An interview with Reginald Saria, Founder of Asilia African Honey Company
This article was featured in The Beam #9 — Voices from the Global South. Subscribe to The Beam for more.
Reginald Saria is the Founder of Asilia African Honey Company, a company that became, in just a few months, a valuable producer and supplier of pure organic honey in Tanzania. “Beekeeping is an ideal income-generating activity which is not labour intensive, and there is a ready market for products, both locally and internationally,” explains the entrepreneur, whose motivation is to contribute to protecting the environment while engaging Tanzanian youth in the energy transition. Reginald participated in Hivos’ Energy Safari, a multiple-day learning journey for Tanzanian youth, with the aim of awareness-raising on energy issues and the fostering of entrepreneurship. Reginald has already created eight jobs with his startup.
“We give beekeepers financial reasons to preserve the environment.”
How are you contributing to the protection of the natural ecosystem with your company?
We are teaching rural community and local beekeepers better ways of doing beekeeping without destroying the environment. We introduce them to modern tools and equipment that are not harmful to the environment and to our ecosystem. We give beekeepers financial reasons to preserve the environment, ensuring that flowers and trees are protected.
The advantage of beekeeping is that we can use wild cultivated and wasteland areas, we don’t need to use land needed from crops. At the same time, the bee population is essential to the fertilisation of fruits and vegetables, and therefore to sustain our ability to feed ourselves.
We are also contributing to solving energy issues within the local community by advising the population to use gas and electricity instead of charcoal and firewoods.
Speaking of energy, how do you use renewable energy in your business?
Most villages where mini-grid companies operate (using solar energy) have the potential for beekeeping and honey processing, but they are often practised on a small scale. That is where we come in. We bring modern beekeeping tools, equipment and machinery that can be operated by solar power systems and contribute to improving the livelihood of local communities who live in rural areas.
Why is it so important for you to raise awareness about entrepreneurship among local communities in these rural areas, especially amongst youth?
Unemployment is the biggest threat to sustainable livelihood for youth here. Entrepreneurship through beekeeping can create a lot of jobs opportunities and contribute to reducing this unemployment rate. Bees are obtained from the wild, they don’t need beekeepers to feed them so even people with limited resources can start beekeeping.
We educate the community on the importance of modern commercial beekeeping. Our company processes their products, packs and sells them to larger markets, creating employment opportunities for a larger number of young people.
Speaking of, do you feel like Tanzanian youth is aware of the opportunities energy brings? Is there interest from young people in Tanzania to start up a business in that industry?
A lot of young people in Tanzania depend on energy to earn their daily income. Energy can bring a lot of opportunities for the agricultural sector, food processing, as well as in fashion industries, in entertainment and in information technologies. Electricity is the current flowing through the digital world. It is the path to education, health care, and the eradication of poverty, so bringing reliable sources of energy to rural areas is a critical move.
Young Tanzanians are aware of the opportunities that energy brings and as we keep educating the community on how to do commercial beekeeping, we see a lot of young people interested in starting their own beekeeping farms. The financial rewards beekeeping can bring attracts not only young people, but also the elderly, disabled, and both women and men are interested in engaging in this industry. Beekeeping can be done by people of all ages since it does not require daily care.
How does entrepreneurship contribute to alleviating poverty and employment insecurities in Tanzania?
Entrepreneurship contributes to poverty reduction in Tanzania when it creates employment through the startup of new entrepreneurship or the expansion of existing ones and they increase social wealth by creating new markets, new industries, new technology, new institutional forms, new jobs and net increases in productivity.
What would you say are the main benefits of fostering productive uses of energy for sustainable livelihood?
Access to energy, particularly through clean and modern technology, can make substantial contributions to promote sustainable livelihood, particularly in poor rural areas in Tanzania.
The first benefits are improved access to information, modern communication channels and entertainment, which contributes to raising awareness. Access to energy in rural communities also means reduced operational expenditure, access to environmentally sustainable fuel, labour-saving for women, and the improvement of agricultural and labour market efficiency (coordination with suppliers and distributors, service delivery platform, etc.).
Residential use of electricity improves the quality of life in rural communities while productive use of renewable energy in rural areas leads to increased productivity, higher economic growth and a rise in rural employment. Agriculture is the dominant source of income in most rural areas. Therefore, improving agricultural practices is a critical element for the sustainable livelihood of the population as it is linked to food security, higher economic growth and a rise in rural employment.
According to your experience, what are the biggest challenges of building your own sustainable business in Tanzania?
For me, the biggest challenge was the lack of funding to finance the necessary equipment and machinery to expand and sustain the development of substantial commercial beekeeping.
Another challenge is the lack of a network platform, which can unite colleagues who are in the same industry of beekeeping so that we can share skills, knowledge and opportunities, as well as to solve problems that are surrounding our industry.
Do you have any idea on what would be needed to overcome these challenges?
I think we would greatly benefit from an entrepreneurship forum that would bring together key Tanzanian personalities from the entrepreneurial ecosystem, with the aim to leverage our convening powers to promote entrepreneurship and to connect local communities with other decision-makers.