Written by: Johnson Kithendu, Co-operatives Specialist, Global Communities, Kenya
It’s a bright Tuesday morning and the warm rays of sunlight gently permeates through my window and deep within I feel it’s going to be a great day. My name is Johnson Kithendu, I am the Co-operatives Specialist for new Project (EMIRGE) funded by USAID and implemented by Global Communities. It’s new in Kenya. The people are also new. I am sitting in one of my colleague’s office for Orientation and then I spot a bottle of clean honey. I begin to wonder, as I think about where I can learn more, fast about the co-operative model of business and bang the idea of the bees come to mind.
I come from a community renowned to be Kenya’s best beekeepers. We can tell good honey just by looking at it. I remembered many things I observed bees do and I think as I begin this project, the following lessons would help me.
Bees are organised- they appreciate there is power in staying together and seldom would you find any bee on its own. They live as a colony and fly as a swarm whenever migrating. They appreciate they have strength in numbers. This is my first lesson on co-operatives from bees.
Bees take time to build their structure before they bring their honey. It takes long and hard work to make the honey combs after identifying the hive. They make their queen comfortable and secure first before honey. How we oft get it wrong on cooperatives! We rush to bring honey before building our leadership structures and structures to keep our honey secure.
Bees get honey in small consistent amounts. They never carry bottles of honey. They collect pollen and nectar in small quantities. That’s how small bees feed the whole globe with honey!! We don’t need big earners to form co-operatives in order to succeed. Small consistent amounts regularly would.
Bees do good in the course of their business! Whilst their main agenda is to give themselves and the world honey, bees are credited with enormous benefit of pollination of our crops. In their numbers, individually and cumulatively can be credited as a great partners in agriculture. A good co-operative, over and above the main reason they exist, must of necessity find ways to do good to the larger humanity.
Bees collect honey for their security but in doing so, they collect enough honey for each one of us. Good co-operatives must yield benefits beyond themselves. They must think beyond their needs. On democracy, bees are amazing. They respect their order of hierarchy. Queens are allowed to be and accorded the place and prestige of that office. Drone are allowed to be. They oft die in the execution of their duties in selfless giving. Bees teach us democracy comes to make things better for all but comes also with a duty to responsibility.
Bees have only one sting as a weapon. In coming together, each bees brings its power and together and not even an elephant with its strength and might can withstand a swarm of charging bees! In coming together in a co-operative, each member will stand defended against outside aggression by circumstances of oppression by other people. However, bees only fight in self-defence. They don’t provoke!!
Kindly find time and teach me, our team and the entire EMIRGE project better ways to succeed in innovative co-operatives model in Kenya, a country so successful on SACCO model but so little service co-operatives happening. We want to see the youth and women thrive in using the co-operatives model to advance their dreams.
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