The estimated economic potential for the apiculture sector in Africa is currently unmet, and in part due to a lack of training in appropriate beekeeping techniques. Development agencies promote beekeeping widely in developing nations to alleviate rural poverty and simultaneously provide an incentive for forest conservation. There is little robust evidence to suggest that beekeeping interventions target the most suitable beneficiaries, or that training length and content are adequate to sustainably promote beekeeping in sub-Saharan Africa. This study aimed to determine predictors of both beekeeping adoption and levels of dependence on beekeeping. We also assessed whether the type and quantity of external assistance appeared to influence beekeeping success. We applied a mixed methods approach to identify beekeeper characteristics and identify key drivers and barriers to beekeeping in four communities in central Tanzania. Income and food provision were the main drivers for beekeeping adoption, but the effects of these were moderated by both the respondents’ cultural background, and the perceived human health risks posed by African bees. Land ownership, technical knowledge, initial capital inputs and hive theft were important constraints to adopting beekeeping. We found that formal beekeeping training did not result in increased yields and propose that training provided by the majority of development agencies is inadequate to address the technical capacity requirements of local beekeepers. We also propose that the requirement to form associations to access project benefits creates divisions in communities and needs to be handled with more care than is currently done.