Bees Abroad project manager Roy Dyche talks to a member of our Ugandan project.
“So many of my friends were telling me about the beekeeping that had arrived in our district. I was excited. I wanted to become a beekeeper too, so I decided to join the project.” And this is what Beatrice Kamaujobe had done. A year earlier, when two more women’s groups were added to the project, she enrolled in one of them.
“Grace, the leader of my group, was very good. She trained us well. The BISUDEF field officer also gave us a lot of help. I already feel like a real beekeeper.” (BISUDEF is the small local organisation which is implementing the project as our partners).
I was to see later just how well Beatrice had been trained. First I wanted to know a little more about her and her family.
“My husband and I, we are farmers. We grow enough to feed ourselves and the children and a bit more to sell at the market — maize and rice. We scrape by but it’s a struggle.
“There are eight of us living in our small house over there: my husband and me, the three of my six children who are still at home and three grandchildren. All six of the kids are in school. That’s where most of the few shillings we earn go, school fees.”
I wondered why she was paying fees when education in Uganda was supposed to be free.
“No, it isn’t really free. You still have to buy uniforms and books and other things. But anyway we don’t send our children to state schools. The size of the classes is too large, often more than 150. And the teachers aren’t always in the classroom. So we send our six to private schools; even poor people like us do that. Of course it costs more but the children are getting a proper education there.”
She invited me to see her hives, which were sited on the family plot not far from the house. I was impressed. She had made six modern hives for herself and installed them in her apiary, a small area from which the vegetation had been completely cleared to deter lizards and ants, the scourge of African beekeepers. The hives had been very well constructed from sticks and a mixture of mud and ash, and were suspended securely from stout poles.
Four of the hives had been occupied by passing swarms but the bees had only quite recently taken up residence so I assumed they hadn’t provided her with any surplus honey yet.
“Oh yes they have. I’ve already taken ten kilos. We used half of that to give us a better diet and for medicinal purposes. I sold the rest for 30,000 shillings [about £8]. And there’s another hive ready for harvesting. It’s a good start.”
It certainly was a good start. £8 wouldn’t go far in the UK but a Ugandan villager can do a lot with 30,000 shillings.
“We used the money to hire labour to open up a patch of bush because we want to grow more rice. We’ve managed to buy the rice seedlings as well.”
So was she happy with how the year had gone?
“Very happy! I’m more confident with bees now. They don’t frighten me the way they did. But I still find it a bit difficult harvesting my honey because I don’t have my own protective gear. I have to borrow other people’s.
“I’m just a beginner, I realise that, and I need more training but I have plans to make my apiary bigger. I’ve got another two hives ready for hanging and I’m not going to stop there. The more hives I have, the more shillings I can earn. And that will make our lives a lot easier.”
There are quite a few Beatrices in Uganda’s Hoima District now, women full of enthusiasm for the project and gaining much-needed financial benefits from it. It’s stories like hers that reassure us all at Bees Abroad — and should reassure our supporters too — that the work we are doing in the developing world is making a real difference.
Read more about our work in Hoima here