In Burkina Faso, bees protect the sacred hippopotamuses of Woozi

Published on 9 July 2024
ICON/BTN/arrow/2/arrow-down Created with Sketch. UncategorizedIn Burkina Faso, bees protect the sacred hippopotamuses of Woozi

The BISSAKOUPOU association is a civil society organisation which, since 1996, has been active in nature conservation and development in the Centre Est region of Burkina Faso. The association has over 2,000 members and covers a radius of action of 30 communes in three provinces. Its experience of local development has enabled it to identify promising sectors of activity. Bee-keeping, for example, has been shown to generate know-how and income, and deserves to be promoted.


Burkina Faso is essentially an agro-pastoral country. Livestock farming plays an important role in the economy, as demonstrated by its contribution to Gross Domestic Product and export earnings. Over 80% of the population derives part of its income from livestock farming. This sub-sector has the potential to improve its contribution to the national economy. This is particularly true of the beekeeping sector, where demand for beehive products is growing all the time.


The aim of this article is to share with civil society players and technical and financial partners (private and public) an approach for sustaining biodiversity conservation initiatives through beekeeping in the Woozi local hippopotamus refuge.


A structured method and committed communities.


Hippos cause damage to crops along riverbanks (grazing, trampling of maize, groundnuts and market garden produce), leading to recurring conflicts with humans. Faced with this problem, the BISSAKOUPOU association has taken a compensatory approach by promoting the beekeeping sector, which is a source of alternative income and strengthens ecosystem services, particularly pollination.


The method used was to collect and analyse the expectations and perspectives of the riverside communities using the banks and victims of hippopotamus damage. Following the consultations, it was decided to set up a system of self-financing for conservation by transferring part of the income generated from beekeeping to conservation actions for the refuge and the hippopotamuses. The tools developed were based on village meetings, field visits and information-gathering sheets.


A successful conversion and growing income


Over the three years of the project, 48 people working on the riverbanks, including 19 victims of hippopotamus damage on both banks (east and west) of the refuge, have voluntarily “agreed to stop farming on the riverbanks where hippopotamuses are present” and have received training in modern beekeeping. Based on this first phase, the “new” beekeepers received 144 beekeeping kits (improved hives, water troughs, gloves, boots, overalls, etc.).

This process was accompanied upstream by regular “advisory support” for beekeepers by BISSAKOUPOU coordinators to ensure optimum conditions for honey production, and downstream by putting beekeepers in touch with the DAKUPA/BMN company as a potential buyer of honey at the negotiated price of 2,000 CFA francs per kg (€3 per kg) of raw honey in order to secure the market.


With this 68% return on investment in three years, the average income generated per beekeeper (if we take into account that the investments are subsidised) is around 156,000 CFA francs/year (238 €/year). This is already interesting compared with the national average income per beekeeper. In fact, the report “Census of beekeepers in Burkina Faso (March 2019)” identified 16,261 beekeepers nationwide, generating a total of 2,777,682,600 CFA francs (€4,234,550) in income from the sale of honey and wax (based on 3,000 CFA francs per kg (€4.6)).

This gives an average of 170,819 FCFA[1] (€260) compared with 156,000 F CFA (€238) for BISSAKOUPOU beekeepers, without wax production and with a honey selling price of only 2,000 F CFA/Kg compared with 3,000 F CFA/Kg for other national beekeepers. In addition, the financial resources generated enabled the beneficiaries to meet their household needs, and also to strengthen their activities by acquiring at least one additional hive per beekeeper from their own funds.


Reinvestment in biodiversity conservation


In addition, 25% of the profits, i.e. a total of 5,616,000 CFA francs (€8,562) over three years, has been used to finance certain activities in the simplified action plan (periodic meetings, general meeting, reforestation, monitoring of the refuge, etc.) of the inter-village association managing the local hippopotamus refuge in Woozi.


Numerous sustainable and reproducible benefits


The development of an approach to promoting the beekeeping sector that takes account of the problems of human/wildlife cohabitation in a context where rural communities are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change can serve as a socio-economic model for building/reinforcing conservation strategies;


The use of the beekeeping sector helps to achieve the dual objective of strengthening the resilience of the Woozi ecosystem by providing polonisation services through bees and generating alternative income to reduce the vulnerability of small-scale producers who are exposed not only to low land productivity but also to damage caused by hippopotamuses;


The implementation of the “collector pays” approach can only be achieved on the basis of mutual trust between the stakeholders. By agreeing to reinject 25% of the income generated from the marketing of honey to strengthen the activities of the inter-village refuge management committee in conserving the refuge’s biodiversity and agroforestry areas, the whole issue of community commitment to nature and people is highlighted and constitutes a source of sustainability.



The main challenges are to scale up the approach in other forest areas and to improve the value chain by labelling products. This requires the setting up of processing and packaging centres to facilitate the traceability of products and improve revenue.

Given the role played by the association in devising this approach, which integrates conservation and income improvement/diversification, it will be important for this model to be documented and widely disseminated to civil society organisations active in conservation. In addition, there are other examples of good practice in the management of agroforestry areas (reforestation, manure pits, stone barriers, bank protection, etc.).

To date, and on the basis of the lessons learned, BISSAKOUPOU is seeking additional support to capitalise on and share its experience and know-how with other communities, and to encourage good agro-pastoral practice and nature-based solutions at national level. In particular, the aim is to design materials tailored to the various communities (posters, leaflets, guide and activity manual) and to spread the initiative.



Contacts : Daouda Zeba,

WhatsApp : +226 70 11 39 73


[1] MINISTERE DES RESSOURCES ANIMALES ET HALIEUTIQUES, recensement des apiculteurs et caractérisation des exploitations apicoles du BURKINA FASO, Mars 2019, 39 Pages

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