William Reed Business Media; Ursula Lavery, Moy Park; Gillian McAuley, Devenish Nutrition; Marnie Millard, Nichols PLC; Ann Savage, Marel; Judith Simpson, Rowse Honey; Helen Sisson, Greencore; Hannah-Louise Smith, Metro Bank; Alice Stanton, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Devenish Nutrition; Frances Swallow, Finsbury Foods.

You can help the team reach their £80,000 target by making a donation. 


It’s been a dramatic journey! At one point it looked like Hurricane Ophelia was going to blow the build off course but all 14 women have now safely made it to Tanzania. Stay tuned to keep track of the builders' progress.


Alice Stanton, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Devenish Nutrition and Helen Brierley, Vitacress

We arrived into Addis Ababa at 6.30 am, it was wonderful to be greeted by warmth and the scent of spices. Teas, coffees and fresh orange juices were welcomed by all!

After a fantastic welcome from Lawrence and Beatrice, our Farm Africa team, we boarded our bus. The vast countryside around Kilimanjaro is quite dry and fairly flat with distant mountains. However, along the journey to Babati we experienced very different terrains, from the very green and verdant to dry and dusty. The roads in Tanzania are very good, all fully tarmac and lots of speed bumps! Lots of motorcycles were evident, even a few with three passengers!

It was interesting looking at the variety of crops from the road; we saw coffee, beds of green leafy vegetables and something called pigeon peas, which we will be trying later in the week.

Arrived in Babati at about 7.00 pm. Conversations at dinner revealed some nervousness about our major challenge to complete the 120 beehives over the next three days. Hence off to bed to get 8 hours of sleeping flat to give us the best chance.

Check out the photogallery above for all of day one's action.

Make a donation to support the Big Beehive Build here.

Hannah-Louise Smith, Metro Bank

Today is the first day of our challenge. We meet at the hotel for our breakfast at 7.30 for an early start before a bumpy but beautiful drive from Babati town to Bermi village. There’s lots of chatter on the bus with excited anticipation as we drive towards the Nou Forest.

As we approach the village, we are met with a big banner welcoming us but even more amazingly, the locals greet us with a song! It's great to feel so welcome, as many on our trip haven't visited Africa never mind take part in such a fantastic challenge.

Lawrence, Farm Africa’s Beekeeping officer, starts with a demo build of a beehive. The anxious excitement is visible around the ladies and the locals who have given up their time to work with us to build 120 hives.

It's a hive of activity in the village as we split into organised groups to build sections. Our biggest challenge is building the wire frames as we'll need 2,400 of them. At a rate of 20 every 10 minutes we are motoring on despite a few hammering and plier incidents!

Lunch is a welcome rest as we refuel for the afternoon. The hives are starting to come together and by the end of the day we all have a great sense of achievement as we estimate we are half way through!

The busy bees now head for a well-deserved break before another exciting day. What an amazing experience!

Check out the photogallery above for all of day two's action.

Make a donation to support the Big Beehive Build here.

Judith Batchelar, Sainsbury's

In this video Judith Batchelar gets behind the lens to give us a virtual tour of The Big Beehive Build’s HQ. The clip shows the businesswomen racing against the clock to meet their target of building 120 beehives.  Stay tuned to find out whether the group successfully completed the challenge! Show the team some support by making a donation.


Ursula Lavery, Moy Park and Helen Sisson, Greencore

15 women, 2.5 days, 120 beehives built and numerous lives changed forever…. mission accomplished!

What an honour to be involved in such an amazing experience. To mark the end of the challenge, we were part of a special ceremony, which included speeches from the Community Executive and the District Commissioner. The event brought home the significance of the challenge.

We perhaps underestimated the potential of what this challenge could achieve. We had built beehives that will help Bermi women to develop and build sustainable honey enterprises. The ladies we met were welcoming, kind, resourceful and very keen to learn and improve their lives and those of their families. We were honoured to spend time with them.

Today we visited the Erri community who in 2015 received the beehives built in the first Big Beehive Challenge. The community were delighted to show us their hives and the lovely range of products the community are producing from their honey, such as honey hand cream, candles, soap, medicine and delicious honey and toasted sesame seed cake. But that’s not all! The community is building a new processing facility, which will allow them to produce an even bigger range of products.

Empowering women is a central part of the Tanzanian Government’s vision for the country. This means helping women find gainful employment. Empowering women farmers helps build better lives for their children and local community, but it also makes a valuable contribution to developing a stronger, more sustainable economy for the country.

Our fundraising total has now reached £62,000! If you have not had the opportunity to donate something yet please click here.

Asante and Kwaheri
(Thank you and Goodbye)

Judith Batchelar, Sainsbury's

There was a point on Thursday this week when I secretly questioned whether we would complete the 120 beehives ready to hand over to the Bermi Community Beekeepers on Friday afternoon. Needless to say, the rest of the team were never in any doubt and we completed the challenge at midday on Friday and by 2pm the celebratory party and dancing were in full swing, and I must admit it was slightly surreal hearing Ed Sheeran blasting out through the speakers at the forest gathering.

I have no doubt that these hives will make a real and lasting difference to the women of this community. What will leave a lasting impression with me were not only the people within the community that we got to know a little better this week, but the words of the District Commissioner Raymond H. Mushi who spoke with real conviction at the handover ceremony. He spoke about the very logical reasons why as part of the Tanzanian Government's Economic Strategy, Women's Empowerment was a priority: It is hard to imagine a successful and growing Tanzanian economy without the empowerment of 50% of the population. But he also spoke about doing the right thing and the role we all must play in this, and fundamentally what are the principles by which we chose to live our lives? It was a poignant moment when he then explained why he felt that one of those guiding principles was the duty of "service" to others and it was important to help each other if and when we can, because that is a truly worthwhile way to live one’s life.

He finished by thanking us for the service that we provided to the Bermi women. There wasn't a dry eye at this point and that message will resonate for a very longtime to come.

Signing off from this year’s challenge and the fundraising total has now exceeded £60,000, exhausted but happy and heading home! 

Lorraine Hendle, William Reed Business Media

There was never any doubt in my mind that we’d complete our task. As a veteran of three Farm Africa challenges defeat was not an option. But the enormity of constructing 120 beehives from scratch in 72 hours only became real when confronted by a sea of wood and an empty space awaiting the arrival of hives.

Friday morning, the final day, and there remained space to be filled.

The food industry is a challenging place to work so this group of feisty women were full of determination and, just like our industry, they respond to a challenge.

Friday was a hive of activity; hammering, wiring, painting, stencilling and, finally, stacking hives to occupy that last remaining space. But would we finish?

Of course we did! Tired bodies were forgotten as we looked at the rows of completed beehives complete with super boxes, bedding boxes and queen patios all held together with thousands and thousands of nails. The sense of achievement is amazing; yet surpassing this is the thought of the difference the hives will make. A 72 hour challenge is the beginning of a local community business. The women, men and children of the Bermi community will all benefit from this resource. We all share the same ambitions but resource is what divides us.

So we celebrate by eating together then dancing before saying our goodbyes.

It’s been amazing, unbeelievable. There’s been a buzz around all week and now honey sweet success.

Bermi, we won’t ever forget you and it has been a privilege. Thank you Farm Africa, you continue to inspire me and I hope many more continue to support this long-term sustainable work.

Why are we doing this?

Tanzania is losing forests at a disastrous rate of 300,000 hectares every year — around 1,500 football fields every day. As forest loss reduces water supply for local communities, they struggle to grow enough food to eat and turn to cutting down trees for income to survive — a vicious circle destroying the very resource they need to survive for the long-term.

Poverty is the main driver of deforestation so Farm Africa works with the communities teaching them how to make money through forest-friendly businesses. This challenge will kick-start new honey businesses for the Bermi community.


Food for Good

Food for Good is bringing together the food and hospitality industry in response to the global challenge of hunger. Business leaders and workforces from across the industry have pledged their support to raise £5 million to help 70,000 people move out of hunger and poverty. The 2015 Big Beehive Build was the first challenge out of the blocks, building on the huge success of the Dig for Good challenge in 2013. 

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