When Philemon Josephat Kiemi was ten years old, he had a dream. In his dream, he saw a wealthy version of himself surrounded with honey. When he woke up, he forgot about the dream and instead went to school and played football like other boys his age.
Today, Kiemi is the founder and President of Singida Youth Entrepreneurs and Consultants Cooperative Society (SYECCOS). Established in 2009, SYECCOS is involved in the facilitation, establishment and operations of beekeeping apiaries in Tanzania. He is constantly surrounded with honey just like he saw in his dream.
"After I graduated from Sokoine University, I invited 26 of my friends to join me and start something that would be valuable for ourselves and others," Kiemi explained.
Since then they have implemented various activities including modern beehive construction and installation, honey processing, queen bee rearing, and training of youth through honey processing and candle making workshops. Today all 34 members of the cooperative receive monthly dividends.
"We are from one of the poorest regions of Tanzania," Kiemi said. "We have to work hard for a living. No one will do it for us".
Kiemi was born and raised in the semi-arid region of Singida, Central Tanzania. Despite the widespread poverty in the area the locals possess indigenous knowledge and skill in beekeeping. Approximately 21% of all Tanzanian honey is sourced from Singida. Despite this wealth of knowledge and experience, 90% of the hives are traditional hives made from logs, gourds, pots and bark.
"I grew up amongst beehives and beekeeping, it was a natural and normal part of my life," Kiemi said. "As children, we were not afraid when a bee stung us. We enjoyed it and felt special".
When Kiemi left home for secondary school, he would always travel with extra honey so that he could share with his friends and teachers. They enjoyed it and told their parents and friends who requested for more. Eventually, Kiemi realized this could be a business for him, and he decided to go back for more in-depth training from the older, more experienced men.
Unlike the traditional production methods that he was exposed to as a child, Kiemi was interested in utilizing the latest technologies and techniques for commercializing beekeeping. Until recently most of the honey from Singida was directly consumed or exchanged within or around the community, for production of beer, or used in cultural rituals like dowry payments. Consequently, the export industry has steadily declined over the years despite its high potential.
Kiemi is working hard to change all that with the Tanzanian beekeeping village. Apart from their own production and sale of honey, they teach beekeeping classes in the establishment, management, harvesting, processing, packaging, marketing and distribution of honey. They also sell various processing units and rent out residential rooms and shops for retailers. Presently, he is working on establishing an apiary museum. "I have never applied for a job or been employed by anyone else," Kiemi says. And from all indications, he will never have to.
SYECCOS produces 27 tons of honey annually from their apiaries and manages another 60 tons from out growers through which approximately 5 tons is exported. They have trained hundreds of youth in apiculture and are truly adding value to the community while improving their own lives.
Kiemi is a graduate of international post-graduate studies on Commercial beekeeping in Modern Agriculture from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He also holds a bachelor's degree in Family and Consumer Studies from Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro -Tanzania.
Kiemi is a participant in the Young Innovators in Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Development (YIELD), project. In partnership with MSU's Global Youth Advancement Network (GYAN) and funded by MSU's Alliance for African Partnership, YIELD is an initiative that helps young entrepreneurs' access and maximize opportunities in the agri-food system in Africa.
Today, He is President of beekeeping initiatives in Tanzania through Singida Youth Entrepreneurs and Consultants Cooperative Society(SYECCOS).