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Empowering refugees in Chad's Kerfi settlement through thriving Beekeeping


Empowering refugees in Chad's Kerfi settlement through thriving Beekeeping

Kerfi, Chad—Amidst the arid landscape, under the shade of acacia and mango trees, a sense of hope blossoms. It's not just the sound of bees at work; it's the promise of a brighter future for the refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been calling Kerfi home for over a decade.
6 June 2024
Chad. Beekeeping Blossoms: Empowering Refugees in Kerfi Settlement.

In Kerfi, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, worked with partners and local communities to support a beekeeping project aimed at enhancing the livelihoods of refugees.

For many of these refugees, the journey to Kerfi was one of hardship and uncertainty. Fleeing conflict and violence, they left behind everything they knew, seeking refuge in a land that was both unfamiliar and initially unwelcoming. But despite the challenges of displacement, the beekeeping project stands as more than just a means of producing honey—it's a lifeline to stability and self-sufficiency.

“We arrived in Kerfi, exhausted and empty-handed. The humanitarian assistance was insufficient, and we were desperate,” recalls Aboubakar Ahmat Khalil, the president of the beekeeping association in Kerfi refugee settlement. “But we didn't give up. With the support of UNHCR and partners, we formed a small group and embarked on traditional beekeeping to survive.”

Syama was forced to flee with her husband and firstborn when she was just 18 years old, now as a mother of five, she has demonstrated remarkable resilience in rebuilding her family. "Being a refugee mother at a young age was very challenging, and I had to assume the responsibility of providing for the family. The beekeeping project played an essential role in helping me overcome the adversities," said Syama Mahamat Dougous.

With expert training and support, refugees have not just embraced the art of beekeeping but have done so with unwavering determination and resilience. The association produces approximately 600 kilograms of honey each year, generating about 3,000,000 FCFA (nearly US$5,000). 70% of this amount is distributed among the 12 members of the association, while the remaining 30% is allocated to savings. These savings serve as emergency funds for members and provide credit opportunities for those interested in pursuing additional business endeavours, thus facilitating their growth.

Aboubakar, Syama, and many other members, have found this project to be a new opportunity to foster resilience and self-reliance in challenging circumstances. “The project’s earnings add to the humanitarian aid we receive. I've even started a small business and work at the association’s warehouse located outside the refugee settlement in Kerfi," Syama said.

It has united us and given us a common goal to strive for.

The project's benefits go well beyond the honey that is harvested. Through beekeeping, refugees acquire valuable skills, generate income, and cultivate a strong sense of community and purpose.

Each hive in Kerfi’s beekeeping association, symbolizes resilience, showcasing the unwavering strength of ‘people who defy being defined by their displacement’.

"When we fled to Chad, everyone was simply striving to survive. Some refugees found ways to start small businesses, while others turned to agriculture and livestock. But for us, it was different. We longed to use our beekeeping knowledge to earn a living and nurture a sense of unity and purpose within the community," Syama added.

Today, shelves in the local market in Kerfi are decked with jars of golden honey, each carrying stories of courage and hope of refugees who dared to dream of a better future. The UNHCR in collaboration with its partner organisation CIAUD, and the generous support of other donors, has helped the beekeeping project become a powerful agent of change, bringing sweetness to the lives of forcibly displaced refugees in Kerfi, and sowing the seeds of a promising tomorrow.