August Update: Managing BBC George’s Beekeeping projects, behind the scenes.

Elizabeth Bailie – General Manager of The Responsible Safari Company

Originally coming from North West Essex, I studied International Development with French at Exeter University and I have worked across East Africa on and off for the last 5 years. For the last 2 years, I’ve been the General Manager of The Responsible Safari Company and for the last year I have worked pro bono to help manage George’s beekeeping projects...they started long before the show was aired! For 3 months my team and I have been researching, networking and creating a solid plan and timeline for the generous amount of money that was donated to George’s beekeeping project following the airing of the documentary Life Swap Adventure on the BBC. I know George well, I worked with him throughout all the preparation for his trip to the UK and handled all the logistics of the filming of John’s BBC adventure here in Malawi.

I thought you might be interested to learn more about this project’s journey and see behind the scenes of what’s been going on here in Malawi…

Those of you who watched George’s documentary saw that his community had a serious lack of water services in their village. Let’s think of the immediate solution…

“No water? Easy! Let’s dig a bore hole!”

Despite all good intentions, Development projects such as these are never as simple as you initially imagine…

  • What happens if you drill a borehole and then the water turns out to be undrinkable?
  • You get the borehole working…then what happens if one community member decides to put a lock on that borehole and charge the community to access water? “20pence per bucket he says…” (this happens)
  • What happens if you plough into the community under the demise of “helping” and offend all local government authorities and village chiefs as you didn’t consult them first?
  • What happens if you give a village member the money to pay the borehole contractors and then they hire a cheaper less qualified organisation who doesn’t do a proper job and steal half of the money?

The answer to all the above questions is that the money that is so generously donated goes to waste and that borehole doesn’t end up providing the vital water that it was intended to. The opportunity to change lives is lost. On top of that,

  • What happens when the new bore hole creates a divide between the previously united community since now the women from either side of the village no longer get to have a chat and a gossip while collecting water together?

Rushing into building the borehole and trying to provide a solution to one problem can create another problem…

The above questions are not made up. They’re stories I’ve experienced and they happen all too regularly. It all comes down to lack of planning. Disused boreholes are visible throughout Malawi and people are still thirsty.

To avoid this, the planning stage should be the longest and the most thorough. 

Our Progress

Over the past 3 months, we have taken on Emmanuel, our expert bee keeping consultant and now project manager. Emmanuel and George have now met with the District Forestry Officer, the District Water Officer, the local Chief, the local NGO’s working in that area, various borehole drilling companies and other beekeeping communities. They have discussed how they can register their endeavours – and the plan is to hopefully register as a Cooperative organisation producing bee related products in the future. We have consulted with PumpAid about the borehole who have provided huge help and guidance.

The community have collectively decided that they would like the new borehole and beekeeping project to be run at George’s mother’s house. There are over 100 community members who have formed beekeeping clubs. George is their leader! We have sourced beehives, beekeeping suits, smokers and gloves. We now have the support of all the relevant government officials and departments in the area. We have made contact with the person who will be responsible for sending the borehole water for official testing. George is travelling to Blantyre for a meeting with myself, my team and Emmanuel on the 21st August 2017 so that we can finalise the planning stages and move into the implementation stage.

I understand that for some of you the speed of this project may be frustrating, but I ask you to trust those who are working on the ground and to stay patient. Remember what George said about the way people walk in the UK? Head down and fast! Here, it’s very often head up and slow! The above developments do not happen overnight and they do not happen without proper management. We are working extremely hard to ensure that every last penny of your money is accounted for, that receipts are provided, that George and his community see maximum benefit from your donations and that this project provides a great example of what beekeeping can achieve in communities so that more and more communities can benefit from beekeeping and the activities that are associated with it; tree planting, entrepreneurship and conservation. 

For now thank you again for your patience and please do get in touch with any questions/comments.

George Bees Meeting

 George is bottom right!

George will be speaking at an event in Malawi as a part of our Women's Expedition in 2018. For further info please contact

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