A BUSINESSWOMAN with a top job at Sainsbury's swapped her regular round of meetings to build beehives in Tanzania.

Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s own brand products, travelled to a forest area in the African country to support Farm Africa, a charity working to end hunger in the eastern part of the continent.

Judith, from Stratfield Mortimer, joined eight other senior business leaders from the UK food industry to take part in Farm Africa’s Big Beehive Build, to improve the lives of women farmers in the remote area.

The group landed close to Mount Kilimanjaro before travelling along dusty rural roads to the Nou Forest, an area off the beaten track, where they constructed 90 beehives in just three days. The hives will then be used to kick-start profitable and sustainable honey farming businesses for the Erri beekeeping group.

The 300sq km Nou Forest is 2,300 metres above sea level and is noted for its biodiversity of plant, animal and insect life.

But Tanzania is losing forests at a disastrous rate of 300,000 hectares every year – around 1,500 football fields every day.

As forest loss reduces water supply for local communities, they struggle to grow enough food to eat and turn to cutting down trees for income, creating a vicious circle by destroying the very resource they need to survive for the long-term.

The forest is home to millions of bees, and bee-keeping is a forest-friendly business that enables communities to make money without cutting down more trees.

But for women, the traditional style beehives, high in the trees, are inaccessible because it is not culturally acceptable to climb trees.

Farm Africa has introduced the Langstroth beehive that can be placed on the ground and used by women, to bring them a new and valuable source of income, enabling them to pay for clothes, medicines and school fees for their children.

The team received training from the charity before constructing and painting these hives to exacting standards, work which was completely different from the business meetings and email exchanges that make up a normal day for Judith and her companions.

They also need to achieve a fundraising target of £50,000 to be used by Farm Africa to help more rural families in eastern Africa.

Judith said: “It’s great to be involved in this project and hopefully play a part in marking a valuable and lasting difference to the women we meet. As with all societies women face a number of challenges, and it’s especially difficult for women in Africa.

"Giving them independence is incredibly important so they can develop businesses and an income for themselves, allowing them to manage their money and support their families.”

The Big Beehive Build is one of the events organised this year as part of Farm Africa’s wider Food For Good campaign – the UK food and hospitality industry’s response to the global challenge of hunger.