Zakia Abarou, Un toit pour les abeilles, Saint-Christophe, France
The story of Zakia is also available in French and in English in PDF format.
Sponsoring a beehive to support beekeepers and protect our bees in France?
It is possible thanks to the wonderful work of Un toit pour les abeilles.
Zakia Abarou, Sponsorships manager and Spokesperson of the network, answered our questions.
Welcome to you, Zakia, and to the team of Un toit pour les abeilles, on OUTSIDE THE BOX!
Thank you very much for joining us here and answering our questions! The pleasure is mine, OUTSIDE THE BOX, and best wishes to you on these early days of 2019!
To start this interview, can you please tell us more about yourself: your name, age, location, hobbies…all the things that make you who you are!
My name is Zakia Abarou. I live in Saint-Christophe, a small town next to La Rochelle in France. I joined the great family of Un toit pour les abeilles ("A roof for our bees”) 5 years ago, as nature and bees are my passion!
In short, I wanted to be able to flourish on a daily basis by doing a meaningful job, and there is nothing more rewarding than supporting beekeepers and preserve bees, the guardians of our environment.
I am the mother of 2 girls, and at the dawn of my 40th birthday I wanted to give a meaning to my life. It is now the case thanks to the story we write at Un toit pour les abeilles!
Can you please introduce Un toit pour abeilles in a few words ?
Un toit pour les abeilles is, first of all, women and men who share the same commitment: saving bees.
It is like a big family of people who decided to act, to “do their share”, along the same line as the Mouvement Colibris (a French campaign inviting people to engage in eco-citizenship actions to build a stronger, ecological society).
Un toit pour les abeilles gathers around 60 beekeepers throughout France, who are supported through sponsorship mechanisms. At the moment we count more than 45,000 committed individuals as well as 1,500 sponsoring companies.
The team is comprised of Regis (Founder), Flavie (project manager), Karima (administrative manager), Hassan (Logistics), Michel (web developer) and myself (Sponsorships manager and spokesperson for our network).
What makes Un toit pout les abeilles the best place to thrive as an individual?
The philosophy behind Un toit pour les abeilles is quite atypical for a company. But it makes sense in everyone’s heart…
Regis, the founder, is a beekeeper himself, so he knows how essential it is that everyone feels happy to thrive at work! We have the possibility for example to telecommute in order to manage things at home. There is no real hierarchy internally, we exchange with each other, we share our opinions and suggest new ideas based on one’s desires and personal wishes.
Result: The team is more than ever implicated and committed to do the job! I even consider now having my own beehive and taking care of my first colony of bees. I was literally “stung” by the fascinating world of bees…and by the trust given by Regis!
We are sincerely committed to build a genuine and respectful bond between the network’s collaborators, sponsors and beekeepers.
The documents and articles on your website summarize very well the dramatic disappearance of bees, situation for which we are sadly responsible. If you could point at one specific problem, risk or example, which would it be?
To me, the biggest problem remains the slowness of general awareness in our society…10 years ago, Un toit pour les abeilles was already raising awareness on the topic…but not much has been done since then. Decisions made by the government are too cautious and often followed by a step back. Meanwhile the sector is dying, and bees are maltreated…
The positive aspect of all this is that bees are now in the centre of environmental and societal discussions…and that’s a good thing. Today more and more people are aware that something is wrong. Ecology and the protection of biodiversity are critical parts of all debates!
Let’s hope now that concrete measures will be taken to preserve our future…
What was the most challenging thing when the project started, and on the opposite what have you achieved that you can feel proud of?
When we launched the project, we mainly counted on sponsors from a certain age…Grand-mothers and grand-fathers, who were aware of how bad things were changing. We were scared by then that as witnesses of an old, strong biodiversity, they would disappear along with nature…
Fortunately, the profile of our sponsors has been evolving slowly with a growing awareness. Today, they are parents, in their thirties or forties, parents of small children who do want to act for the future generations.
The fight is not over!
How does your sponsorship system actually work?
It is very simple. Everyone can do something to protect bees at his/her level.
As an individual, sponsorship starts at 8 euros per month, for which you can sponsor a tenth of a beehive, so more or less 4,000 bees. We sponsor the entire beehive management for 90 euros per month.
In exchange, the sponsor (whether an individual or a company) receives pots of honey at his name or with the company’s logo on it.
Apart from this present from the bees themselves, we build a sincere, solidary bond with the beekeepers along the year. The sponsorship we propose is not just a check that we give at a specific time. It’s a lot more than that. We build a link between the sponsor, the beekeepers and their bees.
The general public is made aware of this fundamental cause for future generations. Each month, the sponsors receive a detailed note about the beehive’s life. We explain him/her for instance how the hive is organized at a certain time of the year, and what the beekeeper does at the apiary.
We also share information about political decisions related to biodiversity regulations. To end on a playful note, we also share a nice, honey-based recipe each time.
More punctually, it is the beekeeper who himself/herself reports on the activity in the apiary. He/she reminds us of his/her difficulties on a daily basis, or on the contrary his/her good harvest etc ...
Sponsors also have the luck to receive photos of their hive!
To strengthen this bond, we offer our sponsors the possibility to meet their beekeeper during an open-doors event that we organize yearly on the apiaries supported by Un toit pour les abeilles.
These “immersions” in these apiaries are the link between the sponsors who support the project, the beekeepers that are helped by the initiative and the bees, who receive of all our attention!
How do you work with the beekeepers? How many were part of the network in 2018?
As of today, we can count 60 beekeepers within our network; our objective is to include 10 more in 2019. The demand is quite high because the sector suffers, and beekeepers need our help more than ever.
We finance the installation of a hive through a premium payment.
We buy also the produced honey at a price which is more than reasonable, which allows him/her to live properly from this ancestral craft which is indispensable to mankind.
We invest also in the tools and materials that will allow the beekeepers to work efficiently.
We do not sign contracts with them: it is above all a sincere and trustworthy relationship.
How many hives have been sponsored in 2018, and how many honeypots have been delivered to the sponsors?
Since the first steps of Un toit pour les abeilles, around 6,000 hives have been sponsored throughout France and we distributed around 160,000 pots to their sponsors in 2018.
Un toit pour les abeilles seems to focus on France only. Does such a business model also exist abroad, and if not, could it be a solution to create a broader network to protect bees?
As of today our activities are mostly located in France and Belgium. But it goes fast! We hope that one day we will be able to support new apiaries in other European countries in order to expand our actions…
There is obviously still a lot of work to be done to make consumers, the private sector and public actors more accountable for the bees’ dramatic situation in France and around the world. What can we advise them to start with to improve things?
There are a thousand and one ways to preserve bees, sponsoring a hive is just one among many others:
* Sowing plants whose nectar will be used by the bees to produce honey
* Banning pesticides
* Avoiding mowing the lawn too often
* Installing “insect hotels”
* Buying locally
* Checking the products’ labels, especially for the honey you consume
* Explaining, raising awareness, signing petitions… In short: talking about the bees’ situation is more than ever essential ...
Anything else you’d wish to share with us?
A big thank you to OUTSIDE THE BOX for giving us the opportunity to discuss our activities!
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