The Quality Series Presents:

The Zambia Honey Council Promotes Rural Development and Strengthens Communities through a Dedication to Quality Techniques and Concern for its Membership

Amazing facts about bees and the honey they produce .

© 2015 Javier Z / David Veg
The Zambia Honey Council (ZHC) is a cooperative organization that represents all of the participants in the honey producing sector of the country, such as beekeepers, honey buyers, processors, packers and exporters. In addition to promoting the interests of its members, it gathers data and maintains an extensive database covering domestic production and consumption levels, import and export analysis. The studies it conducts and the information it manages helps the ZHC develop strategies for the long term development of the Sector. ZHC has been selected to receive the BID Quality Crown Award for 2015.

Amazing Insects Produce an Amazing Product -- and Much More

Bees have been making honey for more than 150 million years, and the earliest cave paintings of humans gathering it date back more than 8,000 years. We eat a lot of honey; in some countries per capita consumption exceeds a kilo a year.

Bees are fascinating creatures, and the honey they produce has unique qualities. Here are some things about bees and the honey they produce that you might not have known:


1.- One of the toxins in bee venom has been found to damage the HIV virus while being harmless to other cells in the body. Scientists have also discovered that other components of bee venom have the effect of increasing the production of anti-inflammatory hormones by humans. A substance produced by bees to reinforce their hives has been found to alleviate skin conditions in people, like herpes related lesions and eczema.

2.- Flower nectar contains caffeine, which acts as a repellant to many insects, but not to bees. In fact, increased levels of caffeine in nectar attracts bees back for another sip.

3.- During the summer, worker bees, who are all female, live about six weeks and typically die of exhaustion. Some are no doubt jacked up on caffeine. Male bees, called drones, mate with the queen and then are expelled from the hive in winter to die. The queen can lay up to 2,500 eggs per day.

4.- Bees navigate by the sun, and are the only animals known that are able to calculate the shortest distance in a route containing six or more points. They can move 25 km per hour, can fly 10 km at a time, and beat their wings 2000 times per second.

5.- In order to communicate to hive mates as to where good sources of nectar can be found, bees perform a dance. Bees who are high on cocaine were found to exaggerate both the quality and quantity of nectar that they found.

6.- Bees construct their hives with mathematical precision, using a structural design that has been proven to use the least possible amount of wax. They do this, and navigate, and communicate, using a brain approximately the size of a sesame seed.

7.- For crops pollinated by insects, bees are responsible for approximately 80% of the work.

8.- The average hive produces 2 to 3 times the amount of honey needed for winter survival, and it takes 12 worker bees an entire lifetime to produce one teaspoon of honey. Honey is the only insect product eaten by human beings, and is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water.

9.- A bee’s sense of smell is so well developed that it can detect pollen or nectar from more than two metres away and can distinguish between hundreds of different flowers.

10.- Male bees possess only the DNA of the queen, while female worker bees possess the DNA of both the queen and the drone that impregnated her.

Promoting Honey Production in Zambia

The Zambia Honey Council helps coordinate the efforts of all of its participants in order to construct a honey value chain model for the development of the Zambian honey marketing system. Through the ZHC’s efforts, producers are able to derive maximum benefit from their efforts through knowledge of honey markets and access to educational programs that enable honey producers to improve techniques. The ZHC also works on regulatory officials to ensure normative transparency, proper registration of agents, and fair producer price levels. Through its website and newsletter, members have opportunities to advertise.

Honey production in sub Saharan Africa has a tradition going back thousands of years, and in many areas was even traditionally used as a form of currency. In fact, dowries were sometimes paid in the form of honey. The modern industry in Zambia dates back to the late 1940’s, although most producers entered the market much more recently, in the last 25 years. Today, Zambian honey producers export their products to Europe, America, China, Japan, Central Africa and Southern Africa.

An Important Partner in Rural Development

ZHC also works with its members to help them get loans and has established regional offices to make their services more available in rural areas. ZHC holds meetings with several micro-finance institutions were modalities have been agreed on linking Honey Area Associations to affordable financial credit to help them increase production and purchase high quality bee-keeping and processing equipment.  The Council is committed to making the honey industry a profitable enterprise for the rural poor and an engine to drive poverty reduction in Zambia.

One success story has been the signing of a memorandum of understanding with CETZAM Financial Services to provide financing for beekeeping, honey processing and related economic activities. The beneficiaries incorporate all stakeholders across the value chain, including honey producers, traders, processors, input suppliers and service providers.  Beneficiaries come from 7 districts from Central, Eastern, North-Western and Central provinces.  

© 2015 Javier Z / David Veg
The BID Committee was impressed by the Council’s production of production and finance training materials in English and in key local languages based upon information gathered during their studies, which include interviews with both potential borrowers and suppliers of finance, and by its attention to compliance issues imposed by the Bank of Zambia.

ZHC has been working specifically on solving the problem of processors who have secured successful supply contracts with the bigger supermarket chains but are still facing problems in sourcing adequate raw material supplies from producers due to a lack of financing and education on modern production techniques. Access to financing at rates below 2% has allowed producers to obtain equipment and building capacity even in the absence of fixed asset security.

Once the honey is produced, regional centers established with support from ZHC are staffed with people trained in management of bulking centres to help beekeepers and honey processors to improve the quality and quantity of bee products in Zambia. Integral to this program is the ZHC Quality Assurance Mark, which encourages best field practices in the production and processing of Zambian honey. Honey processors and packers must meet stringent requirements developed in conjunction with the Zambia Bureau of Standards in order to earn the Quality Assurance Mark. ZHC has combined the Quality Assurance Mark with a media campaign whereby the public is informed by radio and television about the value of products which carry the Mark. ZHC works with leading supermarkets to make sure that they sell honey that has passed the rigorous quality controls that the Quality Assurance Mark represents. ‘’The quality of Zambian honey and packaging has improved a great deal over the years as can be seen from honey products sold in major retail shops such as Melissa and Spar where ZHC has employed shop merchandisers who engage customers on a one-to-one basis on the medicinal and health values of honey and the benefits of buying honey with the Quality Assurance Mark,’’ said Bill Kalaluka, chief executive officer of ZHC. 

One notable innovation launched by ZHC is the ZNFU 4455 on Zain mobile phones, where producers can receive offer prices by buyers. Another is the Council’s concern regarding gender disparity in the industry. ZHC has raised gender and HIV/AIDS awareness amongst its membership and continually explores solutions to constraints on beekeeping caused by these two issues. As a result of their efforts, female participation in beekeeping has more than doubled, and rural families have been able to use the money to pay for school, fertilizer, electric generation, clothing and other basic needs.

The reputation of ZHC reaches well beyond Zambia’s border, and has attracted the attention of foreign agencies willing to lend a hand to promote economic development. Through international outreach efforts, ZHC obtained a donation of a 4x4 vehicle and three motorcycles from the Swedish Cooperative Centre. ZHC officials also traveled to South Africa in order to learn techniques for increasing revenues from the South African Bee Industry Organization.

Because of its commitment to continuous quality improvement, customer service, and betterment of the community, the Zambia Honey Council has been selected to receive the BID Quality Crown Award for 2015 at the convention in London.



BID is a private and independent organization founded in 1984, whose primary activity is business communication orientated towards quality, excellence and innovation in management. A leader in the broadcasting of Quality Culture, BID recognizes those companies and organizations which lead the most important activities in the business world, and is considered the founding organization in the broadcasting of the Culture of Quality, Excellence and Innovation in 179 countries. The trophy symbolizes a pledge to the principles of Quality Culture. The QC100 Total Quality Management Model, together with the Quality Mix program, media coverage of the convention and its impact on the community and business sector, create an unmatched platform for continuous improvement within the organization and awareness of the achievements of the company at an international level. Awards are given only to those who are committed to improving their Quality Culture based on the principles of the QC100 Total Quality Management Model. Candidates are proposed by the leaders of previously awarded companies who they consider worthy of the award. Especially meritorious candidates may also be nominated. The International BID Quality Award Selection Committee then chooses the winning companies who will receive the award in New York, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, Madrid and London.