As beekeepers in Britain start to harvest their honey crop, it is interesting to compare the harvesting activities of beekeepers supported by Bees Abroad. As previously discussed, we have been partnering with the State of Guernsey and the EMESCO development foundation in a project in the Kibaale district of Uganda.
In Western Uganda, the flowering periods (and hence the nectar flows) follow the major rainfall periods. In a normal year Kibaale District has two harvesting seasons — the main one is from early February to mid-April and the second, much less important one is in July and August.
Continuous rains meant that the main harvesting season in 2010 had been terribly disappointing and more than half our members in Kibaale cropped no honey whatsoever. We were able to buy little more than 1000 kgs and were left with nearly half the funds earmarked for purchasing and associated transport costs.
The weather was much kinder to us in 2011 and we had no trouble reaching our 3000 kgs buying target.
The buying operation during this phase was improved: we made much more use of a collection-centre system, which relieved our field officer of the time-consuming and expensive need to travel out to individual homesteads to make relatively small purchases.
At this multi-tonne scale, one would expect a dedicated facility, and indeed a two-room facility has been created. To conform to the hygiene requirements of the Ugandan Bureau of Standards, the two rooms were painted and a ceiling installed. The standard of the bottling work, using very basic equipment, has been excellent: the quality of honey is first-rate and the jars are always attractive and clean. It is little wonder that retailers are keen to stock them.
We have expanded our marketing operation by increasing the number of outlets taking our honey from nine last year to thirteen at the present time. A mark of the success of the project is that the local government has formally recognized the beneficiaries as the Kibaale Abeteraine [United] Beekeepers’ Association. and they have now assumed ownership of the project.
As far as Bees Abroad is concerned, this project is successfully completed. Here are some of the achievements:
Each of our 446 members represents a different household, which on average comprises six people, so over 2,500 villagers have stood to benefit from the income from beekeeping.
- Because the project placed great emphasis on training our members to make modern hives and protective gear cheaply for themselves, they will be able to expand their beekeeping without reliance on external financial support.
- The demand for our jars of ‘Family Pride’ honey from retailers and their customers testifies to the efficiency of the processing and bottling unit and should ensure the continued success of the marketing operation.
- We are leaving our beneficiaries with fully functioning buying, processing and marketing operations, which should guarantee them a ready and fair market for their honey in the future.