My third destination was Malaysia’s Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority or FAMA in Kuala Nerang, Kedah. FAMA is a marketing agency established by the Government under the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry. As the Government’s marketing arm for agricultural products, FAMA is responsible for various marketing activities. Amongst its responsibilities are to set targets and product standards, monitor performance, as well as develop marketing strategies for Malaysian agricultural products. Their job role can be summarised into the following;
Market control and extension, Strategies, Development of national food terminal, Marketing contract, Entrepreneur development, Export manuals, Development of marketing infrastructure, Market information and Branding and promotion.
The setup was very professional and their marketing concept for Malaysia’s most popular honey, “Tualang honey” was very successful. I was really impressed with their presentation in the beginning. After a long discussion and exhange of ideas, my views changed.
There was a video presentation at their sales department. Eco-tourism was being promoted at the sales centre. It showed the beauty of Malaysia rain forest and the mesmerizing journey one can embark on to see the untouched virgin forest. You pay MYR400 to join the eco tour.
One of the main attraction were the sighting of the largest honeybees in the world, Apis Dorsata. You can see them colonizing on the tallest tree, the Tualang tree. You can even see these majestic colony from the ground. You get to see the harvesting of their honey during the night. Now here comes the sad part. In the video, I saw the destruction and killing of these incredible insect. These honey hunters climbed the tall trees to get to them. Once they were within range, they would use fire and smoke to chase and kill them in order to get to their honey. During the collection, many bees perished.
Being a bee keeper and a bee lover, I felt the pain when I saw the destruction during the harvesting process. Well I guess there is always this case where the market demand, supply have to be met.
Due to the demand created by the market force, these honey were harvested as soon as the bees place them into the combs, even though when they were still unripe. Api Dorsata are very aggressive when comes to protecting their nest. The only way these local folks knew were to destroy them in order to get to their honey.
The meeting ended with a tour to their honey processing plant. I left the place with a nice gift produced by FAMA.
GENEVA – THE UN on Thursday expressed alarm at a huge decline in bee colonies under a multiple onslaught of pests and pollution, urging an international effort to save the pollinators that are vital for food crops.
Much of the decline, ranging up to 85 per cent in some areas, is taking place in the industrialised northern hemisphere due to more than a dozen factors, according to a report by the UN’s environmental agency.
They include pesticides, air pollution, a lethal pinhead-sized parasite that only affects bee species in the northern hemisphere, mismanagement of the countryside, the loss of flowering plants and a decline in beekeepers in Europe. ‘
The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st century,’ said UNEP executive director Achim Steiner. ‘
The fact is that of the 100 crop species that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees,’ he added.
Wild bees and especially honey bee colonies from hives are regarded as the most prolific pollinators of large fields or crops. — AFP Share
An exciting week! We saw participants coming all the way from United States of America and our neighbor, Rwanda. The lesson plans were somehow adjusted to accommodate the inquisitive minds of this group. Everyday they discovered a new frontier about the life of these little insect. Different strokes for different folks.
I was glad that the feedback at the end of the training were very encouraging. Here are some testimonials from this class;
The lessons did not end when the classes end. We scheduled Friday evening for a get together to have early dinner followed by a casual session, tackling all those unanswered questions that were still lingering on everybody’s mind.
This is the beginning of a new journey for these new beekeepers. Our program includes a comprehensive tracking system to monitor the performance of every individuals. All trainees were issued with an identification card to monitor their progress.
China has her Terracotta warriors, I have my beeswax candles. There is something common between them. They are a gift from Mother Earth. Sharing with the farmers on the values of by-products from honey, they are able to have another source of income.
Previously, the methods the farmers used to extract honey were to squeeze it from the combs with their bare hands, or separating the honey from the wax by boiling the honey at a high temperature. This process will destroy the quality of the honey. After which, they throw the wax away.
With proper education and sensitization, their lives changed. They now know the importance of proper handling of their harvest. Not only they can raise the quality for the honey, they found a new source of income and a ready market.
Christmas is round the corner. Creativity plays a major role in keeping on par with market demands. We had just increased our range of beeswax candles for sale. More choices, more sales.
Here are some history about beeswax candles;
Candles have been used as an artificial light source for an estimated five thousand years. The first candles were made of boiled animal fat (tallow), a substance that when burned gave off heavy smoke, an inconsistent flame, and an acidic odor. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that candle makers discovered the burning properties of beeswax, the substance secreted by bees to make their honeycombs. Beeswax candles quickly became preferred over tallow candles because when burned, the beeswax candles emitted very little smoke or odor; and beeswax candles burned with more consistency than tallow.
But bees weren’t cultivated. And this rare and prized substance could only be afforded by Europe’s nobility or by the Catholic Church. It later became canon law that candles burned inside a Catholic cathedral must be composed of at least 60 percent beeswax, a law still in effect today.
By the 9th century candle making had become so perfected that the nobility were using beeswax candles to tell the time. Candles were poured and shaped with enough beeswax to burn for exactly 24 hours. The candle maker then marked the candle with 24 lines. The candle’s owner could tell what time of night it was by the section of candle that was burning. In the 13th century, guilds of candle makers began springing up throughout Paris. The next notable innovation for beeswax candles came when guilds started using wicks made of twisted cotton instead of wicks made from rushes, linen, or flax.
The whaling industry provided the dominant fuel source for tallow candles in the 18th century. Sperm whale oil (spermaceti wax) was used more in North American and European candles than other animal fats. But compared to beeswax, the spermaceti candles still smoked more and emitted an unpleasant odor.
Cotton wicks improved next when candle makers began braiding their cotton wicks instead of just twisting them, allowing for a more consistent burn. Using braided cotton wicks is one of the only changes to beeswax candles since their original conception in the middle ages.
For nearly 1500 years, beeswax candles would be considered the cleanest and most pure form of artificial light until the popularization of electricity in the 1900s.
Original article from here.
Wanted to know more about the life cycle of honeybees? Watch the video below from http://www.hilaroad.com.
Arrived in Bangkok on 23rd Feb and immediately on the following morning, Raymond and his wife, Koong, drove me down South to visit bee farmers to have a better understanding on how they keep Apis cerena. We arrived in a district called ‘Chum Porn” and there is a large community involved in honey farming. According to the village folks, they are called “The Cave Bees”.
During my last trip, I had gathered some information from Professor Michael Burgett, that Apis cerenas were kept successfully in the South and it will help tremendously if we are able to transfer the knowledge to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Chiang Dao. So far the species has still not yet been use widely in the North. One advantage of using these species is that it is easily available and to capture them, literally cost nothing. This might be a good way for the rural farmers to start beekeeping rather than having to buy colonies.
When I went to open up a colony, I can feel the calmness in them and they were not as aggressive as the African siblings.
Came back on the following day and tomorrow we will be heading up North to Lampang, Chiang Mai and Chiang Dao. Long journey again. Gotta sleep early.
Three weeks with Jonathan passed by in a flash. Today we started to pick up where we had left off before he came. It rained quite a bit in the morning and our schedule was delayed a little. All the hives were soaking wet when we loaded them on the truck. Hopefully we are able to complete our work before Christmas and spend a relaxing festive season. Francis will be escorting the bee hives to Timothy Centre. Tomorrow he is getting married.
Was at the University beginning of this year conducting a feasibility study on rural beekeeping in Chiangdao, North of Chiangmai, Thailand. Here is a video footage while I was at the University observing some bees and having a discussion with the Professor. The honey bees they are using is a very docile species. Apis Mellifera Italiana. That is why it was not necessary for me to don on my beesuit. But when it comes to African bees, Apis Mellifera Scutellata, I will definitely have my suit put on with the veil flipped back. If they became aggressive, I will then fully cover myself.
Development of the beekeeping resource centre at Timothy Centre is underway. In order for Karl and Arleen to have a better understanding on how the resource centre is going to be, I brought them to Otino-Waa in Lira. 4 years ago we did a honey farming project with this orphanage and the project was successfully implemented. Today Otino-Waa is producing EU quality honey for the market. Otino-Waa in Luo, means “Our Children”. The orphanage is run by an American couple, Bob and Carol Higgins, that has painstakenly built from ground zero a couple of years back. Now the place has turned into a haven for these lost children.
When I first met Bob and Carol 5 years ago, they came to my house with 12 kids aged between 14 to 17 and they wanted to learn how to start an apiary so that they can have honey produced from their own farm. We had a 6 days “Introduction to beekeeping” course which saw the children learning how to set up an apiary and getting acquainted with the bees. Of course there is Douglas, a 40 years old Ugandan who will be basically be in charge of these children when comes to the real management of the bee project in Otino-Waa. The orphanage now has 250 orphans from different parts of Northern Uganda. Some were rescued from the jungle when they were abducted by the “Lord Resistance Army” while others had lost both their parents from AIDS. There are some who were abandoned by young parents who left them at the hospitals or police stations.
Bob and Carol did a great job transforming these children from street kids and urchins into fine young boys and girls. The girls are learning home economics and tailoring while the boys embark on carpentry and catering and beekeeping.
Great effort were made by Carol to teach the children to be independent and self-reliant. This gift shop has become a talking piece in Lira. Most of the gifts, art and crafts were done by the orphans. Not forgetting the bee centre, The boys had harvested honey from the farm and were sold at the gift shop as well. In fact soon after the bee centre was setup, it has attracted bee farmers in the community to bring their honey to the centre to sell. Bob and Douglas will make sure that the farmers acquired the basic requirement of the quality they wanted. Those who are not familiar with the requirements will be taught on how to observe the quality parameters.
After having our lunch, Bob brought Karl and Arleen to visit the orphanage and the bee centre. The bee centre is Bob pride and joy. Every single brick layed and every drop of paint was his hardwork.
All the beesuits at the centre were made by the students in the tailoring department. We even saw some very innovative beesuit that Carol and the children had thought up. You can literally feel their sense of achievement when you hold the suit close to you. I felt so proud of them when I saw the development. It was just like yesterday when I agreed to train the children. 5 years on and it was a dream come true for Bob and Carol. Their determination and passion had paid off.
Tough times never last………….. tough people do.
I admire their philosophy in life. Although these children were deprived with a lot of things, Bob and Carol make sure that they are not spoon fed but given the right directions and way forward in becoming a good person. The moral education which they instilled into them is fantastic! Although they were given the best, but they also make sure that these children are not pampered to the extend that they cannot blend themselves back into the society when the time comes. A luxury once enjoyed, becomes a necessity.
All the fittings and furnitures were done in-house, with local materials. Nothing comes easy for them. This way, the children will then appreciate what they have because they have to work hard for it. There are still many in Uganda think that money falls from the sky. Many organizations made them think this way because of the way they splurge on them without understanding the repercussions.
Being successful in projects do not mean that everything have to be most expensive or with the most modern and updated equipments. Take these local beehives made at the orphanage for example. They are very basic but yet, they produce results. In fact, the results from these hives are more positive than other modern beekeeping methods.
Karl and Arleen realised that Bob and Carol had so much in common. They shared the same philosophy. They were happy to see such a successful project being developed in the North. A new friendship had established and indeed, there are so much things we can learn from each other. Life experiences in Uganda is much more important than implementing own experiences based on the environment we grew up on.
*There are no strangers in our lives………..it is only friends that we have not met yet.
Bob and Carol’s project was so successful that U.S. Embassy recognized their hardwork and supported their work for the last three years. I am very proud of their success!
05/03/2009 – I was very lucky and the timing was so right that I was able to meet up with a very experienced Professor in Entomology from America at Chiangmai Univeristy. He is Professor Michael Burgett, Emeritus Professor of Entomology, Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University. He had been going to Chiangmai for the last 27 years, researching on mellifera and cerenas. His presence sped up my learning curve. In my course, I was contemplating whether should I introduce Api Cerena or Api Mellifera. Both have its advantages and disadvantages. After having a long discussion with him, we come to a conclusion that we should explore the possibility of introducing cerenas instead. Professor is also keen to explore the possibilty of using KTB, Kenya Top Bars, which I am using for my African Honeybees.
Api cerena, commonly known as “Jungle Honeybees” here, are easily available all over Chiang Dao. The advantage of this species is that the villagers can learn to trap them for free. Whereas for the mellifera species, they were introduced in Thailand sometime back and they are bred commercially. My main concern was, if the villagers were to start beekeeping, we have to look into the sustainability with the farmers. The cost of a starter pack of mellifera bees will cost the farmers between Bht1500 – Bht3000, depends on when they are buying them. If the sale is much closer to the honey flow season, which is around this time, the bee starter pack will be more expensive. We had a good lunch and bade goodbye before I set off back to Chiang Dao to start a “get-to-know” session with a few of the villager’s representative. They will then disseminate the information to the rest of the villagers. Its more productive this way. But anyway, The first message I sent across during the session was to let the farmers choose which type of bees they prefer to work with. This way they can decide what’s good for them.
This footage was done in 2002. Professor Horn was observing the health of the African honeybees. I was his understudy then. We discovered that the bees in Uganda are free from any diseases or virus. No medication is required. Almost the whole beekeeping industry in the New World are succumbed to some diseases or virus. Not in Uganda. There are no traces of American Foul Brood, European Foul Brood or Varroa Mites,which are very common in other parts of the World.
went to check on my snail mail today and was surprised to receive a couple of books relating to beekeeping so quickly. its from a fellow beekeeper friend from spain. i posted a request for old or used books that are related to beekeeping last week. I am in the process of setting up a library of books specially to cater for beekeepers in northern uganda. thanks pal!