The Bia Biosphere Reserve in west Ghana covers some 7,770 hectares and is where the country’s major forest animals are found including the forest elephant and the endangered bongo. It’s been closed to people to preserve one of the few remaining areas of precious virgin forest. This has forced local the community who depended on the forest to find new ways to make a living. Those selected include growing palm oil and mushrooms, snail farming and beekeeping.
News from the National Show held in Nanyuki Town, Kenya. Congratulations go to Joseph Gitonga and the team on this very well-deserved prize. The show promoted innovation and technology in agriculture and trade. The Bees Abroad project related well across the themes of pollination, food security and income achieving a very successful result.
On arrival in Uganda, we met Shaun from http://www.beeutifulcreations.org, 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.
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!
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.
The United Nations Staff 1% Development Fund has awarded a grant to a new beekeeping training centre at Zamfarawa in NW Nigeria. The UN 1% fund identifies community projects in developing countries with potential to become self-sustaining and keeps in touch with local contacts who supervise and monitor the development initiatives.
The new Beekeeping Extension Resource Centre will be an education centre for rural communities, school children, and students of Ahmadu Bello University and the Samaru College of Agriculture. There will be a range of literature and other information on beekeeping available, examples of hives, protective clothing and extraction equipment, and a projector and screen for presentations. 120 local community members, 60% of whom are women, have already registered their interest.
The Beekeeping Extension Society (BES) have managed and run a number of projects funded and supported by BeesAbroad. The existing capacity of the group, and the involvement of Idris Muhammad Barua, BES’ Project Director (and previous BeesAbroad trainer for projects in Cameroon and Liberia) was pivotal to securing UN funding as it proved that the funds would have long-term, sustainable outcomes.
BeesAbroad are very proud that our current and previous projects have contributed to this exciting step forward for beekeeping education for Nigeria.
When the chance arose to travel to Kenya and document the DIFD funded Bees abroad project, it was an opportunity too good to turn down. Landing in Nairobi on my birthday and leaving a young family behind in London, I wanted to maximise this opportunity to reflect to the best of my ability the impact beekeeping has on the lives of people benefiting from the Bees Abroad project in Kenya.
I was collected by the Executive project manager David Njuguna and our driver Jessie Maina and was taken to Nanyuki to the project headquarters. David is a very knowledgeable beekeeper and I was quickly acquainted to the cultural differences in bee keeping together with the social customs in Kenya (lots of praying at every opportunity). During my short stay we visited 7 groups and two schools, with most days starting early and finishing late, with hours spent on very dusty and often bumpy roads.
Our first stop was visiting a honey processing unit in Ruai. The centre had been refurbished with the support of Bees Abroad after being closed for many years. The centre was originally opened in 1978 by the Canadian High commission but eventually closed down as interest and knowledge about bees declined in the local area.
Since 2012, with the support of Bees Abroad, the centre which contains a honey refinery, a small meeting space and a couple of storage rooms has rejuvenated the beekeeping community in the area with up to 200 bee keepers benefiting from the centre. Group Chairman Josphet Kiriungi, declared his group have benefited greatly from the work of Bees Abroad as they received training in beekeeping and capacity building. The Ruai group have also been working closely with Bees Abroad’s Nanyuki based marketing officers.
Mary Ngari – Bees Abroad Marketing Officer in Kenya
Marketing the honey has been the biggest challenge for the Ruai group. They have formed a cooperative, registered with various government agencies and are certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards to legally promote/sell their honey and other hive related by products to large supermarkets. Mary, a part time employee with Bees Abroad, feels her jobs has an immense impact on the Kenyan beekeepers as she tries to connect local bee keepers directly with shops and chain outlets, bypassing any middle parties. The marketing officers regularly have to conduct market research and surveys on honey and wax products as they provide support to a range of clients – from small groups in semi-arid villages to cooperatives in cities and towns. Mary claims her work has helped many famers to earn an extra income. She noted that the extra income has a massive impact on their families as they can eat better than before and also pay towards school fees for their children.
Apart from the honey yield, I noticed how groups try and maximise all the other by products they gather during their harvests. The group in Mukuri were very interesting – they physically showed me how they created a really popular cream from the beeswax in under 30 minutes.
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.