Richard & Jane Ridler visit Uganda

On arrival in Uganda, we met Shaun from, a social enterprise working with local beekeepers to make and sell a fabulous range of value added products. We were given honey with our winter tea and bees appeared immediately!

On Friday we travelled North from Kigali to Kasese. Just outside Kasese we crossed the equator and passed ahead of elephants. Daniel, Grace and their family were thrilled to see us again and the football was a big hit. We are very fortunate to have these wonderful folks leading our work at LIDEFO.

We took our trainee project manager Venetia to see a model apiary and then to visit the honey collection and processing centres.  Despite severe drought last year, since our visit to LIDEFO in 2014, great progress has been made. The team are making 100 hives for a local land owner who they will also train. A good example of a group developing its own income after our initial support has ended.

Below is a photo of Grace’s Shop and the LIDEFO Honey Purchasing Centre. We shared ideas about new ways to deliver projects. We agreed to experiment with recording key data, asking chosen families to record our impact on their life style and linking further project stages to success in earlier stages. We explored ideas for making honey based sweets, bee tourism and maintaining the loyalty of new beekeepers to LIDEFO.

This photo shows where beekeepers in the area take their honey. Once LIDEFO have purchased the honey, they process pack and sell it to retailers.

On Sunday we travelled to Ibanda Parish to audit our Noah’s widows project. First we joined the morning church service and I was unexpectedly asked to address the congregation. Various senior church officials had come especially to meet us. They thanked us and Bees Abroad at every possible opportunity. We were shown some honey they collected in an alter wine bottle!

After the service we visited the apiary and discussed progress with the widows. We concluded that the project is progressing well but that the drought of last year had slowed things down. We were pleased that hand cream was being made and earning a little extra income for the widows.

In the evening, we assembled a tasting panel for our test batch of honey toffee we helped LIDEFO to make.

On Monday we spent the day assessing our project for the Abughama self help group. There are three apiaries in three villages. At one of the apiaries we were given honey comb to taste from a hive only installed four months ago. We put astonishing result down to the perfect conditions for beekeeping. We visited six apiaries but most interesting was meeting the beekeepers, their families and local dignitaries.

You will see below a water feeder for bees doubles up as drip tray for the tasing up and a watering point for the chickens!

We are now en-route to Rwenzori Women’s Resource Centre for Community Development. We went close to the border with DR Congo and right on the equator to meet with two very different groups who have asked for support from Bees Abroad.

Today we met the management of the Rwenzori Women’s Resource Centre for Community Development. First we had to work out why so many men were present. Our challenge is to structure a project which empowers the women in society where the position is so different to ours.

In the afternoon we met the Kiringa United Beekeepers Association. They all had some experience of beekeeping but had not received any training. Their principal request was for knowledge to help improve the yields of their apiaries. We had some fascinating conversations which underlined just how lucky we are as UK beekeepers. We visited an apiary in the most beautiful location but with some strange box shaped hives and one new Langstroth.

Above you will see Venetia taking cotton from a mop head, platting strands together to make a wick.

In the foothills of Rwenzori mountains the people have a different concept of time and distance. Daytime is divided into four. With the exception of the well educated, hours and minutes are not understood. Distance is measured by the number of valleys in the mountains between places. They are quite unable to tell distance by measurement in Kilometres. Short distances are measured by marking sticks. This makes for some interesting conversations!

Jack fruit, Dutura, planted for bee foliage and the bees love the Avocado flowers.

Today we heard the call of a Honey Guide Bird (indicator indicator). This bird guides predators, including humans to hives of bees with its distinctive call. When the predator breaks into the hive it feeds on the debris left by the predator, it can even digest wax.

We left Kasese and stayed in the Queen Elizabeth National Park on our way to Buhoma

On Friday we drove for six hours in dirt roads. Fortunately, there was very little traffic although this truck travelling from the Congo was intimidating!

We arrived at our Bwindi Batwa project and received a very warm welcome. We stayed in rooms attached to the local hospital and discovered that honey is being used to treat patients. We stayed in this accommodation adjacent to the mushroom growing shed on the right.

On Saturday we left Venetia in Buhoma to inspect the hives and join in allocating goats to the Batwa. Venetia is an expert in goats and bees!

When we arrived at Murambo, we met Ezra our leader at the Murambo Beekeeper’s project. Ezra had planned wall to wall visits of member’s apiaries. Our small involvement with this group has already lead to a four-fold increase in membership, so we need to work out how to cope with this increased capacity. Most members use log hives because there are plenty of trees, or they use hives constructed from wattle and daub as shown in the picture.

We visited a group who use mainly traditional hives. One had three in an exclosure in his garden.

This video shows a traditional smoker being used which is very effective. The bees were very calm and well behaved.

We visited a porridge shop. Porridge is a mildly alcoholic drink made by fermenting a mixture of lie grade honey with water and sorghum flour. The photos show the price list – little too much of it is drunk in this area.

We met one of our groups in Church which had wattle and daub walls and corrugated iron roof. One beekeeper described drone congregations and we were able to explain to the group what they are.

The next day we crossed at Rwanda, at Kamwezi a remote spot on a dirt road. No other traffic crossed for the whole hour we were there. We called into the Umutara school for deaf children.  At this school we run a beekeeping project that integrates into the school curriculum. We found they had already made a start without us! This picture shows two students with the traditional hives talking in Rwandan sign language. The school has accommodation available for a project manager, we just need to find one!

We enjoyed local honey served to sweeten our tea which tasted very smokey, a common problem here. We met a group of beekeepers who applied to Bees Abroad for help. We gave them an introductory training course and spent time exploring why their yields from traditional hives are low. The conclusion was that we should try to set up a training apiary to see how the use of Kenyan Top Hives would improve the situation.

On Thursday we braved Katonga, at Rwandan favourite breakfast. It’s a yummy combination of boiled potato, savoury bananas and lumps of beef in tomato sauce.

On our second day of teaching we collected acacia, mango, daisy, hibiscus and begonia flowers and grasses to give a visual aid to help explain about nectar and pollen collection. We discovered there is no word for pollen in Rwanda. We said good by to the Kigudugu beekeepers at lunch time and drove to Kigali where we saw the first Mzungu for several days.

Today we travelled from Kigali to Kilimanjaro on a very small Rwandanair plane. After a long drive we arrived at our lodge where we discovered they kept a few bees. We bought a jar of honey to take to the Ulster Beekeepers Conference for tasting.

During the weekend we took a couple of days rest from beekeeping. We spent a day at Lake Manuara National Park bird spotting and game viewing. We visited the Ngorogoro crater and the Olduvai gorge.

We found a fence with bee hives hanging from it designed to keep elephants out of a vegetable garden. Elephants are very scared of bees and similar fences are widely used. The design of the fence was not strong and several hives were not colonised.

New training tool – a virtual hive for beekeepers

Bees Abroad are supplying an exciting practical new teaching aid to beekeeping trainers in developing countries. The virtual hive or visual hive provides a comprehensive photographic guide to the frames and conditions that can generally be found within a typical brood box at various times of the season. Bees Abroad trainers attach the photographs of brood frames to top bars/frames, then place them in a hive to make a visual hive – without a bee in sight!

Continue reading “New training tool – a virtual hive for beekeepers”

INTO Giving – funds beekeeping in Odogbolu district, Nigeria

INTO Giving Funds Bees Abroad’s School Beekeeping Project in Nigeria

INTO Giving is an exemplary charity that supports humanitarian and community projects in the developing world. Charities/projects are nominated by INTO employees who also raise the funds used to support development activities. Each year the charity selects 1-2 new charities/projects for support. Nominations are assessed by the INTO Board, who act as administrators / trustees.

Whether it’s girls’ or refugee education (two of the big and important themes that emerged in 2016), or helping to build or refurbish a school, support teachers, or other educational projects INTO Giving is active in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. With


projects in Bangladesh, Ghana, Malawi, Thailand and Lebanon support from INTO Giving improves the lives of disadvantaged and impoverished children and their teachers. In the last year, INTO Giving donated more than £75,000 to education projects in the developing world – TWICE AS MUCH AS IN 2016!

Okun Owa’s Beekeeping trainees

In 2017, 28 projects were nominated by staff for consideration, including Bees Abroad’s Multilateral Grammar School Beekeeping Project. 6 projects were selected for support and we were delighted to learn that the Bees Abroad proposal came out joint top in the assessment process.

Over three years, Bees Abroad will train two beekeeping trainers within the rural government run school. The trainers will establish a school beekeeping club to include beekeeping as a topic in the curriculum, in addition to established agriculture and animal husbandry courses. The teaching apiary with 30 top bar hives will be established in the first year (2018). The project will also train 10 pupils as beekeepers, who will build their own hives (two hives per trainee), make their own bee suits and manage their colonies on their own account. Trainees come from farming families on very low incomes which in turn leads to poor nutrition, high mortality at all ages and inadequate access to healthcare and education.

INTO Giving is funding 100% of the project cost. Funding will cover the cost of delivery of beekeeping training, including training the teachers, materials needed for hive construction and personal protection equipment, provision of instructional training materials and manuals, costs of apiary establishment and harvesting equipment.

From 2020 onwards, the sale of honey and secondary products should provide an income stream for the school beekeeping club to be self-sufficient.

At the school selection day, the need for income generation was evidenced when 85 students from the junior and senior school turned up to bid for ten trainee places!

Some had previous exposure to the craft, for example through honey hunting. All were aged between 14 and 18 years old. They showed great enthusiasm which is important as training will have to fit around school and family responsibilities.

Over 98% of these students contributed financially to their households. Some run their own skilled micro enterprises such as tailoring or carpentry; others have various paid seasonal farm jobs like peeling of cassava. In the longer term, the aims and objectives of the project will go a long way to extending the capacity of trainees to contribute to financial obligations at home.

Typically, good beekeepers are naturally observant and inquisitive. We look for trainees who are aware of the environment and interested in trees, insects and plants. Those who already have some work ethic are more likely to be systematic in checking hives regularly and notice details that provide clues to what is happening in their hives, to their bees and to the local conditions. They are also more likely to be innovative – natural researchers experimenting with their own ideas and testing out ideas they have learnt or new solutions to problems.

The Bees Abroad intervention is not based on handouts – trainees will be required to build or make inputs from scratch as appropriate, from local resources, to they experience the options for differentiating roles and interests within beekeeping. Roles range from carpenters building hives, to tailors making bee suits or specialisations such as producing secondary bee products or providing pollination services, or as has happened with past projects, trainees become beekeeping trainers themselves!

Our focus is to train the students to be active beekeepers and manage their bee hives and not their bees. We emphasise producing more honey from each hive to increase productivity over having more hives to increase production. Our strategy requires better capacity building for the beekeepers and less investment in equipment.

Training is in modern beekeeping management techniques in line with the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) Tropical Syllabus. Bees Abroad will apply sustainable and ecological methods, for example hives and bee suits are made from local materials and there will be an emphasis on pollination, ecology and conservation. Trainees will be provided with Bees Abroad Basic and Advance beekeeping manuals for reference as well as practical hands on training in the field during the local bee season. The theoretical and practical training modules will be delivered by a certified (Nigerian) Bees Abroad trainer locally, whom we have worked with successfully for a number of years.

After training, students will practice beekeeping on their own account in their communities, thus creating a second income which will help to pay their school fees and support their extended families.






Tribute to David Njuguna

It is with deep regret that we have received the sad news of the recent death of David Njuguna in a road accident. 

David was a wonderful friend and colleague without whose support, commitment, knowledge and enthusiasm we would never have achieved so much for Bees Abroad in Kenya.

David worked in beekeeping development in various African Countries before he approached Bees Abroad, having learnt of the charity’s work through someone in Cameroon. When in Kenya we met with him and realised his enthusiasm for beekeeping,  how this would make a difference to the rural people we were working with, and how similar his approach was to ours. We had a mutual understanding and this bonded us together. That was the joy of working closely with David for the past 10 years; bringing benefits through honey bees and their management to the people he cared so much about In Kenya.

We always appreciated David’s care of us on our visits to Kenya. He was a very special person and we looked on him as part of our extended family in whom we had complete trust. He was an example to all for his energy and dedication and willingness to help anyone who called on him.

David was highly respected by the beekeeping community; so much so that we have received many messages of how greatly David will be missed. We wish to share a few of these:

“David will be greatly missed. He was a rare and very special person, his life has brought his immense skills, hope and opportunities to so many, as well as friendship and kindness to all who knew him”

“We’ll always cherish the contribution he personally made to the beekeeping industry in the country. His legacy will live on. For those still in the service, strive for excellent performance. That is the honour we can bestow to our departed colleague.” 

 David was a well-focused and active member of Apiculture Platform of Kenya and had a wealth of knowledge and experience, particularly on practical beekeeping. His desire to help communities to harness the potential in beekeeping for their livelihoods was exemplary.”


His earthly life may have ended, but his contribution to so many who remain is in the memory of all of us.

As a tribute to him I’m sure he would wish us to continue his dream of being Bees Abroad Kenya .

John and Mary Home, David and Roz Evans, September 2017

Visit to Rwanda 2017

We visited 2 community groups in the west of Rwanda to assess projects for future support from Bees Abroad. Both have in the past received funding from other organisations to establish beekeeping however no on-the-ground training was offered.

During our short visit we found that despite both being dynamic and committed community groups the lack of training has meant that neither have been successful in developing beekeeping. This is even more disappointing given that the area has a strong beekeeping tradition and newly established beekeeping groups would certainly benefit from local beekeepers willing to share their knowledge and from non-beekeepers who know the value of beekeeping and are keen to be involved.

During our week-long visit we provided basic training and support to try and enable the communities to make the most of the equipment and local knowledge that they already have. We also identified a future Bees Abroad project to provide further training in beekeeping, harvesting and marketing and believe that sharing these skills would allow both communities  to benefit as much as possible from beekeeping.


The community in Bumba is still recovering from the genocide of 1994 to 1997 with many damaged people and families struggling to move forward in life. The Community Education Programme (CEP) sees its role to develop more projects, to improve local people’s lives and to prepare them for the 21st century.

Our contact was Father Patrick, a very enthusiastic and committed advisor to the CEP. He was previously parish priest in Bumba and has continued his involvement, working to source funding, develop new ideas and keep the community inspired. He is rightly proud of the CEP; a cooperative with a clear constitution and decisions making process whereby the management committee and cooperative members determine how to spend money, what projects to pursue and who gets paid what proportion of proceeds.

The CEP has a bakery with modern European bread oven producing bread and cakes daily. There is also a community nursery school, meeting rooms from which it runs classes, and accommodation for volunteers and/or paying guests.

There is great potential for the CEP’s beekeeping activities however this has not been successfully developed. The CEP secured funding from the German embassy to buy 70 Kenyan Top-Bar hives, 2 bee suits and a smoker but they were not confident in their knowledge and hence when we arrived all 70 hives were still in storage, waiting to be prepared and installed in apiaries.

During our visit we:

  • cut and modified the hives as not all the roofs and top bars fitted properly and taught the team to do this work so that they are now confident with the KTBs.
  • provided classroom training in bee biology, hive management and apiary management.
  • provided practical training in cleaning, baiting, checking and managing local and KTB hives.
  • thought the group how to make Catcher hives and discussed their use.
  • helped the bee keeping group set up 3 apiaries with well-located stands and hives.
  • visited a potential site for a 4th apiary and met the farmer who rents the land from CEP and who is keen to be part of the project.
  • developed good relationships with number of skilled local beekeepers, in particular Martin Ungarare who is competent to repair and modify damaged hives, clean and bait hives and assemble hives into an apiary. He is prepared to routinely check hives and to work with others to develop their skills.

There is considerable beekeeping in the local area, mostly cylindrical local hives but also a few Kenyan Top-Bar hives. Father Patrick was once again our contact: he moved to Ngororera last year and has organised for the Catholic church to support the Ngororera Womens’ group, a co-operative in which about 40 women are involved.

Some of the women have beekeeping experience and the co-operative’s President, an elected member of the local council, has worked hard to organise the use of council land for the main apiary.

The US embassy funded 60 hives however once again no beekeeping training was offered. This has meant that only one of 60 hives has bees.  We found that none of the hives in the main apiary (40 hives) had been set up correctly nor baited, some were not clean and most did not have a full set of bars.

During our visit we:

  • worked to help develop a beekeeping group (6 women, 5 men). Some of the group have bee keeping knowledge and have traditional hives. They will be of great help to the group
  • provided practical training was provided at the main apiary with the group in how to set up a hive correctly and how to clean and bait. At the end of the session 10 hives were in good working order
  • discussed basic bee biology and harvesting.
  • helped plan the development of the apiaries and agreed that 10 hives will be moved from the main apiary to one of the smaller sites, after they have been cleaned and set up properly.
  • developed a good working relationship with Grace, a member of the beekeeping group who is very keen to see the project thrive and who works for the local council that owns the land on which the main apiary is sited.

UK Department for International Development Awards (DFID) A+

Beekeeping in the Laikipia area of Kenya

A three year BeesAbroad project in Kenya which was funded by DFID funded project has been recognised for it’s significant contribution to the goal of poverty relief in the area. DFID deemed that the outcomes of the project, which had a budget of £246,798 controlled by Bees Abroad, had exceeded expections, were ‘highly relevant’ and ‘incorporated value for money aspects particularly related to economy’.

“the beekeeping based activities provided a level of resilience to extreme weather events that typically impact on livestock and crop production in these areas”.  Ms Judy Amoke, Performance and Risk Manager, DfID

So what did we achieve?

  • Promoted beekeeping activies amoung 1245 pastoral households
  • 971 housholds made hive products for sale
  • 523 households saw incomes rise by more than 15%
  • 11 of the beekeepers’ groups set up attained quality certification from the Kenya Bureau of Standards.
  • 4 co-operatives established with full business plans
  • 15 market outlets formalised
  • More than 450 households reported planting five or more bee-friendly trees or shrubs.

“It is clear … the project had achieved good results, hence worth replication and scaling up. It is our wish to engage partners who work towards value for money and ensure such verifiable results”. ACT! (Act, Transform, Change), the allocating group for DfID money in Kenya

BeesAbroad are very proud of this project and look forward to many more similar successes in the future. Many thanks to Bees Abroad volunteers John and Mary Home who managed the project together with David Evans as project accountant.

Heather Honey: a Comprehensive Guide

The launch of Michael Badger’s book, Heather Honey: A Comprehensive Guide is a great success and proving very popular with beekeepers and we are delighted to have received over £300 in Royalities so far.  You can order your copy from If you are looking for a special gift, a limited edition of 100, signed hard cover copies are available too. A big thank you to Michael Badger for donating proceeds from his book to Bees Abroad and the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers.

The Forward is written by Graeme de Bracey Marrs, MBE, Past Master of The Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers of London (2010)

Heather Honey: A Comprehensive Guide

A wide range of beekeeping gems is offered. Detailed information, supported by many photographs and illustrations, makes this book a pleasure to read. The history, knowledge and instruction captured in this book will aid those who participate in the highly respected British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) examinations, for which The Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers of London presents the annual Wax Chandlers’ Prize.

The information included about the origins of the landscape of the heather moors portrays a fascinating history. The painstaking reference to all heather areas of the British Isles is exemplary. Examples of man’s most recent misdemeanours to the environment are enlightening.

In conclusion, I believe that all beekeepers and others with an interest in this subject and beekeeping as a whole will find this work a fine adjunct to their libraries of books.

Michael Badger, MBE, has been a beekeeper man and boy, with experience extending over 65 years. In his time, he has been fortunate to meet many of the great keepers of honey bees. He was devoted to the late Colin Weightman, MBE, and Brother Adam, OBE, OSB, of Buckfast Abbey fame, spending many of his formative beekeeping years with them.