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The Beekeeping Buzz

Nonprofit works with Kenyan communities to cultivate a sustainable honey business.

A beekeeper holds a panel of honeycomb with swarming bees

By Ellen Tomlins
Winter 2024

Mimi Scheffler Gordon ’94 first visited Africa in 1992 while studying abroad in Spain as a Northwestern undergrad. She spent winter break exploring Morocco and Algeria and was instantly captivated. “The people, the markets, the food — everything was mesmerizing,” she says. Since then, she’s dreamed of working in Africa. 

Three decades later, Gordon is executive director of operations for Global Health Connections (GHC), a Denver-based nonprofit founded in 2004 that runs community health and economic empowerment projects in western Kenya. Gordon joined GHC in 2020 and helped the nonprofit expand its operations into 15 villages in the Kisii and Homa Bay counties.  

Mimi Gordon, center, travels to Kenya from her home in Asheville, N.C., to visit the villages and bond with her Global Health Connections team. 

GHC helps residents learn skills that promote sustainability within their villages, including vegetable gardening, food storage and sanitation practices. But one project in particular, Gordon says, has generated a lot of local buzz: beekeeping.  

Western Kenya’s diverse flora and rainy climate make it a prime location for apiaries, as rain encourages bees to stay in their hives and produce honey. Yet the honey market is largely underdeveloped in the country.  

“Kenya right now imports the majority of its honey. The market is just huge,” says Gordon, who graduated with her MBA from the University of Colorado Denver in July 2023. After village residents expressed interest in beekeeping, GHC brought in consultants from the National Beekeeping Institute in Nairobi to teach residents on-site. Together, community members and GHC set up apiaries in 10 villages with more than 400 beehives total. The honey is sold in local markets under the label Greener Hills Honey Cooperative, and proceeds are split equally between the villages and GHC.  

“It has become one of our most lucrative projects for the local community thus far,” says Gordon, who travels to Kenya from her home in Asheville, N.C., to visit the villages and bond with her team. “And we have plans to keep growing.” 

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