Liz Bates has written a wonderful article in the magazine BeeCraft, explaining how the migration of honeybees in Kenya is part of the natural rhythm of beekeeping in a region with two rainy seasons. She also demonstrates how, with help from Bees Abroad, these communities are sourcing hive equipment locally, and making valuable products.
We’re delighted that BeeCraft have let us reproduce Liz’s article on our website.
Roy Dyche and Geoff Redwood have recently returned from Hoima in Uganda, where they have been supporting and evaluating our project there.
The project was begun in May 2012, its aim being to help vulnerable women in Uganda’s Hoima District to provide for their large households by introducing them to modern, environmentally sustainable beekeeping as a source of much-needed income. Many of the women are widows or single mothers, and nearly all are subsistence farmers growing little more than they need to feed their families. The average household has between six and seven members, well over half of whom are children of school-going age or younger.
The implementation of the project is being handled by our local partners, the small Bigasa Sustainable Development Foundation (BISUDEF). Together with BISUDEF, we are helping women’s groups in Hoima District to undertake beekeeping or improve their existing beekeeping by training them to construct, manage and harvest Kenyan topbar hives. They have also been shown how to add value to their wax; and they are being provided with a ready market for their honey via a new buying & marketing operation run by BISUDEF.
Our members are organised in groups on a geographical basis and at the start of the third phase, which has just ended, four more groups were added to the twelve which already existed. This brought the total number of our direct beneficiaries to 170. When the rest of their households are included, over a thousand people now stand to gain from the project.
The four new group leaders (GLs) had been trained as members of earlier groups and had passed this training on to the new recruits. We had given them bicycles to make it easier for them to reach their members at their homesteads. The groups themselves had been issued with inputs similar to those earlier groups had received; for example, smokers, protective clothing, gloves and food-grade buckets in which to store their honey. After the initial training, BISUDEF’s field officers had visited all sixteen groups regularly in order to offer advice and any supplementary training that was needed.
Although by the end of the third phase there had been a pleasing increase in the number our members’ hives that were colonised with bees — 22% last year, 51% this — the amount of honey taken from them so far this season had been disappointing. The explanation was clear. Traditionally the harvesting season lasts from February, soon after the rains begin, and ends in May. This year the rains did not start till March 2015, so harvesting had been delayed by four weeks or so. We are hoping the season will redeem itself by extending into June.
BISUDEF’s buying and marketing operation had gone well during the phase. For reasons already given, the buying side of the business had been slow this season but they were now selling nearly twice as many jars of their ‘Family Life’ honey to local stores.
Despite the modest harvest so far, the morale of our members remained high and the GLs had proved as committed and conscientious as ever, as had the BISUDEF team.
During their visit, Geoff and Roy helped to launch the fourth phase, which will mark the end of Bees Abroad’s participation in the project. During this final phase, no more groups will be recruited. However we have begun to see ‘unofficial’ groups being formed, eager to replicate the project’s beekeeping model, even though the budget does not allow us to provide them with any support, other than occasional visits from the BISUDEF field officers. This is a very welcome development and we expect more such groups to be set up during the fourth phase and thereafter. Phase 4 has two main objectives:
1. Maintaining support for our beekeepers
There will be no further material inputs for our members, but because people do not acquire the knowledge and confidence to manage modern hives in just a year or two, the longer they can rely on BISUDEF’s technical support, the better. For this reason the field officers will continue their regular advisory visits for another twelve months.
We will also continue to enable group leaders to attend the monitoring meetings in Hoima town, by providing the cost of their transport to and from the town.
2. Forming a women’s beekeeping association
To help sustain the project’s considerable achievements, we aim to organise our beekeepers into an officially registered women’s beekeeping association, with the GLs constituting the core management. In this way the GLs’ esprit de corps and management skills will not be lost and the women’s beekeeping will be put on a near autonomous footing, largely independent of BISUDEF.
Bees Abroad have recently been partnering with Ashanti Development in the Ashanti region of Ghana to train members of this rural community in the skills and practice of beekeeping. This is another great example of how Bees Abroad helps to relieve poverty. Antonella Sinopoli has made a video based around the running of this course, which can be viewed at this link, and features some of the Bees Abroad project officers Brian Durk and Ashanti Development project managers Dawn Williamson and Paul Bloch, as well as our brilliant training officer, Victor Ayeebo. You can read more about the work of Ashanti Development at their website.
As an example of the impact projects such as this can have, here is a photo of John Partey, a beekeeper in Bimponso, near Twifo Praso in the Central Region of Ghana. John recently told us that he has been able to fund sending his son Joseph firstly to Polytechnic and is now going to send him to University. All this from the honey produced from 17 colonies of bees. John has been helped on his journey to successful and profitable beekeeping with support from Bees Abroad, through our Twifo Praso project. John is pictured with Brian Durk and Caroline Luxford, one of our newest project managers.
Here are photos of Sinyati women’s group as they exhibited during the Baringo county Honey Conference (26-28 June 2014) which was attended by 500 people and presided over by the County Governor Hon. Benjamin Chebo. In the photos, he is looking at the products on the stand.
It was only the group which the Governor mentioned as a good example in the county successfully doing value-addition with their honey production. Sinyati women group has become a model and the only group that was able to demonstrate simple and appropriate beekeeping skills especially the value addition products and Amaizing Bee suits – the only one of its kind in the exhibition
You can read more about Bees Abroad’s work with the Sinyati women’s groups in these posts:
Dave Bonner has been engaged in community training in Uganda since 2008. Putting his interest in relief of poverty together with his beekeeping skills, it was a easy step for him to become engaged in Bees Abroad’s work.
He’s recently written an article about his work with Bees Abroad in BeeCraft – a British journal for beekeepers, styled “the informed voice of British beekeeping”. We’re delighted that the editors have let us reproduce the article here.
Please select the link below to read the article, which was published in the March 2014 edition of BeeCraft.
John Home says biology can find solutions to the biggest problems – like stopping a six-tonne African elephant in its tracks.
John wrote an article for the magazine “The Biologist”, and we are delighted that they’ve let us reproduce the article on our website. Read more about the work of Dr Lucy King in Kenya, helping farmers protect their livelihoods from damage by elephants using beehives.
We are delighted to be able to announce that Bees Abroad has secured major funding from the UK Department for International Aid (DFID) for a three-year project to alleviate poverty through advancing beekeeping skills and supporting bio-conservation and bio-enterprise in the arid and semi-arid land (ASAL) in the Kenyan district of Laikipia. Our chairman, John Home might be interviewed with Lyn Featherstone, Minister for Overseas Development on BBC radio 4 at lunchtime on 24th December 2013 (subject to the ever-changing news priorities). Jimmy Doherty, one of Bees Abroad’s patrons, commented enthusiastically on the project, saying “It’s wonderful to think that 900 households will be given beekeeping skills that can be used straight away and then handed on to future generations.”
Dave Bonner has recently been visiting our project in Mbale. He kept a blog to record activities whilst he was in-country. Please follow the link to read his story – and admire his practical construction classes.