Buzzing on Coffee: How Beekeeping Increases Crop Yield

Buzzing on Coffee: How Beekeeping Increases Crop Yield

August 30, 2023

The fertile mountains of Rwenzori, Uganda

Beekeeping brought more than honey to this rural community. Read on to find out how Rwenzori Rural Talent got more than they bargained for…

The Rwenzori Rural Talent community is nestled within the fertile landscapes of the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda. As smallholder farmers, the members of this community dedicate their time and efforts to tending their land, making the most of the region’s productive soils. Among the crops that flourish under their care, coffee stands out as a significant agricultural product. The rich soil and favourable climate provide an ideal environment for coffee cultivation.

Recognising the need for diversification and seeking to enhance their economic prospects, the community turned to Bees Abroad for support in introducing beekeeping. 

Why beekeeping is uniquely beneficial to farming communities ​

Bees Abroad has been supporting the Rwenzori Rural Talent project sine 2020 and during the four years of our support, beekeeping has become as a valuable addition to the income-generating activities of the community. Unlike other farming endeavours that demand extensive land and time commitments, beekeeping offers a more manageable and less labour-intensive alternative.

The community approach Bees Abroad for support in achieving their goals which include promoting economic empowerment for rural women and children, empowering local women and youth with beekeeping skills, improving health standards, and establishing innovative models of microeconomic enterprises in rural areas.

Buzzing on coffee

The Rwenzori Rural Talent community has reported some significant benefits from beekeeping. Firstly, the income generated from beekeeping has provided them with the means to invest in education, allowing families to send their children to school without being crippled by the cost. You can read about how beekeeping can help pay for school fees for children in Uganda here.  

Secondly, the community has witnessed a remarkable increase in coffee production, boasting an impressive 20% boost in yield since embarking on their beekeeping journey. While this might sound too good to be true, similar reports validate the magnitude of enhanced coffee yields. In fact, a researcher from the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) has gone so far as to encourage farmers to engage in beekeeping to increase their coffee production. 

Beekeeping as a part of community diversification and resilience

Beyond the direct advantages of increased income and coffee yields, the introduction of beekeeping has fostered further diversification within the Rwenzori Rural Talent community. Members have utilised the additional income to venture into other endeavours, such as purchasing chickens, pigs and goats. Members like Eva, who’s bees and goats we reported on in lockdown. By expanding their income and food sources, they have effectively spread risk and increased their overall resilience in the face of potential challenges. 

The success of the beekeeping project in Rwenzori Rural Talent serves as an inspiring example of how a small initiative can have transformative effects on rural communities. 

Sweet Knowledge – How Honey Pays for Education

Sweet Knowledge – How Honey Pays for Education

June 28, 2023

About the Rwenzori Rural Talent community

In the lush landscapes of Uganda’s Rwenzori region lies a community called Rwenzori Rural Talent. Established as a Bees Abroad project in 2020, this community reached out for help to support its mission to empower rural women and children through economic empowerment, skill development, and improved health standards. 

Among its many endeavours, one stands out as a sweet solution to a pressing issue: using the income from honey production to cover the costs of education. In a country where access to quality education can be a financial burden for many families, Rwenzori Rural Talent has found that the income from hives covers can cover the cost of school, and quantified it. 

Financial Costs of Education in the Rwenzori Community

Education plays a crucial role in shaping the future of individuals and communities. In Uganda, education is extremely highly valued in the culture. However, financial constraints remain a significant hurdle for many families, especially in rural areas. The costs associated with school fees, uniforms, books, and other supplies can place a heavy burden on households already struggling to make ends meet. 

Financial Costs of Education in the Rwenzori Community 

In the Rwenzori community, the financial costs of education can vary depending on the level of schooling. For primary education, fees range between UGX 200,000 and 300,000 per term. Secondary education, on the other hand, can cost between UGX 500,000 and 700,000 per term, with three terms in a year. For families with limited resources, these expenses can seem insurmountable, leaving many children unable to continue their education. 

Honey as a tool to enable community aims

Rwenzori Rural Talent turned to beekeeping to generate reliable income to support their community aims. With a vision to uplift rural women and children, this community project focuses on empowering its members with beekeeping skills to promote economic empowerment, improve health standards, and establish a sustainable microeconomic enterprise. 

With the support of Bees Abroad and our local partner LIDEOF, honey production has proven to be a viable and profitable enterprise, thanks to the region’s favourable climate and abundant flora. With each colony producing approximately 10 kilograms of honey per year, the community project calculated that by maintaining five colonies, they could yield between UGX 500,000 and 750,000 annually. The income from five hives covers the cost of primary school fees for one child for one year.  

By empowering Rwenzori Rural Talent, this community project has created a sustainable source of income that addresses the financial challenges associated with education in rural areas.

Follow along and join in with your own beeswax stories in the comments on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Empowering Uganda’s ‘Road Barrier Widows’

Empowering Uganda’s ‘Road Barrier Widows’

June 28, 2023

In this blog we will delve into one of our newest projects, the inspiring journey of a registered community group in Uganda known as the ‘Road Barrier Widows’. Comprised of strong and determined women who have faced the challenges of widowhood, this group is embracing beekeeping to uplift their lives and their community. Read on to learn about the significance of registered community groups, the unique struggles faced by widows in Uganda, and how beekeeping will strengthen this group. 

About the Road Barrier Women and the challenges they face

The ‘Road Barrier Widows’ is a group of 32 women who face several challenges that come with the loss of their husbands. Firstly, their income potential is significantly reduced, leaving them economically vulnerable. Secondly, traditional Ugandan households depend on the labour of both spouses both for childcare and to tend their smallholdings, and with the loss of their husbands, this crucial support is lost. Lastly, being a widow in Uganda carries a social stigma due to cultural beliefs and societal norms, which can further compound the challenges faced by these resilient women. 

Understanding Registered Community Groups

Registered community groups (CBOs) are official organizations formed by individuals who share common goals and objectives. These groups, recognized by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), play a crucial role in community development. They bring together people with similar experiences or interests and provide a platform for collective action. By formalizing their organization, CBOs gain credibility, access to funding, legal recognition, and opportunities for collaboration with government agencies and NGOs. Knowing this, the Road Barrier Women formed their own CBO.

Group of Women from Uganda
Uganda Valley

Empowering the Road Barrier Widows Through Beekeeping

Motivated to improve their circumstances, the ‘Road Barrier Widows’ have chosen beekeeping as one of their group activities, alongside keeping chickens and making handicrafts. The group is organised group and enterprising: they built their own top bar hives and have attempted to start beekeeping through self-teaching, but they need help to do it properly which is where Bees Abroad and our local partner, LIDEFO come in. We will support the group to learn how to keep bees properly, make quality honey which they can sell locally and fetches a much higher price than the other crops and items they produce.  

The location of the group boasts an abundance of mango trees, ample forest tree cover, and a diverse range of flowering plants, providing abundant pollen and nectar. The women grow various crops in the area too, including coffee, and keeping bees will enhance pollination supporting crop production.  

The ‘Road Barrier Widows’ embody the strength and resilience of Ugandan women, showcasing the power of unity and community support. By supporting community groups like the ‘Road Barrier Widows,’ we can empower individuals, communities and support inclusive development in Uganda. 

Follow along and join in with your own beeswax stories in the comments on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

The Elephant and The Bee

Bee Part of the Green Story - The Elephant and The Bee

April 24, 2023

Giants in the night

Our Green Story begins with The Elephant and The Bee, in villages bordering Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. A place where giants visit in the night.  

Every year around harvest time, the community fear of elephants entering their village in the dark of night, eating and trampling their way through the fields, destroying up to a year’s supply of food. Rather than attack the elephants, which can have fatal consequences for both people and elephants, these farmers want to work with bees, using these small, hard-working insects as their security guards.

Two village groups, Upendo and Mungu ni Mwema, are joining together to learn how to become beekeepers. Their goal is to work with the bees to solve the problem of elephants’ crop-raiding.

Elephants and Bees: David and Goliaths of the animal kingdom

Elephants are terrified of bees. Yes, it is rather like the story of David and the Goliath, the young boy who defeated the giant. The largest land animal is so terrified of this tiny insect that it will avoid it as much as possible. The elephant may be thick-skinned, but a bee up its’ trunk is as bad as it gets! And so, the beekeeping group is planning to build a 3km stretch of bee-hive fences. Top-bar hives (or even dummy hives… as an “elephant never forgets”) will hang every 10 meters, linked together on wires along the borders of the farms.  

When an elephant touches the wire or a hive, the bees will come to the defence and scare the elephant back the way it came. Beehive fences offer more than just a live security fence for crops. They are home to honeybees, so farmers can harvest honey and beeswax which they can sell and turn into value added products to generate cash income to pay for things like school fees and supplies and medical care. The honeybees increase pollination of crops and local fruit trees too, though this is a story for another day… 

A natural, sustainable solution

We are excited to be working with our local partner, Amigos, to facilitate this project with the Upendo and Mungu ni Mwema groups. Beekeeping training will be integrated with training in conservation agriculture as well as business and marketing training.

This project offers a real chance for a solution to the human-elephant conflict and helps create a social and economic boost to a once war-torn and poverty-stricken community. A sustainable solution for both wildlife conservation and community welfare.

Up next: The Bee and The Bean

Our Green Story continues with The Bee and The Beans. For this story we buzz across to West Africa, to Sierra Leone and an area that is recovering from a civil war, an epidemic (Ebola), a pandemic (COVID) and is battling against food insecurity…

Bee Part of the Green Story

Want to Bee Part of the Green Story? Here are a few things you can do:

See what else is going on in the Green Story. Stay tuned by following us on social media or signing up to our newsletter. Donate to support Bees Abroad’s work enabling communities though sustainable beekeeping.

New Project in Uganda – Bees4U

New Project in Uganda
Bees4U

February 10 2023

Breathing new life into Beekeeping

We are excited to be receiving the first in-country update from Richard and Jane Ridler on a brand new project in Uganda. The project, named Bees4U, is in partnership with Amigos Worldwide and focused on training rural beekeeping groups. 

Our role is to support and enhance Amigos’ work on development with rural communities. Through training on beekeeping best practices, we hope to increase impact by supporting increased crop yields for farmers, and diversifying and increasing income sources through honey and value added products derived from the beehive.

Richard and Jane in Gulu

Last week Richard and Jane visited Gulu in the Northern Region of Uganda with our partner Amigos Uganda. As part of the planning of this project, they are exploring how best to increase the honey yield of 400 existing hives and the opportunity to add more.

One of the key focus areas during this visit was coaching the local Amigos staff in a systematic approach to assessing apiaries and advising participant farmers on what is required to improve their apiaries to maximise yield.

Richard and Jane also wanted to learn about how beekeepers typically sell their honey and began with a visit to huge central market. Soon enough, they found this honey in unmarked containers for sale next to ground nut paste.

Honey Jars for sale and salesperson wearing red
Mango Tree in Bloom

The surrounding forage

Around the apiaries Richard and Jane visited in Gulu, there were many mango trees in flower. There is amazing potential for honey from each tree. The mangos will be ripe in May and if farmers have hung hives in those trees, there will be a bumper crop of mangos! 

Top-Bar Tuesday: Uganda

Top-Bar Tuesday: Uganda

November 1st 2022

Beekeeping brings medicine to remote village in Rwenzori mountains

The Kihungu Thusube Engeru (KITE) Women Beekeepers group is first of its kind in the village of Kihungu, Uganda. Described as a group of “brave women” by their community, they aspire to do more for their village. Through training with Bees Abroad and their local partner, LIDEFO, they have gained experience in producing Value Addition products, such as healing creams for rashes and propolis tincture for stomach ulcers and coughs, using ingredients from their own beehives.

For a remote village, such as Kihungu, bringing medicine to the community has changed their lives. Not only are these products more affordable, they are natural and safe to use. Even more valuable is the time and energy saved by those who would have to travel 30km to the nearest town, Kasese, in order to buy medicine. The women of the group intend to use the additional income to invest in their beekeeping activities and to strengthen their savings.

Value-added Beeswax Product of the Week

The KITE women make this propolis tincture with the propolis harvested from their hives mixed with ethanol. Jostina Biira is the chair of the KITE group and explains what they do. “We keep it in a dark place for fourteen days where each day we shake the bottle once.” The women then sell the propolis in both the rural and urban local communities and are profiting from the sales as people with ulcers and coughs are benefiting from the available natural medicine.

Follow Bees Abroad on social media to see more beeswax products being made by our project participants on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Value-Addition Workshops for Women’s Groups

News from Kasese, Uganda

Becca, a lifetime beekeeper and conservation degree student who represented England at the International Meeting of Young Beekeepers has travelled to our projects in Uganda. She is currently in Kasese with our Women’s Cluster groups, delivering a series of value addition workshops. She is teaching how to make wax products (such as body cream, lip salves, shoe polish) which all earn extra income for the group participants and make good use of all the wax that top bar hives produce! We will hear more from Becca and her work in Kasese on her return to the UK!

We are grateful for the generosity of The Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers who are supporting these and other value addition product workshops being delivered in Uganda and Ghana, providing the knowledge and basic equipment for meaningful extra income.

Meet Jostina Biira! She is one of our Beekeepers for Life from the KITE group in Uganda.

uganda

Jostina is the first of our featured beekeepers in our Meet The Beekeeper series highlighting the incredible impact achieved by the Beekeepers For Life programmes.

“Bees are money, food, medicine and they increase our crop yield.”

Jostina lives on the slopes of Kasebere village in Kasese District in western Uganda with her husband and five sons.

Unable to finish school due to limited resources, she is now delighted to have received training in beekeeping. She and other women formed a group called KITE and began training with LIDEFO in 2016 through the support of Bees Abroad. She is now so excited to share how beekeeping has helped her and the other women in the group.

The Kite Women's Beekeeping Group Committee
The Kite Women’s Beekeeping Group Committee

“Beekeeping, if compared to other agricultural activities, pays better and there is no need for high skills. The products of bees are consumed even in our homes as food and medicine and also there is a ready market, so when we sell, we can make money!”

The women in KITE have learned how to make top bar hives, learned how to care for them and how to harvest honey and wax. Jostina was excited for the first time in her life to cut timber and use nails and make herself a hive! We asked Jostina what changes she had seen in the KITE women since they trained as beekeepers.

“KITE women are very happy! We started with 4 hives colonized but now 14 have bees. The women never believed this could happen! But it is a miracle in this rural community! We no longer fear bees and are excited to see more hives colonized. And we have respect in our village. People now come to visit our Apiary as it is the only one they have seen in our village! They come to see the bees and are asking questions about bees and our hives!”

Through the KITE Women’s Beekeeping Group, Jostina has seen women enabled to come together and they have seen their environment improve through the planting of trees and flowers. We asked Jostina what her hopes as a beekeeper were for the future…

“I would like to learn how to make candles, shoe polish, lipshine with beeswax and increase income with business after selling my honey. I desire to make a shelter for my children, and I hope to be able to support elderly and disabled women and see more people trained in beekeeping.”

Helping more women like Jostina is the focus of our Beekeepers For Life campaign. This Bees Abroad initiative trains & supports women to become skilled beekeepers, community leaders, trainers & entrepreneurs, through our sustainable beekeeping training model with expert field practitioners. Alleviating poverty by creating Beekeepers For Life in rural communities across Africa.

Help us create more Beekeepers For Life by donating through The Big Give from November 30th to December 7th. For every £1 you donate through our Big Give page an additional £1 is donated, doubling our impact. Find out more by on our campaign page. 

Photo Credits: LIDEFO

Meet Grace – Honey Shop Entrepreneur

Grace buys honey in bulk from beekeepers in the surrounding villages. Her shop is in the central market area of Kasese. Old Shoe Lane sounds quaint….vendors are lined up outside selling second hand shoes. Honey is carried often for many hours starting before dawn to avoid the heat of the day. On arrival beekeepers take the opportunity of rest, long conversations and a bit of shopping. Grace offers them beekeeping supplies including bee-suits made by a local tailor, smokers and hive tools.

Grace has a small honey processing centre near her home where she has a team of helpers who filter the honey, jar and label it ready to deliver to local retail outlets. Supplies of jars for honey have to be collected from Kampala which involves a two day round trip by bus with an overnight stay. Much of the honey is bought from Bees Abroad projects and it’s sold as LIDEFO Bee Friends Honey in various jar sizes. LIDEFO (Liberty Development Foundation) is our local project delivery partner in the Kasese Region.

Having a fair and reliable market for their honey is an essential motivation for the beekeepers in our projects.

The Traditional Hives of the Jireh Women, Uganda

Covid19 hasn’t stopped beekeeping activity for the Jireh Women Beekeepers in Kisoro Uganda. They have been busy painting their Bee Haven where they store shared beekeeping equipment such as protective clothing and honey buckets. They use a local design of hive made from wicker covered in mud and dung, it’s just like wattle and daub. At the large end there is a woven cover which is removed when it’s time to harvest. The hive is placed horizontally with the bees coming and going at the other end.

Traditional Log Hives of the Boabeng & Fiema Women’s Beekeeping Group

Throughout sub-Saharan Africa local hive types predominate, they cost a fraction of the cost of top bar hives and work every bit as well. However, top bar hives are easier to manage particularly when it comes to harvesting.

At Bees Abroad we deploy a mixture of top bar hives and local, traditional hives. A fundamental part of our approach is to use “appropriate technology” and local, affordable materials.

Hive selection, however, only takes us so far. Long-term dedicated training programmes coupled with supportive, enthusiastic community groups is critically important to successful sustainable beekeeping.

The Jireh Women’s Group is an excellent blueprint for our new Beekeepers For Life initiatives in other parts of Uganda. For new Beekeeper For Life communities starting out on their beekeeping journeys hearing and seeing the experiences of the Jireh Women’s Group provides great motivation and optimism. The Bee Haven at Jireh demonstrates that over a few years women beekeepers can develop their own community facility, set the agenda for their own hives and supplement their incomes.