Partnership Manager, Niki Backes, visits beekeeping communities in Uganda

Partnership Manager, Niki Backes, visits beekeeping communities in Uganda

July 6, 2024

Last month Niki spent two weeks in Uganda visiting seven beekeeping communities sometimes walking for hours through the bush to reach isolated communities.

Niki visited a mix of existing and potential new Bees Abroad supported communities in her role as Partnership Manager, a relatively new role for her. Niki is an experienced beekeeper and used her knowledge and skills to assist our local field officers, though she learned a lot about the differences and challenges of beekeeping in Uganda.

What did you learn about the communities you visited?

Every community I visited had its unique character. I discovered a newfound appreciation for the privileges I often take for granted: clean water, accessible medical care, pet companionship, and well-maintained roads. Despite the immense daily challenges these communities face, they welcomed me with happiness and kindness. Their eagerness to learn about beekeeping and their willingness to share their lives renewed my faith in humanity. The openness and mutual respect among the people left a lasting impression on me.  

 
 

Who did you work with?

Daniel Ngangasi has been our in Country partner for over 14 years in the Kasese region of Uganda. He helps distribute the equipment we provide as well as sells the honey locally that he purchases from project participants if they wish to sell to him. Daniel’s business is called LIDEFO and is certified in Uganda. It also supports a local girl’s school called Liberty College with the proceeds of their honey sales. Daniel and his wife Grace have a local sale shop in the town of Kasese where people can come and purchase the honey and a few other dry goods.

Both Bensen and Simon are our field officers overseen by Daniel. These men go to the projects once a month and provide training and support to the projects. These tasks include hive inspections, honey harvesting and swarm collection.

What are the main differences between beekeeping in Uganda and beekeeping at home?

The main difference in the beekeeping practices of the USA and Uganda is the type of hive that is used to keep the bees. In the US, the predominate way is by using box hives called Langstroth hives that you stack vertically on top of each other, when the honey is ready to be harvested these frames are scrapped open and the honey spun out. The frames then are returned to the hive to be reused.

In Uganda the people use either traditional hives which are woven and cylindrical in shape and held together by mud and dung or top bar hives. We are encouraging the beekeepers to transition into top bar hives which are wooden, and the bees work the frames horizontally. When it is time to harvest honey the combs that contain the honey are removed and they are then crushed to remove and strain the honey and the leftover beeswax can be used to create value added products such as candles, balms and creams.

The main reason the traditional hives are not ideal is that the harvesting the honey usually results in harming the hive or drastically reducing its ability for them to survive and continue to produce honey. Also, the traditional hives fall apart easily after a rain or two and the bees swarm off.

About Niki Backes

Niki Backes has been a beekeeper for 25 years. She has experience in commercial beekeeping and ran her own beekeeping business. She has traveled extensively keeping bees in Europe, South America, Australia and now Africa. She is also a cosmetic formulator focusing on the beehive’s byproducts, including beeswax, propolis, royal jelly and bee pollen. She currently manages a few hives of her own located in Southern Michigan in the United States. Niki is the Supporter Care Manager for Bees Abroad as well as a volunteer Partnership Manager for Bees Abroad in Uganda and a member of Bees Abroad’s Hive Twinning community with her hives twinned with another project in Sierra Leone, Bee Farmers on Crutches.

Beekeeper next to beehive

Bees Abroad joins 1% for the Planet

Bees Abroad joins 1% for the Planet

June 23, 2024

Bees Abroad joins 1% for the Planet

We’re excited to announce that we have been accepted as environmental partners to 1% for the Planet following nomination by Hydromellerie Tal, mead producers in Canada. Becoming an environmental partner for 1% for the Planet means we can connect and receive support from a global network of companies and businesses.

1% for the Planet was founded 23 years ago in 2001 by two lifelong friends and businessmen who saw that businesses cause environmental impact and wanted to support the environment. They pledged to donate 1% of their profits to environmental causes. Today 1% for the Planet has over 5,500 business members in 60 countries .

What does it mean for Bees Abroad?

We are one of 6,700 environmental partners business can choose from, although there are 1,000 more environmental partners than there are businesses, this is a great opportunity for us to access a network of businesses who can potentially offer us support.

Is your organization or business a 1% for the Planet member? You can support us via the platform. Our profile can be found here. You can find out more about becoming a member as a business on the 1% for the Planet website.

Thank you to Talusier LaSalle at Hydromellerie Tal

We are very grateful to Talusier LaSalle who recommended us for 1% for the Planet membership.

Talusier LaSalle is the founder and owner of Hydromellerie Tal, a Mead producer in Canada, is a business member of 1% for the Planet and put us forward as an environmental partner.

Hydromellerie Tal is also a corporate Hive Twin with Bees Abroad, they are twinned with the Bee Farmer’s on Crutches program in Sierra Leone.

South Sudan post training report

South Sudan post training report

June 23, 2024

Report written by Natale Alexander with input from Severina Makana and Natale Baiki. Minor edits by Christine Ratcliffe

To find out about how this project came about, see our blog Supporting Beekeepers in South Sudan

Getting from South Sudan to Kasese, Uganda

This training in beekeeping for three of us from Namatina Payam – South Sudan namely: Natale Ukele Alexander, Severina Mark Makana and Natale Adriano Baiki has been sponsored by Bees Abroad through Richard Ridler who organized all the programs for this training including our transport from South Sudan to Kasese-Uganda and back to South Sudan, our training, accommodation, feeding etc.

We left Juba for Kampala at 7:30 AM on Tuesday 14/05/2024 till we reached Kampala at 12.00 AM after over twenty hours travelling.  The following day we reached Kasese at 5:00 PM after around ten hours travelling where we met with Daniel from LIDEFO, the local partner for Bees Abroad, who was waiting for us.

 

Training with Bees Abroad’s local partner, LIDEFO – the theory

On the first day, we learnt about beekeeping and the Training of Trainers (TOT). For the first three days, we did theory, and they could show us various pictures of beehives like:

    1. Traditional beehives
    2. Kenya Top Bar (KTB). He brought this practically in the classroom
    3. Langstroth
    4. Catcher Box

We learnt about assessing environment for beekeeping, products of bees, types of bees like the queen, workers and drones and training methods and applications and that there are three types of farmers (beekeepers). We also learnt about the development of the larva into bees and new terminologies like: Bee colony, apiary, swarming, absconding, propolis, pollen and pollination.

We also learnt about apiary site selection, apiary establishment, apiary management and forage management, beehive inspection, inspection for what and bee sting management.

It took us two full days to master beehive making as it included: Timber selection, iron sheets, nails, carpentry tools, measurement, cutting the timber, nailing the timer into hive, making top bar and foundation bar and the cover.

Training with Bees Abroad’s local partner, LIDEFO – practical sessions

We went to two various apiaries which are located 40 KM from Kasese where we were give the bee suits, gum boots and gloves to wear for the first time in our lives and hive tools each plus smokers to use.

We practically each smoked the beehives through their entrance and on every side and we removed the cover of beehives for inspections, harvesting the honey, we saw workers, queen and drones, matured and unmatured combs, broody and no bee stung anybody except Daniel who was stung at the first apiary and Severina at the second apiary because they did not close their zips well.

Practical work at the apiary was more enjoyable than theory as we participated physically and could use the hive tools for opening or removing top bars to see which combs were matured or not matured. We came back to our hotel at 7:00 PM and we were tired and during our supper three of us agreed that we have done good work for the day and we thank Bees Abroad and our tutors for training us.

 

Reflections on the training

The twenty years Daniel has spent at LIDEFO plus others like Mbusa Moses and Simon have made them very good teachers in the field of beekeeping.

The perception we came with about beekeeping started to change just during theory before we started to make beehives, went to the fields and do everything practical.

What we enjoyed much were:

    1. The theory
    2. Making beehives
    3. Practical visit and various activities at the apiaries
    4. All the activities at the processing plant.

Then, we were given: Certificate of attendance in Beekeeping, 6 Bee Suits, 6 Gum boots, 6 Pairs of gloves, 6 Hive tools, 6 Smokers, 4 Learning/Training manuals.

When we were at our hotel the questions, we asked ourselves with were:

    1. What did LIDEFO do to reach such a level in beekeeping industry?
    2. What can we do to be like LIDEFO?
    3. What shall do to enable our community members understand and reach the stage of LIDEFO?
    4. Since we do not have timber stores in Namatina Payam, how shall we get timber for making beehives for our people to see it practically?
    5. How shall we teach our people only with theory without practical?

We agreed that we should be committed despite difficulties we shall encounter in the fields.

On the last day we sat down for evaluation together with our tutors at LIDEFO, three of us came up with this proposal if Bees Abroad could support beekeeping to be successful in Namatina Payam.

Taking the training back to the remote community in South Sudan

Then, Natale Baiki left for our home town, Namatina Payam, which he reached after three days because he had to move from Wau to Namatina on a motorcycle.

That Natale Baiki sits down with the community members under the shades of trees and give them the theory and for practical, he has resorted to drawing the picture of beehive, top bar and foundation bar on the ground in the sand. Explaining the measurement of each side of the hive.

He has shown to them the bee suits, gloves, boots, hive tools, his certificate, training and learning manuals given to us by LIDEFO and they were excited to see all of that and know that people from other parts of the world harvest honey without fire and no bee stings.

They also told Natale that the numbers of bee colony have started to reduce and Natale told them that this is because they keep on burning bees and at the end of some times, they will burn all the bees in Namatina Payam and there will be very low bee colonization.

They were very interested and wanted to learn it practically and some photos shall be sent to Richard at Bees Abroad in due course. 

End of the report on training.

NATALE UKELE ALEXANDER & OTHERS

Supporting Beekeepers in South Sudan

Supporting Beekeepers in South Sudan

June 2, 2024

A request for beekeeping support from South Sudan

South Sudan became the World’s newest country in 2011 following 20 years of civil wars. It remains unstable and the UK government advises against all travel. Support for communities in-country is therefore challenging and limited.

We received a request through our website for support from the Namatina Payam Community Beekeeping (NPCB), in South Sudan. They are s 600km West of Juba, the capital in a very remote region near the border with Central African Republic.

A long-established beekeeping community seeking to self-improve

 The community has practiced beekeeping for many generations, this is what they told us when they requested support:

“Beekeeping is a traditional income generating activities handed over to us by our ancestors and we educate our children through it. It’s a source of income handed down to us by our ancestors and we need to improve on it for better production.”

We were contacted by a member from the community who is now a lawyer in the capital, he told us that it was income from honey sales that helped pay for his education. They use log hives and make-shift tools with grass bundles for smokers (see photo).

Logistical challenges and making it happen

We first explored whether we could help them find support from an organization with a presence in South Sudan but found that there were none.  We could not ask our local partner in Uganda, the closest Bees Abroad country, to travel because of the security risk. The only option was to bring them to us. We arranged for three individuals, , who speak English  to make the 4 day journey to  Kasese in Uganda to receive training from Daniel and his team at LIDEFO, our local partner.

They arrived on World Bee Day, 20th May. On the agenda was training, securing equipment in Uganda (they have never had bee suits) and planning for the future. For eight days they had classroom training, practical training and apiary visits.  Beforehand they had not even known that honeybee colonies had workers, drones and a queen. 

What’s next for Namatina Payam Community Beekeeping (NPCB)?

NPCB are now part of our very active partner WhatsApp group where there is a constant exchange of experiences and knowledge.  Although we do not plan on establishing a presence in South Sudan we are considering how our local partner and trainer in Uganda can provide support remotely. We have been working with Daniel, the local trainer and founder of LIDEFO, for 10 years in Uganda. Daniel and LIDEFO have become a wealth of experience and have the capabilities to act as a hub to provide outreach and training in new areas.

Stay tuned for updates.

World Bee Day 2024 Bees Abroad Celebrations

World Bee Day 2024 Bees Abroad Celebrations

May 20, 2024

The UN officially designated May 20th as World Bee Day in 2017 to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development.

From Nigeria to Tanzania Bees Abroad communities are celebrating this year’s World Bee Day in style.

Mama Hive at World Bee Day Celebrations in the capital city

Tanzania are celebrating WBD in style this year! A three day event is being held in the capital, Dodoma. Saturday, May 18th marked the opening of the Tanzanian World Bee Day celebrations and Mama Hive was delighted to be invited to participate in the exhibition, organised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. The exhibition was well-attended by many involved in beekeeping, bee product sales and activities and environment and conservation work. 

Rachel represented Mama Hive with Justina, beekeeping project manager with the project partner Emmanuel International. The exhibit showcased Hive Mama and Bees Abroad’s work in training in sustainable beekeeping with rural community groups and income-generating through quality, value-added beeswax products. The District Commissioner, Rosemary Senyamule (see photo) visited the stall along with other dignitaries.

Today, on World Bee Day, the celebrations were opened with an address from Vice President of Tanzania.

Youth in Beekeeping

This year the UN is focusing on the  pivotal role that youth can play in supporting bees and pollinators with their theme “Bee engaged with Youth“. 

The Bees Abroad Nigeria team are promoting this theme through their celebrations. We are helping support the Youth For Apiculture Initiative (YFAI) in their World Bee Day celebrations in the capital, Abuja. 

As well as talks and activities the event is being attended by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment who visited YFAI earlier this month. 

YFAI actively promotes and advocates for youth and women in beekeeping.

 

More Youth in Beekeeping!

As well as the Youth in Apiculture event in the capital, celebrations are underway in Ogun state.

Today the Bees Abroad supported Abotokio Slow Food Beekeeping community are hosting a special World Bee Day event with talks, activities and a tree planting ceremony. 

All the registered Slow Food Beekeeping Communities representatives in Ogun West Area of Ogun State Nigeria, Local Government Officials, Principals of selected Schools the area, Students and the wider Community have been invited to attend this event.

A few words from Elijah, spokesperson for Abotokio Slow Food Beekeeping community:

“The celebration of World Bee Day 2024 isn’t merely an acknowledgment of bees’ value—it’s a global declaration of our commitment to the SDGs and a sustainable future. World Bee Day 2024 provides a platform, rallying the world to nurture these pollinators, ensuring that they continue to buzz alongside us, aiding our collective journey towards a better tomorrow.”

Sierra Leone celebrations

We received a message directly from the Sierra Leone team  on WBD:

Happy World Bee Day from Sierra Leone!

🌍 On this World Bee Day, we express our gratitude to Rory’s Well, Bees Abroad, and the Bee Farmers Association for their support in implementing this innovative bee farming method in Sierra Leone. By supporting sustainable bee farming practices, we are not only protecting the environment but also ensuring the future of these vital pollinators.

🐝 The new method of bee farming implemented by the Bee Farmers Association in the southern part of Sierra Leone has proven to be incredibly successful. 

🍯 The construction of the bee house in September 2023 has provided a secure and reliable space for bee colonies to thrive. In just a few short months, 7 hives were colonised and 5 were harvested, yielding an impressive 100Ib of honey. This is a testament to the hard work of the bees and the effectiveness of the new bee farming method.

💛 The importance of bees as non-timber forest products (NTFP) cannot be overstated. Bees play a crucial role in pollinating plants, including many crops that we rely on for food. Without bees, our ecosystem would suffer, and many plant species would be at risk of extinction. Bees also produce honey, beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly, all of which have various medicinal and nutritional benefits for humans.

Excel Farmers Beekeeping Journey

Excel Farmers Beekeeping Journey

April 16, 2024

An hour and a half’s drive away from Ibadan, Nigeria’s third largest city, lives a village community home to the Excel beekeeping group. The Excel beekeeping group is a group of farmers turned beekeepers who received training from Bees Abroad nearly five years ago in July 2019. Since then, beekeeping has become as essential part of their livelihoods.

The Excel beekeepers shared their story with us. The rest of this blog is written by them:

Access to more Apiculture Networking

The beekeeping projects provided opportunities for members to network with other beekeepers and experts in the apiculture industry. The networking opened doors to other learning opportunities, access to new technologies and practices, and exchanging ideas and experiences with fellow beekeepers.

Some of Excel Beekeepers have been opportune to connect with a wider community of beekeepers, to stay updated with the latest trends and advancements in beekeeping. Members were present at the African Api-Expo Conference, A visit to Forest Research Institute of Nigeria, Margot Abayomi Memorial Evergreen (MAMIE) Foundation Forest, An insight into Slow Food Nigeria, Ministry of Agriculture Capacity Building, and others.

We covered the MAMIE foundation and the Emerald Forest in our last blog, you can read it here.

 

Additional and Increase in Individual & Group of income

Beekeeping is indeed a lucrative venture, providing an additional source of income for individuals and Excel group. Honey, beeswax, and other bee products are sold locally generating revenue. Also, the knowledge into making of hives and other tools have been used in rendering services to others upcoming beekeepers. Mr. Boluwaji, the group coordinator testified of generating huge income by rendering beekeeping services to people through the years –

“Beekeeping initiative has helped in diversifying my streams of income and promoting my farming experience. I managed apiary for not less that fifteen farmers, harvesting and processing for them as a paid service”.

Beekeeping Outreaches

Having enjoyed the benefits of modern beekeeping as thought by Bees Abroad, Excel Beekeepers has taken up a challenge of reaching out to more rural communities, including school children and local farmers of Oyo State to raise awareness about the importance of bees and their role in ecosystems, give beekeeping training to increase the knowledge base and encourage these communities to tap into the multi-floral richness of their environment.

Also adding the goal of tree planting for conservation efforts, to minimize the threats faced by bees. We believe that Community Beekeeping-Tree projects can contribute to the conservation of bees and their natural habitats. This outreach can also inspire others to take up beekeeping or adopt practices that promote bee-friendly environments.

A photo of some Excel Beekeeper members with community members of Okelagan Village as participants of the Beekeeping sensitization visit
A photo of some Excel Beekeeper members with community members of Okelagan Village as participants of the Beekeeping sensitization visit
A picture of some harvested maize from Mr Yuusuf’s farm
A picture of some harvested maize from Mr Yuusuf’s farm.

Increase in Crop Yield

Being a farming community, we’ve experienced that bees play a vital role in pollination, which is essential for the reproduction of many flowering plants and crops. A lot of our member introduced beekeeping into their farms and recorded significant increase in crop yield. Mr Yuusuf, a seasoned crop farmer shared an experience of his maize.

“My maize yield has indeed increased and sweeter in taste since the introduction of my personal apiary.”

The Excel beekeepers, beekeeping in Nigeria and the Green Match Fund

A big thank you to the Excel beekeepers for sharing their story with us. They shared much more, and we’ll be bringing more updates from them later in the year.

The Excel beekeeping group have shared some great examples of some of the themes we have been talking about in the ‘Food, Beekeeping and Social Justice’ campaign. They are based in Nigeria, one of the countries we are raising funds for in the Green Match Fund.

You can help communities like the Excel beekeepers in Nigeria. Your support can help remove barriers and create opportunities for communities, enabling them to empower themselves.

You can get your donation doubled until Thursday 25th April. One donation, double the impact for beekeeping communities.

A picture of some harvested maize from Mr Yuusuf’s farm
A photo of some Excel Beekeeper members with community members of Okelagan Village as participants of the Beekeeping sensitization visit

Social Justice and Beekeeping in Ghana

Social Justice and Beekeeping in Ghana

April 16, 2024

Atudorobesa Beekeepers, Ahafo Region, Ghana

Trisha Marlow, Partnership Manager for Ghana, sent this update on the 7th April 2024:

Yesterday I visited the women of Atudorobesa (gunpowder will end=peace) Beekeepers. They are currently patiently waiting for a final, much anticipated, batch of beehive kits as they have met the reporting and colonisation criteria needed for their supply. But – and this is a big but – for now our funds, like others for Ghana, are trapped in the chaos caused by the failure of sub-sea cabling and affecting much of West Africa.

At this time they have recently completed a harvest which they wanted to show me before it is marketed and over which they are rightly proud. I expressed my concern to Thomas their trainer after we left over the lowish price they expected to receive. Marketing skills often do not come naturally and there is of course a tendency to take the first deal offered when money is hard won – and much needed.

In many places in Ghana unregulated galamsey (smallscale gold mining) takes place. It destroys water courses and pollutes land with heavy metals and comes at a cost to health. But here the local people respected their land to provide them with food. 

In 2018 the Ghanaian government zoned large amounts of family and other farmland in this community for gold exploration, cutting off much of their independence in growing food and making them dependent on market prices – along with massive inflation there is a supply-demand premium locally. Let’s hear the account of some of the women affected.

Patricia

“In 2000 I bought one acre of land to grow plantain, cassava and cocoyam so I could support my four children myself including their schooling. I am a single parent.

In 2018 the govenment bought my land. Compensation has been proposed, I don’t know how much but nobody has had a single cedi from the EPA [Environment Protection Agency] or Newmont Gold to now.

 So I have 100 by 160 yard land to feed the family now. And sometimes I get 50 cedis [£3.30] a day as day labourer.

 I will use my honey money from this harvest to feed my children and buy some essential items. Beekeeping is so important for us now.”

Elizabeth

Elizabeth is married to the Supervisor – Kwame Appiah. The group chose the name for this wonderful man who along with the village carpenter have been really supportive of the women and their enterprise.

“I had five acres I farmed for 40 years from a child and grew cocoa and banana and yam. It was family land. When the government bought my land they did not pay, even now. We were lucky the children had completed school. Now buying food is hard as prices are higher as the market women know we do not have. 

The honey money will help to support the six grand-children as their parents have the same challenges as they also lost family land and independence to support the families.”

Atudorobesa women beekeepers see beekeeping as their financial future and are blessed through their commitment and forage with 95% colonisation. The land where the hives are is very good for bees, not gold for others to take. At the time of writing no prospecting has taken place in the five years and no cultivation or replanting is allowed at all.

Patricia says “The community leaders are fighting for us, talking with management at Newmont. We can still take plantain but that is all again”.

With the frustrating delays in supplying the third batch of beehives, caused by the failure of sub-sea cabling, the story is not complete for this project and continued support from Thomas will be in place until 2025.

Trisha Marlow

Partnership Manager for Ghana

Join us for a live event with Trisha Marlow, Ghana Partnership Manager

We are hosting a free event with Trisha Marlow on World Earth Day, April 22nd. Why not mark the day with us?

Join this event to learn more about beekeeping in Ghana as Trisha Marlow shares her fascinating experiences from her recent trips, including insights from the communities we work with. During Trisha’s recent visits she heard directly from beekeeping communities affected by climate change.

Climate change is already affecting communities around the world. In Ghana, floods have washed away apiaries in areas that have never flooded before, winds are blowing blossoms away before the trees have been pollinated and bees are changing their behaviour.