Finally after one and half month of melting, molding and working round the clock, these candles are ready to leave home to attend a wedding banquet in Canada.
Not long ago, farmers were not aware of the by products from honey farming. They used to throw honey combs away after extracting the honey out of it. Today, not only they knew that beeswax are so useful in various aspect, it is also another form of income generating component. With proper education and guidance, they now understood the value of beeswax.
To top it all, burning beeswax candles are more environmental friendly than burning paraffin based candles. Petroleum based candle gives off toxic fumes.
The finished product looks good and the process looks simple but behind the scene, the hardship of one has to go through, many will not understand. Working with Ugandans are like producing these candles. You have to mold each and individual with time and patience, one at a time.
During my visit to Colin’s apiary over the weekend, I chanced upon a very passionate beekeeper. He has been keeping bees for more than 25 years. I was very impressed with his setup and he has a small workshop that produces all his hives. Colin had been passing his place a number of time but didn’t get a chance to stop. Since I was there, might as well make an effort to stop to see what is interesting.
Mr. Wumale wasn’t at his apiary when we drove up to his home. He was at church. He was a brilliant marketing person I should say. He had his phone number painted on one of his wooden door and that was where we managed to contact him.
His enthusiasm was contagious. He sounded like a hugh man over the phone but when he arrived, my perception of him changed. What was in front of me was a bouncy, petite guy with a big voice. I am quite certain his heart is as big as his voice. I managed to obtain a short interview with him and about his passion.
Mr. Wamule start beekeeping more than 25 years ago and his intention was to harvest honey and brood for his own family consumption. Brood mixed with porridge was a delicacy back then. His constant interaction with bees took him further than his homeland. He made an effort to wanting to learn more. During the earlier years, beekeeping in Kenya was more advance so he took off to Nairobi to understand more about beekeeping. He wanted to develop his passion into a business. He came back equipped with knowledge and vision of how to modernized his way of keeping bees.
I was impressed with his thirst for knowledge and the creativity of developing a system that suited him well.
Walking through his apiary, you could see that he had combined the beekeeping method of top bar hive and langstroth. Being curious, I asked him why? He told me that after he had returned from Kenya, he decided to capitalize on both system. What is suitable for him and what is not. He felt that both system has it advantages and disadvantages. Having the top bar horizontal management, he does not have to exert himself when comes to harvesting. A super filled with honey can be very heavy for someone his size to lift.
He liked the idea of the framed langstroth and especially the separation of the brood chamber from the honey chamber. So in his workshop, he came up with his own prototype, a langstroth that looked like a top bar hive or should I say, a top bar hive that looked like a langstroth.
His quest for modernization was due to his passion and love for bees. He admitted that previously, due to lack of knowledge, he used to hunt for the honey and brood. He felt that this wasn’t the way to go in terms of sustainability. On top of that the destruction bees made him felt guilty. Then the wonderful phrase came out from him, “I love bees and I do not want to harm them”.
You can see the twinkling in his eyes when he talks about how his system had reduced so much death within the hives during harvesting. You can sense his joy when he touched on his new way of harvesting his honey, with the introduction of the queen excluder and the bee escape. That was the best lesson he had learnt during his trip to Kenya. Many modern beekeepers might not find his discovery interesting, but for someone who had little or no resources, able to make an effort to progress is something highly commendable.
Mr. Wamule was so ever willing to share. He brought us to an empty hive and explained how it works. Although it seems there are still rooms for improvement but the creativity does deserved an applause.
Now that all his children had grown up and left to start their new life. He can enjoy his passion with a lighter burden on his shoulder. I guessed Mr. Wamule is one of the rare few in Uganda that will put honeybees first before money.
*If you love your job, you don’t have to work a single day in your life – Confucius.
Over the weekend, I drove up to the village to see whether I could save that colony that had their queen mutilated. Whenever I come to know of these happenings, I feel sad. On one hand everyone in the beekeeping world is talking about the disappearance of bees, the colony collapse disorder, viruses and diseases affecting them, but on the other hand, teaches African farmers how to mutilated, deface and destroy the queen in the name of professional beekeeping. Hypocrite!
I used to keep quiet about what I saw on the ground, how many failed projects with abandoned hives and equipments but I reckon this has to stop. If no one is going to stand out to tell the world what is actually happening in the honeybee industry in these developing countries, I can foresee in no time, the last remaining frontier where the honeybees are still living in their own natural ways, will be wiped out by the human race because of greed.
I am not slapping my own face as a commercial beekeeper, but I believe strongly that I can still live harmoniously with them and yet able to provide two meals for my family from the income generated from honey farming.
Watch the clip and see how stressed the queen was and the fate of this colony. She was not even making any effort to escape from my hand. Her fate was sealed.
Lately there hasn’t been much activities here other than my regular training of beekeepers. Comes next month, my beekeeping adventure and journal will begin for the first time nearer to home, West Malaysia.
After a year of discussion and planning, the feasibility study of setting up a bee education centre at Kampung Temasek in Johor Bahru, Malaysia will begin. I had already began my ground work, arranging visits to bee farms, centres and making appointments to meet agriculturist at universities. In the process, I got to know some beekeepers in Malaysia as well. We had started to exchange notes and I am looking forward to visit their bee farm.
Azman and I began to share our passion mid of February this year and I am glad that I will soon be able to have a chance to see what beekeeping is about in Malaysia.
The species of honeybees that Azman is keeping is the one that I am keen to explore, Apis Cerenas. During my last two trips to Chiang Rai, North Thailand working with the Akhai tribes, there were also using the cerenas. Between the two, what I saw is that Azman is applying more of the modern method while the tribal folks are still keeping bees traditionally.
Apis Cerenas are slightly more aggressive than the European bees. They are indigenous and I believe domesticating them would be a beneficial move for the local bee farmers. They can be captured from the wild.
I am really excited to travel back, closer to home to share what I had learned during my stay in Uganda.
After being a beekeeper, it had open up a whole new horizon and getting to know so many beekeepers out there who are playing their part in balancing the ecological system. I just hope that some beekeepers that had been mistreating these insects in the name of modernization will change their mindset and protect them rather than abusing them.
If you had read my previous post, you will find that such abusive skills are still being introduced in Uganda by these overseas commercial bee farmers coming here, highly paid by NGOs. One thing sad about the local farmers in Uganda is that they always felt that overseas bee professionals are always right. They do not dare to question.
I could still remember a few years back, a team of beekeepers from USA came and said they wanted to help the local community. Actually from the way I look at it, they were just simply using this idea to raise funds so that they can come for a nice holiday. They have no experience in African bees yet they tried to teach the local folks. They got the whole village running for cover when the colonies turned aggressive. After that incident, I don’t see them coming back or doing any follow ups anymore. It was a nice holiday trip for them and those who had funded their trip just simply did it blindly. A waste of resources.
Many honeybees are dying for no apparent reasons. I just wish that beekeepers must realize the seriousness and embark on natural beekeeping instead.
Recently one of my student bought a few colonies from a local bee expert. He found one of his colony behaving strangely. They were all outside just below the entrance and on the grass. He was wondering what had happened.
When I looked at the picture, immediately I knew that the queen had her wings clipped. What a sad sight!
Many overseas “professional” beekeepers were paid handsomely by NGOs to come here to teach the locals on beekeeping. They would spend a few days showing them what they did back in their own country with their European species. After which off they go. Most of these overseas beekeepers have no experience with African bees and have no idea how to curb the high absconding rate of African bees. And do you know what were their solutions? They teach these farmers to clip the wings of the queen to prevent them from absconding. What a stupid idea! Imagine if someone were to cut off both your legs against your will to prevent you from leaving, how would you feel. In other words, your defense system would be compromised and your chance of survival would be slimmer.
I wonder why do they call themselves beekeepers when in actual fact, they show no empathy and well being for them. They mutilated the queen for their own convenience. There are other ways to prevent these poor little insects from absconding and yet, they chose the inhumane way.
Honey bees, like all other living creatures, have it natural instinct that the hive is not suitable for them. It could be due to infestation of other predators or the food source is not there. There must be a reason why they need to abscond to a safer or better place. Just put yourself in their situation. I believe you will do the same thing.
Take a look at the picture below. The queen tried to abscond but because her wings were clipped, she could not fly but fell onto the ground. The rest of the family followed. I can assure you that in no time, the whole colony will be consumed by predators. This will be the end of this colony.
Not too long ago, I was approached by a beekeeper from overseas and she wanted me to join her workshop. She gave me a video showing her working with African bees. It was a total mess. The bees were literally attacking everyone in the class and I cannot imagine how many bees perished during her workshop. End of the video, it showed her proudly displaying a modified traditional bee hive that can never work with the harsh environment and the behavior of these African bees. It was her first time in Africa and working with African bees.
It was a very successful start for our B.E.S.T. program conducted at our new training centre at Kajjansi. We had yet to name this new centre. Although the setup was not as comprehensive as the one at Timothy Centre, but somehow all the unforeseen happenings made the lessons exciting. One participant accidentally broke a comb and we had to repair in order not to let the brood perished. Another participant was not sensitive to the reaction to one of the colony that he continued to aggrevate them. They had seen how these ladies can be so aggressive when come to defending their nest.
All in all, a thumbs up for the group.
Feedbacks from our first batch of students for Kajjansi!
1. The trainer was very calm, knowledgable and had many years experience with African bees. This created confidence in the students.
2. The training facilities were very comfortable and appropriate. Very easy to get to. it’s convenient.
3. Because it was a small class, I felt that it was well contained and well attended to.
4. Because of the training methods, I felt safe.
5. I enjoyed myself (interaction encouraged)
6) Tea & Coffee (very nice touch)
7. I like the duration of the class. Not too long and not too short. Just right.
8. Most of all, I like that everyday we experienced the beekeeping through practical practices. From that we got our theory.
9. We took care of nature through the methods we learnt, NOT destroy!! – Olivia Murphy
I like the training as it helps me to really realise that beekeeping is not that scary as thought. This training is very systematic and this allows me to learn it step by step, what to do and what not to do.
Having some practical and theory competition at the end of the course really get everybody involved in the learning process of proper beekeeping. – Louis Chua
1. The training had been practical that it makes you used to the bees.
2. Free interaction between the trainer and the trainee.
3. When the trainer is teaching, he is so clear and understandable.
4. The trainer is friendly.
5. Am confident that I have got the relevant training and indeed I have got enough training to establish my bee farm.
6. The whole course has been interesting. – Kasoma Brian
I like the fact that our training was based on real world experience. Our trainer has a knowledge of African bees which is extensive. The training was “hands on”. Excellent course, excellent trainer. – Michael Murphy
I got knowledge about beekeeping
I got to know how to work with bees
I happen to see the queen in a hive and I can differetiate the queen from other bees, the drone and the workerbees
I learnt how to arrange the hive in an apiary
I happen to know beekeeping and how a farmer can improve the colony
I happen to know the process of beekeeping starting from handling – Faisal Muruhura
I like the lesson much
I like the way we do the team work
I like the way we share the idea and skill, the way of explanation
I like the environment
The knowledge we got from the instructor
The way I progress from the lesson everyday
The time the lesson starts and stops – Dramiga Rashid
Into the third day of the lessons, these future beekeepers got the opportunities to look deeper into what is happening in a hive. They were shown the different occupants and their job roles. As the days moved on, slowly they are getting more confident with their interaction with the African bees. Some of them had already taken off the veil so that they are able to see the bees and the interior of the hive more clearly.
A comb was selected and placed away from the hive. With that single comb, it told the daily activities in a colony. They managed to see the forager doing the “bee dance”, telling the rest of the foragers where the food source was. Some house bees were busy storing “bee bread” food for the young. They noticed that some of the bees were of bigger size. They were the drones. They knew now that drones do not have a stinger. All of them were so envious of the drone because their job role is simply to eat, procreate and dies.
They also managed to differentiate the cell size of the worker bee and a drone. Alas, there were no emerging queens because it was not the swarming season yet.
Everyone was eager to see the queen, but I told them we will have to be patient and locate when we bring that comb back first. She was not at that comb which we had brought out.
The training we provide enables a young beekeeper to have a calm environment to learn this trade. They were taught from the very beginning how to interact, to approach a colony without aggressive confrontation. We first create a paradigm shift with the way they view African honeybees. If they were to be treated with respect and gentleness, they will reciprocate.
The sad misconception of African bees being aggressive was eradicated from their minds. They being aggressive are because we made them so. We, human had treated them badly all these while whenever they go honey hunting.
Over the years, Organization embarked on food security programs, only emphasize on giving free bee hives to make good reports. No attention was given on how to manage African bees. Failing to manage them lead to projects abandoned after the project is over. Think of the process, not the outcome. Their aim is to fulfill their personal needs rather than making sure the funds were spent objectively and prudently.
They saw the African Queen…..