At 17, Percy Shongwe was determined to transform his and his siblings’ futures through education. His family of nine was sustained by their mother, who struggled to put food on the table and pay for school fees through her job as a preschool teacher.
In 2008, Percy began training with TechnoServe to generate his own income through beekeeping. Honey is an artisanal, low-investment product that TechnoServe studies identified as a high-potential income generator in Swaziland. In training seminars, TechnoServe staff distributed 16 beehives to 60 participants, Percy and many other vulnerable youth among them, teaching them how to cultivate and collect honey to achieve maximum quantity and quality – a major limitation across the existing honey sector.
However, TechnoServe’s study also indicated that while there was a viable market for honey, most was sold informally, keeping returns low. In order to help integrate smallholders into formal markets, TechnoServe partnered with Eswatini Kitchen, a producer of gourmet preserves, sauces, and honey. Just as up-and-coming beekeepers were constrained by a lack of technical knowledge and formal markets, Eswatini struggled to extend their sourcing network and operations due to overstretched management and a lack of financing for long-overdue capital investment.
By bringing these youth and Eswatini together and helping both to overcome their business challenges, TechnoServe was able to make the first linkage in a burgeoning honey value chain. TechnoServe helped Eswatini to access credit, allowing them to buy new machinery and improve their operations. With new bottling and labeling equipment, Eswatini was able to reduce turnaround time, explore new market opportunities, and broaden their sourcing network to Percy and his peers.
Now operating a 50-hive farm – a venture that only requires 60 hours of work per year, leaving plenty of time for study – Percy began earning more than $7,000, which he used to pay the family’s school fees. He also began saving to install electricity in the home he shared with his mother and seven siblings. Similarly, Eswatini’s new prosperity spread beyond their business and throughout the community. Since it’s foundation in 2001, the company’s earnings had directly funded Manzini Youth Care, a nonprofit organization supporting marginalized young Swazis with residential care, primary education, and skills training.
Further still, Eswatini’s growth alongside TechnoServe helped to move Swaziland closer to building a premier honey market capable of providing prosperous livelihoods for a new generation of enterprising youth like Percy. Through their advancements, Eswatini increased their processing from 8 to 14 tons of honey in one year, expanding their sourcing network to 200 artisanal producers, and stabilizing their support of 2,000 youth through Manzini Youth Care. Their improved production also allowed them to join the Cooperation for Fair Trade in Africa (COFTA) and secure certifications that would facilitate their access to international markets, paving the way to a sweet and prosperous future for Swaziland’s honey value chain and the producers working to transform their lives through this golden opportunity.