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.

Emerald Forest Farm Reserve: How Beekeeping is Supporting Biodiversity

Emerald Forest Farm Reserve: How Beekeeping is Supporting Biodiversity

April 4, 2024
A photo of a group of beekeepers in bee suits in the Emerald Forest at the MAMIE Foundation project

The Origin of the MAMIE foundation and Emerald Forest

In 2004 a group of siblings with memories of growing up around nature in Nigeria purchased 300 acres of pristine rain forest with the aim of protecting it. Nigeria has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, and with many pressures contributing to forest loss, the ambition to protect their forest was not an easy undertaking.

The siblings named the area ‘The Emerald Forest’ and registered a charity called the Margot Abayomi Memorial Evergreen (MAMIE) Foundation in memory of their mother. 

The siblings set out to protect this precious forest taking a holistic approach to food production, community well-being and forest protection, with beekeeping as an important tool in their multifaceted toolbox.

Aerial photo of the MAMIE Foundation Emerald Forest Farm Reserve, Nigeria. A river runs through green forest with some green patches of land visible
Forest (in green) and deforestation 2001-2023 (in pink) around the major city of Ibadan, Nigeria

Protecting the Emerald Forest

The Emerald Forest Farm Reserve is near the main city of Ibadan. In the 20 years that the siblings have owned the farm, they report that the surrounding areas have become barren the result of deforestation, illegal logging, poaching, unsustainable harvesting of forest goods and pollution, which are all major problems in the area.

With little habitat left, the Emerald Forest has become a sanctuary for local wildlife and could soon qualify for being designated as an important biodiversity and bird area. Pangolins, the world’s most trafficked wildlife species that are threatened with extinction, are one of the creatures that call the Emerald Forest home.

The MAMIE Foundation's approach to protecting the Emerald Forest

The MAMIE Foundation projects cover youth education, economic empowerment for rural people, promotion of organic farming, forest conservation, preservation of traditional art, batik dyeing, cultural food processing, eco-tourism, beekeeping & honey projects, medical out reaches, art & culture projects, and supporting the elderly. These projects are mainly based in the Emerald Forest Reserve (EFR) at Ikoyi-Osun.

“We have created small forest farms where we introduce various citruses, mangoes and pineapples in areas where the forest canopy is less dense”

Organic farming in the form of agroforestry and beekeeping are two of the main activities used to protect the Emerald Forest. In 2010 The Emerald Forest was designated as organic farmland and in

In 2014 MAMIE applied to Bees Abroad for assistance in beekeeping. Six months later, in July 2015, the local Bees Abroad representative, Mr. Babatunde Oreyemi, delivered the first beekeeping training.

 

A photo of a group of beekeepers in bee suits in the Emerald Forest at the MAMIE Foundation project
A photo of a group of beekeepers in bee suits in the Emerald Forest at the MAMIE Foundation project

Beekeeping in the Emerald Forest

Bees are very important to the ecology of the rain forest. By pollinating flowers, they play an essential role in producing seeds for the growth of new plants and the food chain in the forest. Traditionally, in the wild, beehives are usually established in tree hollows or on branches. MAMIE with support from Bees Abroad sponsored top bar beehives in the forest in 2015 as an additional income source for those who live in the forest, in particular women.

Bees Abroad beekeeping training was offered to all those connected to the Emerald Forest – employees and their wives and children, the local carpenter, the local iron smith, the farm electrician, the plumber and driver and one farmer from a neighbouring village. There were practical sessions for the carpenter and iron smith to make new hives, including the use of the mid-rib of palm-tree branches as hive bars.

How beekeeping strengthened the Emerald Forest Farm Reserve

Emerald Forest farm has noticed an increase in the harvest of palm nuts, pineapples and other food crops in the area since the introduction of beekeeping. These products are an important revenue stream – they are sold to maintain the income of the forest reserve community. Of course, the honey itself is also a revenue stream and is certified organic.

“We are producing organic forest honey, we have set up our own beehives in order to house the bees to produce the honey. The interesting thing about our forest honey is that it never tastes the same, each bottled honey has a different taste, even a different colour.”

Three years after taking up beekeeping with the support of Bees Abroad, it has become an integral part of the Emerald Forest Farm reserve activities. MAMIE presented their progress in beekeeping at the ApiExpo Africa 2018 conference in the capital, Abuja. They exhibited a modified hive with glass sides for educational and tourist activities that they use at the Emerald Forest farm. In January 2020 the Slow Food International Executive Committee officially recognized the MAMIE Emerald Forest Beekeeping community as an integral part of the Slow Food network.

MAMIE continue to invest in beekeeping and have planted more flowering plants in their agroforestry system such as sunflowers and other trees such as palms and citrus for the bees.

 

Join us for a live event with the MAMIE Foundation

Dr. Modupe, co-founder of the MAMIE Foundation that protects the Emerald Forest will be speaking at our live event!

Dr. Modupe will be speaking at our event ‘Slow Food, Slow Beekeeping?’. Are you interested in how beekeeping can be integrated into sustainable food production and used as an advocacy tool? This event is for you!

Join this event to hear directly from the team in Nigeria on their work on Slow Food and beekeeping.

Aerial photo of the MAMIE Foundation Emerald Forest Farm Reserve, Nigeria. A river runs through green forest with some green patches of land visible
Bottles of honey from the Emerald Forest, MAMIE foundation, surrounded by flowers

Slow Food, Slow Beekeeping?

Slow Food, Slow Beekeeping?

March 28, 2024

 

In 2019 Bees Abroad formalized a working relationship with Slow Food International around collaborative working in Nigeria. This relationship recognised the shared aims between the two organisations in particular around sustainable production that builds capacity to enable local people to improve livelihoods and, conserve the local environment.

About Slow Food and agriculture in Nigeria

The Slow Food movement started in Italy in the 1980s following the protest of the opening of the fast-food restaurant and a desire to save local food traditions and taste. Since then, the movement has gone global.

Agriculture is historically an important part of Nigeria’s economy. Up to the 1960s it was the main contributor to GDP. Although oil and gas has displaced its macro-economic importance, agriculture it’s still a major part of the economy and honey is being touted by some as a $10m export opportunity.

Around 70% of the population of Nigeria grow some kind of crop. Nigeria has an arable land area of roughly 36.9 million hectares, to put that into perspective, the total area of the UK is 24.5 million hectares. Farming is still dominated by smallholders with 80% of farmers being small holders, the same is true for beekeepers. Before the 1970s agriculture was taught in schools although it was dropped from formal education for a long time, it is increasingly being added back into the curriculum. Slow Food Nigeria are working to make guidance on sustainable small scale healthy food production widely available and Slow Food and Bees Abroad beekeeping communities are working to integrate sustainable beekeeping into the training and resources available to communities.

Slow Food has an initiative called 1000 Gardens for Africa (see video for more on this), in Nigeria they have a version for schools – the Slow Food School Garden Network which aims to reconnect youth with their food by teaching them how to grow, cook and enjoy real food. Through increased confidence, knowledge gain and skill building, the aim is to empower children to become active participants in their food choices. With the support of Bees Abroad, Slow Food Nigeria are adding beekeeping to this initiative to take beekeeping in to schools.

Abotokio beekeepers in Nigeria inspect a hive in lush green setting

Slow Food Beekeeping communities in Nigeria

Signing up as a Slow Food Beekeeping community shows a deep commitment to supporting and enabling sustainable beekeeping practices. We gave an overview of the environmental side of Bees Abroad’s approach to sustainability in our last blog. Being a Slow Food Beekeeping community means not only producing high-quality unadulterated honey and integrating good practice but advocating the approach with others too. 

The formalised relationship between Bees Abroad and Slow Food that came about in 2019 meant that members of the Bees Abroad beekeeping network in Nigeria could register as beekeeping communities with Slow Food. Beekeeping communities registered with Slow Food International commit to the Slow Food priorities on (bio)diversity, education and advocacy as applied to beekeeping. Communities sign up to this commitment because they believe in the cause, often because they themselves have seen the benefit to not just their livelihoods and quality of produce but for the local environment too.

One of the practises that Slow Food Beekeeping communities commit to is to act as a central coordinator and resource centre on information around sustainable beekeeping practises. These resource centres provide information on the conservation of the local environment, the advantages of bee pollination as natural way to increase crop yield, the dangers of inappropriate pesticide use and benefits of quality honey.

This is coordinated by Bees Abroad Nigeria team members, one of whom is Mr Elijah Asade.

Mr Asade – Slow Food Beekeeping advocate

The relationship between Slow Food and Bees Abroad is unique to our work in Nigeria and is driven by the communities and individuals we work with there.

Mr Elijah Asade is one of these individuals. Mr Asade is a graduate of Agricultural Education from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. As a student he practiced beekeeping, building on knowledge gained of traditional beekeeping from his maternal Grandfather using locally produced pot-hives commonly used among the Ketu Indigenous People in Nigeria. In 2019 the Abotokio Agro Village Farmers Association, a group that Mr Asade is spokesperson for, received beekeeping training from Bees Abroad.

Mr Asade is the leader of the Advocacy thematic for Slow Food in Nigeria. Following the training he formerly registered his farmers association with Slow Food as ‘Abotokio Slow Food Beekeeping Community’. Mr Asade is a passionate advocate of Slow Food Beekeeping principles and practices and since 2019 he has supported eight beekeeping groups to register as Slow Food Beekeeping communities and extended his scope to Slow Food School Garden and Apiary Initiative for curriculum enrichment among the secondary schools in Ogun West.

Mr Asade has also taken his work on Slow Food Beekeeping international. In 2022 as part of his role as Advocacy leader for Slow Food Nigeria, Mr Asade participated in the Slow Food International conference. He shared how Slow Food communities in Nigeria, with the support of Bees Abroad, are using beekeeping as an advocacy tool. The presentation was on public display at the Activism Square in Terra Madre, Italy

Mr Asade, Advocacy lead for Slow Food Nigeria and passionate beekeeping advocate with Bees Abroad rides a motorbike in his bee suit
Slow Bee Advocacy on Curriculum Enrichment for the Secondary School Teachers organized by Abotokio Slow Food Beekeeping Community Abotokio NIGERIA at Owode Secondary School Owode Yewa Ogun State Nigeria on Thursday, 22nd December, 2022 led by Asade Elijah
Slow Bee Advocacy on Curriculum Enrichment for the Secondary School Teachers organized by Abotokio Slow Food Beekeeping Community Abotokio NIGERIA at Owode Secondary School Owode Yewa Ogun State Nigeria on Thursday, 22nd December, 2022 led by Asade Elijah

Success in Bees Abroad Slow Food Beekeeping communities

Bees Broad and Slow Food Nigeria’s partnership has been a successful one. In the four years since the formalisation of the relationship there have been some remarkable achievements.

These achievements include:

    • The inclusion of slow food principles and sustainable beekeeping in school curricula of eight local schools;
    • Securing a royal patron, Kabiyesi (traditional ruler), for the Abotokio slow food beekeeping community;
    • Working with the local government to incorporate slow food ideologies into the local economic well-being plan;
    • and the registration of eight new Slow Food Beekeeping communities since 2019.

 

We asked Mr Asade what the future priorities are for Slow Food and beekeeping in Nigeria. His response shows that Slow Food and Bees Abroad beekeeping communities are ambitious with their aims. They have some big topics to tackle including biosecurity and bee health management, crop pollination services, climate change mitigation, products packaging and branding and certification by the regulatory agencies.

Slow Food, Slow Beekeeping - live event coming soon!

This story is part of our Food, Sustainability and Social Justice campaign. Join us on the 18th of April at 18:00 for a live online event with the Bees Abroad Nigeria team to hear more about their work on Slow Food and sustainable beekeeping, including remarkable stories from projects such as the Emerald Forest.

The event is part of the Green Match fund campaign, we are aiming to raise £5,000 in donations to support projects in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Sierra Leone. You can find out more about what we aim to do with the funds in each of the countries on our campaign page.

Abotokio beekeepers in Nigeria inspect a hive in lush green setting
Mr Asade, Advocacy lead for Slow Food Nigeria and passionate beekeeping advocate with Bees Abroad rides a motorbike in his bee suit

How Bees Abroad’s approach supports the local environment

How Bees Abroad’s approach supports the local environment

March 22, 2024

Bees Abroad sustainable beekeeping: supporting the local environment

‘Food, Beekeeping and Social Justice’, that’s the title of our latest campaign for the Green Match Fund (GMF). This is the second year we have been accepted to take part in the GMF, a campaign that supports charities that play a role in influencing environmental issues.

We chose the theme of ‘Food, Beekeeping and Social Justice’, because the issues of the environment, food production and human wellbeing are intersectional and affect many communities we work with.

We have a holistic approach to sustainable beekeeping that covers the three pillars of sustainability: environment, social, economic. Enabling communities to continue the work after they graduate from our support is paramount and supporting the local environment is a key part of this. After all, the health of a bee colony, and quality of honey harvest is inextricable to the health of the local environment.

The upcoming Green Match Fund is a great opportunity to share more about the environmental side of our sustainable beekeeping approach.

Bees naturally increase food production

Many of the communities we work with have reported increases in crop yields after taking up beekeeping. Bees Abroad supported research on the effects of beekeeping on crop production with a local partner in India. The study found that beekeepers with Cerana boxes saw a 282% increase in cashew production compared to the control group. You can read the full report here.

Another example of this comes from Rwenzori rural talent, a farming community on the slopes of the snow-capped Rwenzori mountains in Uganda. One of the many crops this community grows is coffee. After taking up beekeeping following training from us, they reported around 20% increase in their coffee yields, which is in line with research on the effects of beekeeping on coffee production. We wrote about this in the green campaign last year, you can find the full story on our blog.

Providing forage for bees to ensure good honey production and reduce pressure on existing forage that other pollinators may depend on is an important part of our approach to sustainable beekeeping.

Improving the local environment by providing forage

We work with rural communities but in some of the locations the local environment has been significantly degraded. Local environment degradation is often the result of an acute need to earn income to meet basic human needs for example cutting down trees to sell or use as firewood for cooking. In these locations there may not be enough forage to produce a good quantity or quality of honey and the introduction of beekeeping would pressurise an already struggling environment. In these cases, we will adapt our core training to include recommendations on how to improve forage, such changes to the crop mix to have crops that flower at different times or planting bee friendly flowers and trees.

Not all project locations are environmentally degraded, some are verdant and rich in vegetation and forage, in these locations, activities around providing forage for bees may not be necessary.

Locally appropriate

A locally appropriate approach is at the heart of what we do.  Related to forage availability, we will only approve new projects if it doesn’t put undue pressure on the local environment and existing beekeepers and only approve projects with appropriate aims for apiary size.

Forage is one of the many factors that affect what beekeeping practices are best for a particular environment. The eco-regions of the locations the communities we work with vary significantly, from mountain slopes to tropical rainforest to semi-arid regions. The eco-regions effect the timing and number of harvests appropriate for the location. We use trusted local trainers who understand the local conditions and can provide specific, tailored advice on beekeeping specific to the area.

Improving the local environment by providing ecological training

Practices like slash and burn, honey hunting and use of pesticides are unfortunately sometimes used by members of the communities we work with, or by others in the area. As well as training on forage awareness where necessary, we will provide information on the impact of these practices on beekeeping and the local environment.

 Our trainers are often passionate advocates, for example, Daniel, one of lead trainers in Uganda has spoken to the National Park about their slash and burn practices. He has also reached out to the local government entomologist to advocate for bees and other pollinators, as their work often focuses on pest control to the detriment of pollinating insects.

It’s not just the trainers who are passionate about this, many community members become proactive advocates for bee-friendly practices that benefit the local environment. We will share an example of a community doing this in Nigeria later in the campaign.

Sustainable hives

Building bee hives is obviously a critical aspect of our work. Offering options for hive types, and options for production needs to be appropriate to the area and offer a solution that can work long after the projects have graduated from our support. 

Hive production is a big topic and deserves its own article. We are working on said article and look forward to sharing more of this aspect of our work.

Food, Beekeeping and Social Justice

We’ll be sharing more on our work on the theme of Food, Sustainability and Social Justice throughout this campaign. Stay tuned for more!

We are aiming to raise £5,000 in donations to support projects in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and Sierra Leone. You can find out more about what we aim to do with the funds in each of the countries on our campaign page.

You can have your donation DOUBLED April 18-25. Any donations via the Big Give platform for one week from Thursday 18th to Thursday 25th of April will be matched by the Big Give foundation. You can turn £10 in to £20, £25 in to £50, £500 in to £1,000, you get the idea! One donation, double the impact. We can only provide support to the communities we work with because of your generosity.  

Excel Beekeeper members with community members of Okelagan Village as participants of the Beekeeping sensitization visit