August 29, 2017

Anne Outwater lives in one of the most dangerous cities in Africa.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania is rife with petty theft, robbery and burglary. Outwater, a Vermont-native who is head of the Department of Community Health Nursing at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, is working to reduce violence through an urban-rural income-generating partnership.

Her project is called RukaJuu Beekeeping. RukaJuu means “Jump-up” in Swahili, and refers to the entrepreneurial aspect of the project.

According to Outwater, only five percent of the people in Tanzania have formal employment. The homicide rate is moderately high. In Dar es Salaam, a city of five million people, the rate of theft is the highest in Africa.

“These facts are interrelated,” she says.

Explains Outwater: “Young men in Tanzania are expected to take care of women, children, and the elderly. But many of these men don’t have the resources to be able to do that. Therefore, they resort to stealing. If they steal, they could be killed. Therefore, we’re training them in beekeeping and entrepreneurial skills so they can meet their societal responsibility.”

That’s where the bees come in.

The Liluli partnership holding one of their hives.

Entrepreneurship in Tanzania is highly supported by the government and institutions like the World Bank. Beekeeping is one of those areas that receives resources and, as a result, there’s a growing market nationally and internationally for Tanzanian honey.

Outwater’s RukaJuu Beekeeping entrepreneurship project seeks to increase the production of honey in the rural areas and increase sales through the efforts of entrepreneurs in the urban areas through blood ties.

Outwater — an alumnae of World Learning’s Experiment in International Living in Mexico — is one of the recipients of this year’s Advancing Leaders Fellowship. She is one of six fellows who received a financial award and mentor to support a social entrepreneurship project around the world.

“Beekeeping is popular because you have to think, what can people do who don’t have education and don’t have a job, what can they do?,” she says.

Participants at a workshop to learn about entrepreneurship in beekeeping.

“What’s special in Tanzania is that we don’t have GMO’s, and few pesticides are used, so the honey is of very high quality,” Outwater points out.

Outwater received Bachelor degrees from Vassar College in Art History and nursing from New York University. She also earned a Master in Nursing Administration from NYU, as well as a Certificate in Environmental Studies and a PhD in Philosophy of Nursing from Johns Hopkins University.

She practiced nursing in the U.S., Greece, and Sri Lanka before arriving in Tanzania as a medical officer with the Peace Corps.

She was the first head of Family Health International and was in Tanzania in 1998 when simultaneous bombings targeted U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania killing more than 200 people.

“I was one of three people sent in to try save those people. The flames died down, we climbed over a wall into the compound to save people, and as I’m on top of the wall, I hear these young men crying “Mama! Mama!” … and I realized I wasn’t going to be able to save them,” she painfully recalls.

“So at that very moment, I promised I would try to prevent those things from happening again,” she says.

That led to her participate in a fellowship for violence prevention at John Hopkins University which, in turn, eventually led her to the development of the six- month beekeeping entrepreneurship training program.

A hive placed in a tree by the Liluli partnership.

RakaJuu Beekeeping partnered with Restless Development for entrepreneurship training and African for training, bee suits and additional hives. In addition to World Learning, the project has received support from the Chief Beekeeping Officer of Tanzania, through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS), Missouri Botanical Garden, and Bees for Development.

So far, the results are sweet: harvesting and honey processing practices have improved dramatically and the nutrient rich dark sap is surprisingly light, sweet, and delicious.

Outwater’s next set of challenges include securing head protection, organizing workshops for beekeeper-entrepreneurship teams, and harvesting and packaging training.

The details of expanding the beekeeping business keep Outwater buzzing, but she never loses sight of the big picture.

“In the long run, we hope to have a larger impact on decreasing violence and increasing well-being of the environment including the people, forests, farms, and bees of Tanzania,” she adds.