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WE Charity’s Billion Bee Initiative has so far provided more than 400 hives, training and other support to community members in Kenya, including former Maasai warriors, to help them find purpose and gainful employment as beekeepers and honey producers. Conceptualized and spurred by Canadian philanthropist Dave Richardson, the program is now expanding to support farmers in Ecuador, Ethiopia and Haiti, and includes bee education materials for Canadian schools.supplied

Philanthropist Dave Richardson’s concern for societal upheaval and the global decline in pollinating insects has led him to launch the Billion Bee Initiative with WE Charity.

While economic prosperity for women in Kenya is on the rise, the prospects for young men and tribal elders lag behind.

In rural Kenya, the Billion Bee Initiative has provided more than 400 hives to community members, including former Maasai warriors, so they can become beekeepers and honey producers, instead of feeling aimless and purposeless because they no longer hunt lions or other game for food.

Mr. Richardson, who is president and CEO of Vancouver-based Octaform Systems Inc., a director of the GreenPower Bus, and serves on other philanthropic boards, is now expanding the Billion Bee program with WE Charity to support farmers in Ecuador, Ethiopia and Haiti.

“My objective is to help give men a purpose and profession to help shield them from depression and the anxiety of not being able to provide for their families,” he says.

The idea for his initiative came when Mr. Richardson, along with his wife Pamela and son Colby, visited WE Charity’s development projects in rural Kenya. “As we travelled the dusty roads, visited the villages or went into the high schools, I could see the girls in their uniforms, smiling and proud, going to class. They dream of being dentists, accountants, lawyers and airline pilots,” he recalls, “while the boys were barefoot with sticks in hand, herding goats or sitting along the side of the road.”

My objective is to help give men a purpose and profession to help shield them from depression and the anxiety of not being able to provide for their families.

Dave Richardson, philanthropist and president and CEO of Octaform Systems Inc.

The local women were part of economic collectives where they pooled their resources to start small businesses. WE Charity had also built them the Women’s Empowerment Centre, where they “walked around with their heads held high.” Meanwhile, Mr. Richardson saw old men sitting in the grass using rusty machetes to do woodwork. “They were the once fierce and feared Maasai warriors, and I thought that something is really wrong with this picture.”

After helping build an all-boys high school with WE Charity in the area, he devised a plan to help local boys and men, bringing together two of his passions. Mr. Richardson has long been worried about the decline in bee and other pollinator populations. He actively works to support pollinators on his own properties and through other initiatives, including his service as a director emeritus for Ducks Unlimited.

With his support, WE Charity has since brought beekeeping to hundreds of men and men’s groups throughout rural Kenya. Mr. Richardson hopes “Maasai Warrior Honey” can eventually be sold in Kenya and globally.

Marc Kielburger, co-founder of WE, says, “We are so grateful for Dave’s passion and support. He is working to find solutions for the global decline of billions of bees. He wants to foster engagement around this topic in Canada so young people understand the issue.”

In partnership with Mr. Richardson, WE Schools will create curriculum materials about the decline in pollinators, including bees, and the dire impact it is expected to have on the world’s food supply. These resources will enable Canadian students to learn about and take action on the issue.

“Helping young people here in Canada understand and take action on this issue will be Dave’s greatest gift,” says Mr. Kielburger. “In Dave’s words, ‘No bees, no food’ is a profound warning about the fragile status of our global environment.”


Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.