There are light purple flowers growing in between the olive trees, rocks and brown grass. The sun burns. “Don’t go any nearer, otherwise you’ll disturb the bees’ movement, and they may sting you,” beekeeper Khairi Kharroubi warns. We are in the middle of the countryside in the Siliana province of Tunisia, a two-hour drive south west of capital Tunis. Khairi, 24, and two other beekeepers are proudly showing some visitors their hives. The three men are the first participants in a new social enterprise project called TuniBee, which is run by students at the Mediterranean School of Business (MSB) in Tunis. Under the scheme, people with beekeeping experience are selected from deprived areas of the country. Money from TuniBee’s sponsors is then used to buy those taking part additional beehives. The beekeepers are also given training and guidance to produce better quality and larger amounts of honey. Each hive costs 200 Tunisian dinars ($91; £69), and in return sponsors get 1.5kg of honey a year for a period of three years. This is just over one-third of the current average annual production of a Tunisian hive, and 1.5kg of good quality Tunisian honey costs between 30 and 45 dinars. The beekeepers get to keep the remainder of the honey during the three years, and after that period, the hive, and all its future honey production, is theirs to keep. The idea for TuniBee came from Noomen Lahimer, professor of economics and entrepreneurship at the MSB, whose father keeps bees. Prof Lahimer proposed it to his students, suggesting that they should set up and run the scheme as part of their studies. “We immediately liked the idea,” says MSB student Chaima Ben Romdhan, who is TuniBee’s president. “However, we didn’t have any specialist expertise [of beekeeping].” To bring in the required beekeeping knowledge, Prof Lahimer put his students in touch with a Tunisian entrepreneur called Khaled Bouchoucha. Mr Bouchoucha, who had previously been mentored by Prof Lahimer in a competition for start-up companies in 2013, runs a business that specialises in helping beekeepers increase honey production. His company, Iris Technology, has developed a beehive with a camera attached to monitor the movement of the bees. The hive is also fitted with a GPS tracker to try to deter theft – which is a growing problem in Tunisia. In addition, the hives are fitted with a monitor that measures temperatures and humidity. If anything goes wrong, the beekeepers are sent a text message so that they can react as quickly as possible. Mr Bouchoucha agreed to come on board and provide the beehives at cost price, and offer his company’s technical support. He has been joined by Hidhli Naoufel, a veterinarian who specialises in bees. Mr Naoufel has been training the participating beekeepers in best practice.