Nzatu: How Beekeeping May Prevent Teen Pregnancy in Africa

How does beekeeping change the dynamics of child brides and adolescent motherhood? By providing a greater source of income for rural people.
by on Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Beekeeping In Rural Africa

How does beekeeping change the dynamics of child brides and adolescent motherhood? It may sound like a strange riddle, but it’s not. It is a program that is supporting women, children, and men as well across multiple regions of Africa–including Uganda, Zambia, and Malawi. 

I recently was fortunate enough to meet with Denise and Gwen from Nzatu to learn about their work as a social enterprise. Our conversation flowed from teen pregnancy, to the injustices within our food systems, to beekeeping, and it left me inspired beyond words. 

Nzatu is a new business, but not a new project. They’ve only been officially in operation since 2021, but they already work with 5000 farmers and have partners in 15 countries across Africa. How did they manage this so quickly?

“We’ve always been doing this work,” says Gwen. 

The Origins of Nzatu

Denise and Gwen grew up with a British father and an Indigenous mother, giving them a bicultural lens. They saw how their relatives lived with so few resources. They saw girls they grew up with being married off at young ages for a dowry. The broad problem is poverty, and they realized that they were in a position to offer support in informal ways–which they did for many years. Nzatu as an organization became a formal vehicle from which they could realize their social impact activities. With Nzatu, they could help rural producers access mainstream export markets. 

“We want to eliminate early teen pregnancy,” Denise told me. “So we want consumers to understand that every time they purchase our products, they are keeping children in school. They are keeping young girls from being married off at early ages.”


Gwen and Denise already understood the challenges people in rural communities faced: the lack of communication, technology, logistics and transport. These regions are very rural and often there is no running water. There’s no electricity and the houses are huts. There may be some trees in the yards, often mango trees, and some crops growing. The land is quite arid in the dry season where it’s very very hot and dry. There’s no public transport and the people are isolated. With Nzatu, Gwen and Denise saw how they could help people and farmers in rural communities get their products to market. 

How Does Nzatu Work to Prevent Teen Pregnancy & Facilitate Regenerative Agriculture

Most farmers have around a hectare or two of land to use, and beekeeping works here, even in this arid, semi-desert type of place. The bees are able to produce food and the honey the farmers collect is more lucrative than other crops, such as maize. 

Maize has been the main cash crop across many regions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t bring in much cash at all and it is highly controlled and manipulated by governments. They control the seeds, the fertilizer, and they set the prices. People growing maize have been earning only 20 cents per kilo and from honey they can earn around $2, and it requires much less labor intensive work. 

And beekeeping has been there for centuries, but people rarely used it for a form of an income. Now the demand for quality honey is growing as consumers seek healthier options for sweeteners.

Nzatu provides the supplies and installation of the bee boxes. “We don’t like to call it training and instead prefer to call it support. We like to hold their hands through the whole process,” says Denise. 

There are many advantages to beekeeping for rural farmers. The main part is installing the hives and harvesting the honey. Once they install the bee boxes, the hives require very little maintenance. They don’t require fertilizer or weeding. The bees do the work. Support staff from Nzatu visit the farmers regularly to check their progress and offer continued support. Mostly, they make sure that the bees are happy and have enough water and flowers around, at least within a 5 kilometer radius.  

Nzatu: Holistic Solutions for People & the Environment

Nzatu’s programs are multifaceted.  In addition to facilitating honey as a source of income, they also encourage intercropping with leguminous plants like beans and peas and agroforestry techniques. These practices are a win for everyone. Greater plant diversity offers consistent food for the bees, the practice is better for the environment, and farmers can grow more crops for consumption or to sell. 

Many of these farmers have been earning around $1 per day. With the beekeeping and agroforestry program, they can increase their income by $1500 per year, sometimes even more. Decreased poverty means children stay in school longer. It also means that fewer girl children will become brides and mothers during their adolescence. 


“While collaborating with coffee farmers in Uganda, we discovered that less than 2% of the population has experienced coffee despite it being the country’s primary export. Nzatu aims to address this by investing in a roaster for our training facility. This addition will enable farmers to taste their own produce. Similarly, in Kenya, a solution was devised to integrate coffee flavor into a popular sour milk drink, acknowledging the preference for tea over coffee.”

The work that Nzatu is doing doesn’t end with beekeeping and agroforestry. For example, while coffee farming isn’t their focus, they partner with organizations who work with coffee farmers to add beekeeping into their processes as well. 

Another project they support is redistributing donated medical equipment from the US to over 130 countries around the world. With no profit incentive, they have done this work for more than 20 years. 

They have built a large network of invested stakeholders and partners throughout the continent of Africa. “From Cape to Cairo,” says Gwen.  

From supporting agricultural research to helping with national food reserves in various countries and supporting small scale family networks with market linkages, Nzatu is truly taking a holistic approach to the big picture. 

“We’ve developed these relationships across the global South and the world. Through these relationships, we have learned about different initiatives within communities that are in need,” says Gwen.

She explains how their network of partners is like a tapestry. They are always connecting with new partners. 

I envision it like an ecosystem. The Nzatu’s work is promoting biodiversity in their tapestry, throughout their ecosystem of care. And in fact, the word Nzatu means “ours” in various local languages across the continent of Africa. And the more you learn about their work, the more you see it in action–the concept of connection. The idea of “ours” instead of just mine or yours. 

I’m always left with this reminder. The solutions are here. They exist. Sometimes they are technologically advanced, and sometimes they are tried and true, earth-based practices. Often, they include both. Either way, they exist when women are involved in leadership and entrepreneurship. They exist in strengthened networks of community care and nature positive thinking. 

At Producers Trust–we are here for it. 

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