Then there’s a wave of new technology on the horizon to drive this traditional industry into the

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“If you want to do social upliftment, you need to be a partner in the business,” Hurter explains. This is where NGOs tend to fail. “In Zambia, that’s about helping the guys crop the proper quality – but then being the buyer as well. You give them the scope to expand, because you’ll pay them at the end of the day.” Then there’s a wave of new technology on the horizon to drive this traditional industry into the modern age. Terence Chambati, a Zimbabwean based in Uganda, identified the lack of data in the industry, when he couldn’t even find a reliable figure for how much honey Uganda was producing. He co-founded HuchiHive to start collating information and provide a tech-based approach to improve beekeeping. Their bee trackers – little “backpacks” for the bees – work out how far the bees are travelling and what they’re foraging, so farmers can plant the appropriate trees around their hives. Huchi smart-hives allow remote access to a beehive’s location, humidity, temperature, sounds and weight; the team are working on measuring pesticide residue, too. HuchiHive has just moved past the prototype stage and is now launching its pilot with 200 sites. This approach to data capture will be crucial to managing the industry going forward, promoting investment and measuring the gains of bee farming against potential problems, such as risks to wild pollinators. As conservation is challenged to become more profitable, well-managed bee farming in sub-Saharan Africa could become a pin-up for ethical industries – a business that protects a crucial pollinator, preserves forests, and provides sustainable income and business opportunities. A sweet deal, indeed. Join one million Future fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter or Instagram. If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “If You Only Read 6 Things This