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Madeleine Héger


PhD Student - Doctorante

Prof. Nicolas J. Vereecken's research group at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium.

Tel : +32 (0)476800148

E-mail :

Profile & curriculum

Bsc in Agriculture & Environment – HEPN (2016-2019)

Msc in Agroecology – Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech & ULB (2019-2022)

PhD student  (2023-present)

Research interests

  • Document non-food uses of stingless bee honeys in subtropical Africa

  • Understand the importance of stingless bees and their honey in subtropical Africa

  • Understand the diversity of non-food uses of honey through a cultural, environmental and taxonomical gradient

  • Create a convergence of truths between Western Science and Indigenous knowledge

Research project

The general aim of my research at the Agroecology Lab of ULB is to explore the non-food uses of stingless bee honey in subtropical Africa. Stingless bee honey (SBH) is a natural remedy and therapeutic agent highly praised for its medicinal properties and traditionally used by local communities across the (sub-)tropics. Forest SBH represents a prime non-timber forest product (NTFP) with a potential to sustain livelihoods, to secure food and medicine provision, to revitalize indigenous foodways and to safeguard indigenous knowledge base in African tropical forests. Yet, SBH is also used in a variety of non-food contexts that are poorly documented in sub-Saharan Africa and that collectively represent a significant part of the local traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) passed on across generations. Documenting TEK of local communities in African tropical forests facing global change is a pressing issue to recognize the value of their insights, to evaluate their sustainability, to determine how they contribute to enhancing conservation efforts, and how TEK generally contributes to the well-being of both the natural environment and the communities that rely on it. 


This approach is resolutely agroecological and transdisciplinary. We will explore the interface between "Western Science" and Indigenous knowledge via three Work Packages, addressing different disciplines: 1) Surveys on the non-food uses of SBH aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the non-food uses of SBH across an eco-cultural landscape in target countries in the Afrotropical region. It also investigates the patterns of indigenous knowledge transmission as an intangible cultural heritage. 2) Compositional properties and variation of SBH; samples will be subjected to a comprehensive metabolites profiling and H1 nuclear magnetic spectroscopy (NMR). We will perform multivariate analyses to explore patterns in SBH compositional variation among samples/localities/ethnic groups/stingless bee species. 3) Exploring knowledge dialogues between Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge will attempt to hybridize the different traditional practices (and the knowledge that underpins them). We want to actively stimulate a dialogue of wisdoms to gain new perspectives about the dynamic inter-relationships between humans and nature using a trans-disciplinary approach. This will help us reach a more holistic understanding of the multifunctionality associated with use of SBH. Our research will also address how to ethically combine different sources of evidence defined a priori as methodologically incommensurable, a major epistemological challenge for scientists attempting the hybridization of rationalities and meanings in transdisciplinary research.  This interdisciplinary research will help us contribute to the documentation, affirmation, and valuation of indigenous knowledge in bio-culturally diverse and environmentally threatened regions of our planet. It will help shed new light on Afrotropical stingless bees and their honeys, and they will contribute to the development of meliponiculture (i.e., beekeeping with stingless bees) which is a sustainable forest activity. 


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