There is always this misconception that low cost beehives do not produce good quality honey. This is not true. Honey from low cost beehives can be as good as those harvested from Kenya top bars or Langstroths. It is the lack of knowledge on when to harvest the honey, what to harvest in a hive.
Most traditional bee farmer will not hesitate to grab whatever they find in the hive during the flow season. Even before the honey ripens, they would had taken them out. Lack of knowledge had led to the harvesting of poor quality honey.
Below is a clip of one of our farmers inspecting his beehive. The honey inside this hive was not ready for harvesting.
Many bee farmers in Uganda are lacking the skills in hive management. Many were taught to simply place the hives out into the woods, wait for it to be colonized and hopefully when the honey season starts, go and harvest the honey. At times they would discover that the hives are empty. They will just wait for the next colony to come. African bees are quick in absconding and a mismanaged hive is one of the reason.
In one of our topics, we teach farmers the importance of hive management and to rectify any discrepancies. If the hive is not in good condition, eg wet or too many openings due to wood warping, they need to change the hive.
In this video below, you can see one of the lessons in hive management.
The year started with a group of very dedicated beekeepers wanting to come to learn more. It was a total paradigm shift for them compared to the way they kept their bees back in the villages. We had captured a day during the training. This was how they felt about the whole course.
We will be having our first course in one week’s time. Pre training hive inspections are done to make sure the course runs smoothly.
A Very Happy New Year! We are glad to present our latest BEST Basic Beekeeping Course Prospectus.
You can download a PDF copy of the prospectus below.
The hodges are getting into the swing of things. Just got an email with these photos attached. It is their first colony after the training. This young colony is doing well.
The annual bazaar event held by the International Women Organization was not as vibrant as last year. I was kind of disappointed with the turnout. Somehow we still managed to break-even.
With the 31% inflation in Uganda, I would not expect many to spend much too.
Anyhow, the show must go on.
We had just concluded another session of beekeeping course at Kajjansi beekeeping centre, entebbe. The quality of the participants are getting better. I was really impressed with this batch of students. It was no longer a,”teacher speaks, student listens” kind of classes anymore. There were so much interaction between the trainer and the students. The feedback on how to improve and finetune the program was constructive and interesting. This shows the evolution of what are needed in order to be competent in one’s progress.
Christmas is round the corner and it’s that time of the year where people are looking for Christmas gifts. This year we intend to increase our beeswax candles range. We will be introducing more moulds and the designs are more towards African themes.
Out in the market there are not much candle moulds catering for African themes. We decided to produce our own moulds.
Honeybees were once treated as enemy or pest when it gets into a home. Not anymore. With proper education and sensitization, we can actually live harmoniously together with them.
Mr. Zolkaflil Aris had a colony of apis cerana nesting in his letter box for almost a year now. Being an animal lover, he was reluctant to have that colony destroyed. He was wondering what to do with it.
When I arrived at his residence in Damasara, I realized that urbanization had destroyed many natural habitat for these little ladies. I believed if they had their choices, they would not want to interfere with us humans. But with the fast pace of urbanization and deforestation to make way for our development, their natural habitat were somehow encroached.
I shared with Mr. Aris how he can convert his letterbox into a comfortable home for these honeybees and learn how to live with them. In return, this new hobby of his will be rewarding. For the effort in looking after them, they will provide a regular flow of honey for his family.
This idea had created a win win situation for all. Instead of killing them, with proper knowledge instilled, human and insect can live harmoniously together.
After going through the process a few times, He felt that honeybees were not as dangerous as one always looked at them if there understood their needs and wants. Getting aggressive is just part of nature’s way in protecting themselves. If they were handled with tender loving care, they can be very good house pets.
Before we part, his wisdom gave me a new light in having honeybees as pets. He said,” Whenever people go for holidays, they tend to worry about their pets. Where should they put them, who to feed them, will they be stressed if they don’t come back soon. But as for honeybees being so independent, they do not have to worry for them, they find their own food and look after themselves”.
He had bought a new letter box for his normal mails since then.
I am glad that I had embarked on a journey that life lessons never end. 🙂
B.E.S.T. – Bringing Ecology and Society Together.
After 28 days of traveling around West Malaysia, visiting researchers, professors and bee keepers, I had finally reached the place where all things will take place, Kampung Temasek, Ulu Tiram, Johore.
Kampung Temasek is the main reason why I did this tedious feasibility study. Before we can ascertain that the project will take off on the right foot, we have to make sure that the potential of having a bee education centre and the introduction of beekeeping into the community will benefit all parties involved.
For those who are unfamiliar with this project, basically Kampung Temasek is about “The School of doing”.
Kampung Temasek, The School of Doing is an outdoor laboratory for schools to run their curriculum such as mathematics, science, geography, history and others in a natural environment. Schools can experiment programs and activities that they cannot usually do in Singapore. For example, students can spend one week from their academics semester to learn mathematics through build a solar oven by calculating how much energy is collected from the sun and the science involve in cooking an egg or they can walk into the forest to learn about the bio-diversity and how the eco-system work. Our aim is to reinforce the students’ learning through Doing. City schools can now access this outdoor learning platform in just 30 minutes after Singapore Customs, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia!
There will be many activities at the Kampung and my responsibility is to convert one of these houses into a educational centre where the younger generation or public will have an opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the most amazing insect, the honeybees. It will be a paradigm shift for them to overcome the fear and to learn to live these them harmoniously.
Other than serving as a bee education centre, it will also be a place for the local community or “Orang Asli” to come forward to be trained as bee farmer, to have another source of income to provide for their family. In fact we had already identified a village to begin with.
When everything is completed, Kampung Temasek will be a place where schools can bring the students to learn more about outdoors activities, closer to nature. Parents with their children, can explore on something more meaning, like understanding how trees, plants and insects help in balancing the ecological system instead of sitting in front of the computer 24/7.
Reaching home on 28th evening, I then realized that my whole body was aching from all the traveling. Somehow the biological clock inside me was telling me its time I need a break. I can feel my whole body crashing in with flu, cough and fatigue.
I am finally home.
I had an amazing time when I visited Azman, a bee farmer in Bangi, Kuala Lumpur. We started communicating some time last year this time and he knew I was heading to Malaysia this time of the year. He told me I must come visit his apiary and share with me his enthusiasm.
I was really impressed with his achievement and his apiary is the first that I came across that uses Africa beekeeping method, the Kenyan Top Bar hive system. I would not be surprised he is the first in this part of the world that applied top bar beekeeping.
This visit meant a lot to me because on this feasibility study, I wanted and needed to know how api cerana will react to top bar hive method of beekeeping. In Uganda, African honeybees do very well with KTB and I am very familiar with the method. I felt like I was back in Uganda when I approached Azman’s apiary. On top of that, I feel that top bar beekeeping is more economical for the local folks. They do not need to acquire expensive langstroth and to buy European bees to start this enterprise. By the way, the cost of 1 langstroth, comes with bees, cost RM1,800 (US$625). That package provides only the brood box, base board and cover. It does not include the queen-excluder and super. I don’t think many local villagers can afford that kind of money to start the business.
I was greeted by a large plantation of star fruit and I am confident that his bees would have no issues on nectar and pollen source. I saw the bees buzzing happily around the flowers only stopping for a moment when there were about to enter the flowers.
This was his first attempt in keeping bees and I can say that he was already doing it well although there were some pointers that he needed to look into. He had teamed up with his friend, Haniz and both are equally passionate about keeping bees.
They started only with one colony. By the time I visited them two days ago, they already had colonized 6 hives. The development of their apiary had set a good example for all. For a start, they did not spend money on buying bees or expensive equipment. They collected used wooden crates and palettes. With no prior experience and based on their own judgment, recycled these planks and palettes into smaller version of the top bar hives. Everything was going through trails and errors. Somehow the bees still found their way to these hives.
When Azman did his first hive, he wanted to see the activities within. He created a glass window on the side of the hive. This had became his observation hive. Very often he would simply open up the side panel to see these lovely ladies working hard.
Api cerana somehow has a bit of her distant cousins (api mellifera scutellata) behaviour. They can be aggressive at times if not handled properly. Azman and Haniz would have to spend more time with them to learn more about their behaviour and to overcome them.
Azman had always wondered how do we handle African honeybees without protective gear. I told him it would be much easier because api cerana or asian bees are not as aggressive as the African cousins. He was pleased when he saw the real thing after having seen my blog during our training program where most of the participants were trained to handle the African honeybees bare hands.
The bus ride from Kedah to Kuala Lumpur took almost 6 hours. I had a break in Kuala Lumpur before a friend of mine drove me another 2 hours further South to the thriving city of Malacca.
Extracted from Wikipedia – Malacca (dubbed The Historic State or Negeri Bersejarah among locals) is the third smallest Malaysian state, after Perlis and Penang. It is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. It borders Negeri Sembilan to the north and the state of Johor to the south. The capital is Malacca City, which is 148 km south east of Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur, 235 km north west to Johor’s largest city Johor Bahru and 95 km north west to Johor’s second largest city Batu Pahat. This historical city centre has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 7 July 2008.
Although it was the location of one of the earliest Malay sultanates, the monarchy was abolished when the Portuguese conquered it in 1511. The Yang di-Pertua Negeri or Governor, rather than a Sultan, acts as the head of state now.
Mr. Ong had been a beekeeper for the last 25 years and his bee farm could be considered one of the largest one in the whole of West Malaysia. He used to keep apis cerana in the seventies but after the introduction of European bees, apis italiana, Malaysia honey industry using apis cerana was completly wiped out due to the introduction of viruses by the European species as well.
Since then, the domestication of apis cerana had been unsuccessful until of late, many small scale farmers are beginning to use apis cerana again. it is a good sign that these species coming back.
Right now, Mr Ong had been keeping the European species after learning how to treat them. He does not have any of the asian species anymore but instead started to keep stingless bees. He found keeping stingless bees are very interesting too.
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.
It was a 7 hours drive from Penang to Kota Bahru, Kelantan. The road was challenging with many sharp bends two third of the way. I put on my safety belt after what I had experienced in March. The bus was traveling at 120km on a 70km speed limit road. I just prayed that I can reach there in one piece.
My first visit in Kelantan was the University of Science of Malaysia (Universiti Sains Malaysia). This is where all the research on the medicinal values of honey in Malaysia were done. A number of honeybee species found in Malaysia . Mainly they are the “Apis Dorsata”, “Apis Mellifera”, “Apis Cerenas” and “Trigonas”. Currently they are also working on a type of honey harvested in their traditional honey hunting method by their local people, (Orang Asli). They called it, “TuaLang” honey. I had seen many places selling this brand of honey and they are selling like hot cakes now.
This feasibility study had made me understand more about the honey industry in Malaysia. There were so many issues one can never imagine. There are more to it than meets the eye.
Just going into the second day, I began to see the similarities between Malaysia and Uganda when come to this industry. Honey hunting is still the predominant method used among the local community or the “Orang Asli”. The only difference was that in Malaysia, they need to climb very tall trees (Tualang tree) to harvest honey from Apis Dorsata while in Uganda, honey hunter collect honey from crevices, ant hill and hollow trunks.
Although it was the fasting month and usually this is the most busy part of the year, all the Professors and researchers were very helpful and I left the place with all the information needed for my study. Later in the day I was invited to a local who kept honeybees for their outward bound education camp. Finally after one month, I was introduced to these ladies in Malaysia.
Before my feasibility study officially starts next Monday, my hands were already itching, not from bee stings, but getting ready for my hands on with the beekeeping industry in Malaysia.
I realized that this place belongs to Mr Ong, who has another tourist attraction located at Malacca. Somehow the set up was similar but on a smaller scale.
There were two sales ladies manning the shop. They were basically there to answer simple questions about honey and to introduce the different kinds of honey available for sale. Other than that, you would not be able to get in depth questions being answered.
I was surprised to get this information from one of them. She mentioned that only hornets and wasps venom can kill, not honeybees. She even assured me that honeybees venom are not poisonous and has healing properties. Well, I felt that this information was very misleading. She was right and wrong at the same time. All of us react differently to bee venom. Some can take a few thousand stings but others can be killed with only one sting. Some react violently to the venom and can go into anaphylactic shock which can lead to death if not attend to immediately. There are some medical benefit being investigated regarding honeybee venom in relation to apitherapy. Some Therapists use honeybee venom to relieve people who have arthritis. But that does not mean the honeybee venom can be applied to everybody.
Many people in Asia I came across, often believe what these sales ladies say. They would simply take their words for it without probing further. I asked a few more questions and then decided to stop because I knew it would be pointless for me to pursue further.
They had a row of beehives on display. Only 2 hives were occupied, one with an Italian species while the other colony is a species commonly found in Malaysia. They are called “Trigonas”. These bees are also called “stingless bees”.
This place do have a great varieties of honey and its by products. Its educational approach was somehow comprehensive enough for laymen. Anyway, many would not know what sort of questions to ask. Overall presentation was good. But somehow, I felt that the sale ladies should upgrade themselves with better and correct knowledge in order to provide more in depth information for the customer to understand. I felt there is too much emphasis on trying to sell the product.
Little knowledge is dangerous.
Beginning of this year, I was commissioned by Bank of Uganda to write an article about the honey industry in Uganda. It was meant for their year book for 2010. It had been published and I had duplicated it for all to read.
In this article, you will have a better insight about the honey business and its potential.
3.3 Money in Honey: Investing for Quality Gives Best Returns in a
High Prospect Sub-sector
Section 1 The Markets for Ugandan Honey
All honey, in the hive, is at its purest possible quality. The vegetation around where bees forage determine the flavour, colour and viscosity of the honey. Quality deteriorates because of poor harvesting and processing methods. Normally it is the human factor that plays the biggest role in compromising the quality of honey. This will be further elaborated in Section 2 below.
Honey producers can target local, regional and global markets. The local market can be sub-divided into two segments. The first such segment is almost purely price-driven. Quality here is not an issue. Honey catering for this market is promoted by street vendors, selling it in all sorts of reused packaging, ranging from soda bottles to used cooking oil containers. Some foreigners or tourists are actually enticed by these vendors in the villages, as they believe honey sold in rural areas is natural and unadulterated. To prove that the honey is pure, the vendors have a practice of dropping a dead bee inside the bottle!
The other local segment caters to the retail market such as supermarkets and sundry shops in and around all major districts. In this segment, there is a small group of consumers that go for higher quality honey that has fewer impurities. However, the bigger local demand is still for low priced honey, as most consumers are not particular or have little knowledge about honey standards.
For the higher-priced retail market, presentation and packaging are important. Usually the honey is packed in new plastic jars with a net weight of 500g. Of late, with an increase in choice of packaging materials, honey is also packed in smaller quantities of 100g and 250g. Retail prices, locally and regionally, hover around UGX 3,800 to UGX 5,000 per 500gm.
Regarding export market, honey from Uganda is said to be exported to the European Union and the Middle East. However there are no official statistics for this market. It is believed Ugandan honey is exported by a couple of companies in small quantities, directly to niche retailers, instead of being exported in bulk.
The quality of honey for the export market must be very high. For exporting to European Union countries, the honey has to meet the European Union Honey Legislation requirements (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/ ). The important aspects buyers look into are the country of origin, pollen spectrum, flavour, enzyme activity, moisture and sediment content. Packaging for such niche markets varies according to the buyers’ requirements. It can be in airtight buckets of 25kg or in individual jars, as specified by the buyers.
Bulk export is usually packed in food-grade drums of 300kg. Currently the price for bulk honey is between US$1.20 – 1.30 per kg (CIF). The minimum required quantity for bulk export is a full container load of at least 20 tons. At present, Uganda’s honey industry is still at the infant stage. Nobody yet has the capacity to tap into the bulk export market.
Section 2 Quality Issues in the Honey Value Chain
For the basic local market, honey is mainly sourced from honey hunters and traditional bee farmers. Honey hunters get their honey from wild bee colonies in anthills and hollow tree trunks, while the traditional beekeepers own a few beehives made out of local materials such as rattan and logs.
There are also a good number of modern beehives given by donors and funded projects. Both the honey hunters and traditional bee farmers got their knowledge of beekeeping from their forefathers and practise destructive methods of honey harvesting. They do not tend to the bees regularly and will only approach the colonies during harvesting season. They force the bees out of the hives with lots of smoke and fire before collecting whatever remains in the hive. The honeycombs with brood, beebread, ripe and unripe honey are then squeezed with bare hands or unhygienic equipment. Some will even boil the honey to separate honey from the wax. Investment for players in this sector is minimal. Both the producers and sellers make use of whatever they can get hold of and no expensive equipment and training are required.
For the local and regional retail market there are also more commercially-minded producers. Some are traditional bee farmers and some are members of beekeeping associations, who have gone through a form of training. They usually sell their honey to traders or packers who add value by packaging before selling to retailers. There are a significant number of players involved in this segment.
Packers are normally not beekeepers themselves. Middlemen will travel to villages to buy from various sources and resell at some centralized market in town. Most packers purchase from these middlemen, filter some of the impurities from the honey, pack and label for retail sales. Little or no testing and minimal quality control of the honey is involved. The packers only need to invest in simple filtering equipment, plastic jars and labels. Investment in improving the presentation of the end product is important, as many different brands compete for attention on the same retail shelves.
Although the packaging has improved, the quality of the honey varies greatly amongst different brands. Though some of the producers have undergone training and have acquired modern beehives such as Kenyan Top Bar hives or Langstroth hives, most of the training is done in classrooms without any actual interaction with the bees. The lack of hands-on experience in handling the bees catches most beekeepers off-guard when they encounter the aggressive behaviour of the African bees face to face during their first harvest. This has led to the development of fear of the bees and subsequently these apiarists revert back to the destructive mode of harvesting. This will result in dead bees, burnt grass ashes and melted wax being mixed together with the honey. As such, the quality of the honey will still be compromised, despite the investments in training and the use of more expensive hives.
Often the emphasis is on short term profitability of the business, without any education on the importance of proper handling of the bees for longer term productivity and profit. This is just like putting the cart in front of the horse. Bee farmers should recognize the bees as an important asset in their honey business. They have to understand how to work harmoniously with the bees in their natural environment, rather than fighting against the bees. It is only when they can calmly work on the bees that they will abandon the hit-and-run approach of harvesting. They can then harvest correctly, maintaining the quality of the honey. When the process is right, the outcome will be right. Profitability will follow when the honey quality and yield improve.
For bee farmers and beekeeping associations that pack their own honey for retail sales, improved training will equip them to do quality control and produce higher quality honey. However, non-beekeeper packers who buy their honey from middlemen have absolutely no control over the quality of the honey. They buy whatever is available during that period. Even if some good quality honey is produced at the source (i.e. by the bee farmers in rural areas) there is no way to prevent adulteration, mixing with other lower quality honey or improper handling by the many hands through which the honey passes.
For the export market the investment is much higher both in training and equipment. In order to maintain best quality, all involved have to be acutely aware of the consequence of not doing the right thing. Any mistake along the way, starting from the very source inside the hive, through the harvesting, processing and packaging, will lead to the honey failing to meet the stringent requirements for the export market. As such, even after the initial training, beekeepers and refinery staff have to be constantly reminded, monitored and re-trained to ensure they follow the proper procedures.
Bee farmers must harvest only ripe honey, using the proper harvesting method to ensure the honey is not laden with excessive smoke and ashes. At the refinery, the honey extraction, filtering and packing has to be carefully controlled. Throughout the chain of activities, the honey has to be handled with clean equipment and stored under proper conditions. Although the investment in honey processing equipment is also higher for exporters, the bulk of the investment actually needs to be set aside for training and follow-ups as people are always the deciding factor in maintaining the quality of the honey.
Most of the beekeeping training courses which are currently available in Uganda are only acceptable for producing for the local and regional markets. In order to fulfill the more stringent requirements for the export market, exporters will have to work closely with their outgrowers, to the extent of developing a monitoring system or database to keep track of the farmers and of their performance. Close supervision of all departments involved will ensure that the required level of competence is achieved.
Section 3 Typical Investment and Returns for a Small Apiary
There is no magic figure in starting beekeeping. The numbers of hives one can maintain depends on the competency of the beekeeper, the land available to him or her and the vegetation surrounding the land. For discussion purpose, we look at a typical smallholder beekeeper with 20 hives that are colonized.
Before comparing the different kinds of hives from which a beekeeper can choose, the other standard accessories they should be equipped with are:
A smoker @ UGX 25,000
A protective bee suit @ UGX 120,000
A hive tool @ UGX 10,000
A bee brush @ UGX 7,000
A pair of protective gloves @ UGX 18,000
20 airtight buckets for honey harvesting @ UGX 7,500 each = UGX 150,000
Basic beekeeping training @ UGX 300,000
Total standard cost UGX 630,000
Now we shall compare the costs and income achievable using different kinds of hives. It usually takes about 18 months for a new colony to fully build up its strength and produce to capacity. Small harvests are possible in the first year, but this will be excluded in the calculation below, as it is not certain that production in the first year will be achieved.
a)For traditional beehive investment
Cost of 20 traditional beehive @ UGX 10,000 = UGX 200,000
Plus standard cost, as above = UGX 630,000
Total investment = UGX 830,000
Honey harvest in a year = 15kg / hive
Total honey harvest in the 2nd & 3rd year = 600 kg
Selling price of honey = UGX 3,000 per kilo
Gross income = UGX 1,800,000
Net income = UGX 970,000
b) For Kenyan Top Bar (KTB) beehive investment…
Cost of 20 KTB beehive @ UGX 60,000 = UGX 1,200,000
Standard cost = UGX 630,000
Total investment = UGX 1,830,000
Honey harvest in a year = 20kg / hive
Total honey harvest in the 2nd & 3rd year = 800 kg
Selling price of honey = UGX 3,000 per kilo
Gross income = UGX 2,400,000
Net income = UGX 570,000
c) For Langstroth beehive investment…
Cost of 20 Langstroth beehive @ UGX 140,000 = UGX 2,800,000
Standard cost = UGX 630,000
Total investment = UGX 3,430,000
Honey harvest in a year = 30kg / hive
Total honey harvest in the 2nd & 3rd year = 1200 kg
Selling price of honey = UGX 3,000 per kilo
Gross income = UGX 3,600,000
Net income = UGX 170,000
To use the Langstroth beehive effectively, a much higher beekeeping skill level and precision hive construction are needed. This is to ensure productivity over a number of years, to realize the benefits of the considerable investment involved, upfront. With the current conditions in Uganda, traditional and Kenyan Top Bar hives are still the more recommended methods of beekeeping.
With improved knowledge, skills and close monitoring of the activities of the bees, harvesting can be done on a more regular basis and thus yield will increase. Also, in the rural areas where properly dried timber is not available, KTB and Langstroth hives will warp after a short while and create problems for the beekeepers when handling the bees. They will also be difficult to maintain and repair. Using local materials available in hive construction is more appropriate.
Section 4 A Honey Export Operation
To start an export honey operation, one can choose to be involved in the upstream activity of beekeeping, or to concentrate on trading. In the discussion below, we are looking at the operations of an exporter who does not engage in beekeeping itself. The company will buy directly from the outgrowers, process the honey and pack it for export. The main field of operation will be sourcing, processing and marketing.
There are two kinds of export in which one could be engaged, small scale and bulk export, respectively.
For small-scale export, the basic equipment required would be:
Honey extracting equipment, stainless steel settling tanks, filtering equipment, airtight buckets, clean refinery & storage building, pickup. The cost can range from UGX 50,000,000 to UGX 150,000,000, excluding the building.
For bulk export, the basic equipment required would be:
Forklift truck, food grade drums, palettes, honey extracting equipment, stainless steel settling tanks, filtering equipment, airtight buckets, clean refinery & storage building, truck. The cost can range from UGX 300,000,000 onwards, again excluding the building.
Expansion of a refinery can be progressive. One can invest in the minimum initially and add on more of the same equipment as production increases. Usually, companies will start with small-scale export. Once they secure more honey and orders, they can easily switch over to bulk export operations by adding on some other equipment. Whatever they have already invested in will not be wasted, as the assets are still applicable in the new operation.
At the moment, the local and regional demand for honey far exceeds the supply. In fact, local and regional prices are more attractive than those achievable for bulk export, at world honey wholesale prices. At the same time, the investment for a bulk export operation is quite substantial. Thus bulk export is not the most profitable option at the time of writing. Small-scale export to niche markets that command higher product prices is a more attractive choice to start with.
As written in Section 2 above, the investment in training and education will be much higher than the investment in hardware. It is difficult to quantify this software investment as it varies with the level of professionalism of the staff and moreover is an on-going investment.
It is only during the last ten years that the beekeeping industry is slowly gaining attention as an additional income generating activity for the growing number of farmers who have small land plots. The local land inheritance culture of dividing land among one’s sons is causing plots to be split into smaller portions. Beekeeping becomes a viable enterprise for such small landowners, as it takes up less space compared to agriculture or animal husbandry. This newly-noticed industry is not well understood by banks in Uganda and they have not developed any special schemes to cater for beekeeping activities. They will assess any loan request using standard policies and procedures. The following is a summary, from the point of view of a honey producer.
a) Financing Equipment: For companies engaging in honey production and processing, asset-financing arrangements are possible with some general equipment such as generators and vehicles. However, banks would be more reluctant to provide loans for equipment that is specific to the beekeeping industry, such as refinery equipment and beehives. They will only consider loans for such specific equipment if there are other assets to secure it. Risk is much higher due to the limited resale market for such items. Also, for production equipment like beehives, it will be almost impossible to repossess once the bees colonize the hives.
b) Working Capital: Unlike equipment loans where the equipment itself is an asset with some value as collateral, banks are more stringent in facilitating loans for working capital. The usual procedure would require the borrower to use assets such as land, buildings or fixed deposit as collateral to secure the loan. They will also look into the past years’ cash flows and performance of the company in deciding the payment terms. Interest rate is in the high 20% – 30% range.
An alternative for companies without suitable assets as collateral would be contract financing, whereby, with a firm order secured from a buyer, the exporter could negotiate for a temporary loan using that as security. Unlike businesses such as manufacturing where business activities are more evenly spread out through the year, honey production is seasonal. The huge amount of money needed to buy the honey during the one or two seasons a year poses a great strain on most companies’ cash flows.
With contract financing, once the exporter ascertains the amount of honey their out-growers can harvest for the season, they can liaise with their buyer and bank for such a financing arrangement. The money released in advance by the bank makes it possible for them to pay the outgrowers for the honey, process and ship it to their customer. The exporter will incur less interest expense with contract financing, compared to the case with unsecured finance, which in any case is extremely difficult to obtain in Uganda.
c) Financing for Smallholder Producers: Local banks are receptive to opportunities to provide financial services to out-growers supported by a processor / exporter. Many banks are coming up with low cost savings accounts and are opening branches upcountry to tap into this market. However, the monthly bank charges may still be too taxing on beekeepers who may receive income only once or twice a year. Also, any loan packages come with the unaffordable interest of more than 20% and a short repayment period. Beekeeping is unlike most other agriculture or animal husbandry activities when it comes to the investment and return schedule. Almost all the investment is made in the initial period and the returns only start to be generated 18 months later. However, the beekeeper can reap returns for many years thereafter with minimal maintenance investment. If this situation is understood by the banking sector, and they develop special loan packages that take all these unique characteristics of beekeeping activity into account, then it would be viable for the outgrowers to tap into financing by the banks.
Section 5 Support by Government
The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries has been making efforts to support the honey industry by assisting commercial beekeepers and stakeholders with permits for bee transfers and veterinary certification for honey exports.
The Ministry of Trade and Tourism and The Uganda Export Promotion Board also issue different certificates essential to any export of honey, while the Ministry of Finance allows tax exemption on imports of honey processing equipment and packaging.
All these greatly help in advancing and developing this industry. It would be an added boost to the development if all the necessary permits and certificates could be processed in a one-stop location. Not only is it more efficient for the exporter, it will be easier for Uganda to compile statistics regarding this industry. With more information and feedback, the Government can then formulate policies that will enhance the growth of this industry.
The National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) Program provided some farmers with beehives and training. There is room for improvement in the quality of the provisions though.
With the setting up of ApiTrade Uganda, an organization dedicated to supporting the beekeeping industry, Uganda is trying to provide a regional link for producers, buyers and equipment suppliers. They organized ‘Apitrade’, a honey conference / exhibition that acts as a platform for interested players in the industry to meet. It is held once every two years in different African countries; the first was in Uganda in 2008. This year, 2010, Apitrade is hosted by Zambia and in 2012 it will be in Ghana.
 Author: Lesster Leow, EastWest Innovations Uganda Ltd.
 See also Article 4.2 in this Yearbook for a more complete discussion of bank financing linked to forward sales contracts.
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…..
B.E.S.T. had established another training centre in Uganda. It is located at Kajjansi, Entebbe. A short 15km drive from Kampala enables more people to attend our program without having to be away for a week. Hopefully we can establish more centres all over the country to cater for the people.
This development is part of our plan of setting up a bee keepers club in Kampala. With the feedbacks gathered from our blog response, there is quite a large group of expatriates who are keen to have beekeeping as a hobby.
Our first batch of participants for the KJ (Kajjansi) apiary commenced yesterday. Although the training apiary is not fully operational yet, somehow all the basic setup for handling African bees is already in place. We shall see the centre gets more elaborate like the one at Timothy Centre in due course.
All the participants had heard about the nasty attitude of these ladies. They had never expected that on the second day, they were already told to introduce themselves to these ladies.
During the training, one of the combs got broken off from the frame. The participants were taught how to salvage the broken comb, especially those that are still containing brood. In normal circumstances, a Ugandan beekeeper would simply throw the whole comb away with the brood intact. In our program, we treasure every single brood. We emphasize on the importance of taking great care of the colony.
We are also in the process of developing another training centre nearer to Kampala City. It will be at Kajjansi, Entebbe Road. Once the model farm is established, this training centre will serve those who prefer to have their training done closer to Kampala. In fact the first batch of trainees had already started yesterday.
Production of propolis is underway. For those who had not heard of “Propolis”, I had link the Wikipedia site here.
Ever wonder what actually happened when a honey bee stings you? The bee stinger is barbed. Just like a fishing hook, it will lodge its sting underneath your skin. When she tried to get away from you, the whole venom segment of the body will tear away from her body, causing her instant death. The venom sac muscles will continue to pump the venom into your body.
Many researcher and scientist are using bee venom as an alternative to cure arthritis and tendonitis. The venom is administered through injection or through bee sting. If the bee sting is used, the apitherapy practitioner will place bees on the skin, typically close to the joints, muscle or other body parts that are having problems.
Somehow I am not in favour of this practice. It is destroying and killing the bees for the benefit of mankind. In order to relieve human suffering, the bees became the victims.
Well this argument can be rebutted again in the name of science. Hopefully we can look into alternative cure.
I would like to thank the bee which had sacrificed for mankind in order to gain this knowledge. I would also like to thank The Department of Entomology of Virginia Tech for sharing this valuable insight of honeybees.
As part of the our on going training program, we have developed this video for our B.E.S.T. program. Participants are supposed to digest what they saw and during discussion, they are supposed to highlight the do’s and don’ts.
Are you able to spot the mistakes?
The program is slowly attracting the expatriates community who wanted to play their part not only in embarking on honey farming, but also in keeping the eco-system balance. This class saw a group of interesting and bubbly participants whom I can considered them the most interactive and inquisitive lot so far. I was challenged a few times to demonstrate what I taught. That was good! This is the way to learn. It is no point having me talking and participant listening. Practical observation speaks for itself.
Although we had a full registration for this class, it was disappointing to learn that a group of 5 from the local community did not turn up for the training although they were fully sponsored by an Organization. This shows the seriousness of wanting to progress. Anyway, its their losses.
Tania Lazib – “Absolutely fantastic class; Lesster’s general insight /and understanding of bee behaviour is excellent. I came from no beekeeping experience to a point, by the end of the class, where I am comfortable planning my apiary, baiting hives, doing maintenance on the hives, and finally, collecting the honey (in a sustainable /and non-intrusive manner). Mostly practical training with the right amount theory to back it up. There was so much more to say!”
Colin Leenders – Hi Lesster, I would like to say that I enjoyed your bee keeping course very much. The week spent with you has changed the way I work WITH bees not against them which is what I have been doing in the past. I was amazed at how you can work with African bees using bare hands and not wearing head gear without being attacked and as we all know these bees have a lot of attitude. In the past when I have been working AGAINST them it was full on war as soon as the hive was opened and after it was closed.
Also like the fact that the course was keep simple easy to understand and loads of information about bees and honey. When I say simple I mean that after reading loads about bee keeping it can sound complicated also there are plenty of incorrect information out there, which during the course has been explained and demonstrated.
It is good to have loads of hands on learning with the bees and not all class room teaching. The classes are a good size. We had a good group which made it fun as well.
Once again thank you. I also highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in learning or working with bees. The learning curve does not have to be painful. – Colin
The class ended with a field trip on Friday. We visited an apiary where our former student had setup after the training. I was very proud of Fred and Madrine for the development.
The apiary was very well done and bees are already colonizing and had even started the honey collection process.
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
It was just like yesterday when I conducted feasibiltiy study on the honey industry in Uganda in 2001. Rwanda beekeeping industry is still at an infant stage. There are so much room for growth. I was very impressed with the vegetations Rwanda has. Rwanda do have the potential to become a major honey player in the international scene. But then again, its easier said than done because my findings had seen a number of issues that requires serious interventions. If not it cannot bloom beyond the horizon.
The rush into modernization without even knowing whether the farmers are ready for it is one of the serious issue. The lack of knowledge both on the behaviours of the african bees and the utilization of modern beehives will stunt the growth of this industry. I am not sure were there any financial planning in creating a sustainable enterprise being sensitized to the farmers before they embark on the business.
A modern beehive is a double edge sword. It can produce 3 times more than a traditional beehive if managed properly, but it can also be a white elephant if it was use without proper know how.
Bad handling of bees lead to aggressive behaviour. Aggressive bees make harvesting difficult. Farmers start to rush through harvesting using a lot of smoke. Bees become even more agressive with so much smoke. Farmer start killing bees. The hive will be filled with smoke thus making the honey taste smokey. Many contaminants are deposited onto honey. Quality drops. Honey will not be able to meet the necessary requirements.
Think of the process, not the outcome. If the process is right, the outcome will be right.
Last week was indeed a hectic week which saw us covering almost 1,200 km of traveling route. Jeff Ramsey, the Director for Imbabazi accompanied by his assistant director, Devon were here on a field trip to see my work. They intend to invite me over to Rwanda to conduct a feasibility study on a beekeeping project. They were eager to find the way forward.
Within a 5 days span, we moved from South where Timothy Centre is located and Gulu, where my commercial beekeepers are. The main highlight for the trip was meeting up with Carol Higgins from Otino Waa Orphanage, Lira. Meeting Carol would be a very good yardstick for them to understand what to expect.
During the last training, we had the honour to have the US Ambassador to Uganda, Mr Jerry Lanier, his wife and several staffs from the US Embassy visiting us. Timothy Centre acquired a grant from US Embassy and they were doing a tour to visit projects.
We invited the Ambassador and the team to get up close and personal with african bees. It will be their first time ever. They took the challenge.
17th Jan – 22nd Jan saw the first group of participants for the BEST program for 2011. It was a diversify group because all of them came from various district in Uganda. Even the participants attended were getting more challenging.
Some of them had never kept bees while there is one who is a beekeeper. He is 74 years old. He had been in Uganda for more than 25 years as a development worker introducing sustainable agriculture activities through education on basic accounting and book keeping.
They were prepare to go through the program to overcome the fear in order to embark on the business.
This training is a “MUST” for anyone who is willing to keep bees. In this training, I learned how to handle bees in a very gentle way. My fear for bees has reduced – Building a relationship between the beekeeper and the bees is very crucial.
Father Reverend Stanislas is from Togo and currently he is pastoring a church in Lira, Northern Uganda. They had embark on beekeeping for sometime now but he felt that the project has rooms for improvement. He came for the training so that he came equip himself with more knowledge so that he can share it with his fellow folks in Lira. Fr. Stanislas is very hands on himself.
The first of importance is how to handle the bees – keeping them calm, non aggressive, how to use smoke to calm and to move the bees. How to handle the bars – all in all, very practical and very hands on. Instructors was very open to discussion, patient, willing to evaluate new ideas. Excellent foundation for further bee management.
Stan Burkey is a private consultant providing a very important component in rural development enterprise – financial planning, book keeping. Many small scale farmers do not know how to manage their earnings, calculate profit and loss. Stan would assist them in getting their books right. 40 years of experience in a few African countries. His contribution had enlighten many such farmers, turning them into entrepreneurs.
I have realised that in order to benefit from beekeeping, one has got to know how to handle the bees and make them your friend instead of enemies. This program teaches how to use the bee tools in order to deal with the bees, not to mistreat them but use the tools to work with the bees.
I so much like the hands on training that we have had which expels out the fear and panic. I aslo like the interactive training whereby you ask and discuss all that you have seen in the apiary.
This training is introductory but really loves a lot of indepth information like how the bee behave and their program in the hive such that you know the time to work with them.
Wilber force is currently working with an NGO is agriculture sustainability. He is embarking on this enterprise so that he can develop his own bee farm at his home. He hopes in the not to far future, he can use his apiary as a model bee farm to help his community to start beekeeping as another source of income to supplement their current earnings.
I liked the creative aspect of the training..Practical, Participatory and Interactive. The training emphasized the establishment of a relationship with the Bees.. at the end of the training all of us the participants were confident enough to drop the veils and the gloves, to get Up-close and passionate with the bees. (theoria cum praxi)
Lesster confidently evaluated The beekeeping Industry (based on his 10 years experience in the industry in Uganda) and gave us the challenges in the industry. The participants discuss the Bee-economics and individual prospective investment plan which he selflessly discusses.
William work as an Information Systems Consultant in his own company where he is the Director. He is also an Associate Consultant at Uganda Management Institute in the Department of Information Technology. He is looking forward to start his Commercial Bee keeping as well as promoting Api-Tourism back home in Kisoro District and to create his own Honey Brand.
Wishing all a very happy and prosperous 2011!
Another year is soon to pass. 2010 saw many exciting happenings in the development. Looking forward to see what’s in store for 2011. Ready……get set……….
One of our students had written about her experience when she attended our training on her blog. I would like to thank her for the feedback. You can get to see more pictures posted by her here.
Many had not seen the tough times that I had gone through with the bees here. This was the result for not handling Api Meliferra Scutellata well. I had this picture taken way back in 2001 when I still had not much experience and knowing the aggressiveness of this species. It was after 4 days when the swell had subsided before I could take this picture. I had about 40 stings on my face from this stunt of not respecting and donning my bee suit.
I recalled having my first colony behind my backyard. Every evening when dark fell, I would put on my bee suit, veil and glove. I would light my smoker, grab my hive tool and brush, all ready to face the african bees. All dressed up not knowing what to do and expect.
Every time I tried to open the hive, the whole colony would simply “pour” themselves out of the hive, crawling all over my body. I would use the brush to brush them off, making them even more aggressive. After an hour, I would give up, slammed the cover and literally crushed all the bees that were out.
Come next morning, no one could walk near the hive. They would still be hovering around the hive, attacking any moving creatures that had gone near their habitat.
10 years with these notorious ladies and finally now I am able to interact with them harmoniously. Working with them requires a lot of understanding……. about their behaviour, the environment, our own temperament while handling them. Perseverance had paid off. When was the last time you did something for the first time? 🙂
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.
Past few days were spent running around town, getting all the documents prepared for the shipment. This morning finally saw the shipment ready for flight. The forwarder came on time to load the buckets up. Hopefully it will reach Switzerland safely and on time.
Logistic management in Uganda still has a long way to go. One of my previous shipment, one ton of my honey was left at Entebbe airport for 10 days and nobody notice all the buckets sitting there and going nowhere. Luckily honey is non perishable. If not I will be in deep trouble. My customers were very amazed that how come such things happened. How to compete with the rest of the World if Uganda is not going to look at these issues seriously.
Yesterday I was chatting with the Chief Veterinarian. He is the person that will approve and certify all agriculture export like coffee and in this case, honey. I was surprised when he mentioned that we were the only Company that is exporting honey to Switzerland. He told me that honey going into EU is very difficult because of the stringent quality test required. He was glad that ours are able to meet the EU standards and being exported out. How he wished there were more honey with the same quality in the 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.
When we arrived at his place, he was in his working clothes, out in the field. He was happy to see us and was so enthusiastic that we were there. Immediately he led us to one of his shade to show us what he had done – 20 local bee hives! He was in the midst of identifying a suitable plot of land to start his apiary. Simon is also a brick maker. He told us that once he is able to get some income from his selling of his bricks, he will start his apiary.
To me this was very motivational. The effort that all had put in had not gone to waste. Although the results are slow, but there are results from the training. Nothing is more satisfying than to see the participants benefitting from the program. I am proud to have Simon as one of our BEST farmer.
Beeswax is one of the by-product from honey farming. Many bee farmers are not aware that it can be another income generating activity if they were taught to process and value add. One of the main items that can be produced from beeswax are candles. Beeswax candles are well received because of its natural origin. They are not chemically treated like paraffin candles. In fact burning beeswax candles are more environmentally friendly as one does not inhale toxic fumes in comparison to burning paraffin candles. The advantages out weigh the normal paraffin ones.
One of our programs at BEST is to empower the farmers to utilize what is available in honey farming and to teach them about value adding. By collecting empty combs from the hives, they were taught how to convert honey combs to beeswax using whatever they can find locally.
Simple understanding of how things are done do not require expensive equipments. Take for example, a simple solar wax melter are just a few pieces of wood nailed together. Having it painted black to increase the heat absorption rate. Inside are just a few stones to harness the heat , a simple pot cover, with holes drilled acting as a sieve. Under the harsh African sun, the combs will melt through the sieve in a sauce pan, giving them the raw beeswax.
Once the conversion is done from combs to wax, the rest is getting it moulded into different shapes and sizes ready for market. As part of the training program entails entrepreneurship, for those farmers that do not have the facilities to start their own production, we get them involve in the candle making process so that on top of producing honey, they can come to the centre with their beeswax, sell them to us and gradually teach them to use their income to start their own small business. we will help them to acquire moulds from overseas where they have no access to the products.
We got acquainted with some Philanthropists from Singapore and we are in the midst of a discussion of bringing our bee education centre project to a development in Malaysia called, “Kampung Temasek“.
Before we begin our input at Kampung Temasek, comes July next year, we will start our feasibility study on how we can establish ourselves as an education centre for those who wants to know more about honeybees and its impact on the environment. Here is the vision of Kampung Temasek;
“The core purpose of Kampung Temasek is to do what cannot and is not done in Singapore by way of educating our parents and kids about nature, the kampong spirit and the reconstitution of our innate Singaporean enterprise-spirit which no longer available in urban Singapore.
What was gained and what was lost? We gained values and skills for industrialisation, white collar jobs and systematic administration. But our loss was creativity, initiatives, imagination, the enterprise spirit and empathy with nature, community and etc.
This Kampung Temasek project is primarily an educational program for the entire family because it enables them to reawaken lost values, attitudes and skills. Starting with confidence building through adventuring and bodily coordination, the enterprise spirit will be exposed to nature and the surrounding communities to better grasp the natural and social ecosystems which sustain all life forms. These knowledge and abilities are challenged through projects which require creativity of the individual and the family.
Special trainers and enablers will be on hand to facilitate the learning process to make it tremendously enjoyable and enlightening. To free the hearts and minds of people to new challenges, unfamiliar situations and new opportunities the 21st century will throw at us since every job, vocation and interest will change.
Striving to provide an experiential enterprising education for the whole family, Kampung Temasek welcomes all enterprising spirits interested in rediscovering the missing ingredient for successful living”.
We find Kampung Temasek very much in line with our BEST program and hopefully by end of 2011, we would have developed a small education centre for the public and at the same time develop a beekeeping industry for the village community around so that it will be another source of income.
Below is the proposed plan for the development of the Bee Centre. The final location has not been decided yet. Please visit Kampung Temasek website for a more detailed insight.
Part of the training program at BEST, we will have a display of a colony hiving in an old rotten bee hive. In order for this colony to survive in this harsh environment, it literally fabricate a layer of wall of propolis to reduce the opening. This is to prevent large predators like rats and snakes to enter the hive.
Many farmers experienced bees absconding and their reason was that the hive was not good enough for them to stay. This is not true. So long as the food supply is there and there are not much predators disturbing the hive, they will stay.
We had adopted this colony so that we can use this colony as training exhibit showing how tough the situation the African honeybees can endure and same time use it to conduct lessons on colony multiplication.
Bees are more smart than scary, and instead of wasting time running away from them, we should start studying them. Their life and business lessons rival the strategies taught at some of the best colleges out there, so check out this list of 10 skills you can learn from bees.
- They’re expert communicators: Bees triangulate distances and direction, and are in continuous contact with their hives as they search for food sources. They’re not off “hunting” for themselves; instead, bees never seem to break contact with the group and keep each other informed to stay alive and recruit other bees to help them collect pollen where it’s most plentiful. Can you imagine if there were no secret stashes or ulterior motives in business?
- Bees are associative learners: Bees never stop learning and use natural forces to direct their actions in terms of finding food and monitoring the environment. They continue to visit the types of flowers that consistently offer them rewards, noting color and odor, and then effectively ditch them if weather patterns or other elements make the reward harder to obtain in search of other flowers. If we could learn as quickly, and then let go of past processes in order to move forward, we’d be profit-making machines, no exceptions.
- The more, the merrier. And the more productive: Swarms of bees result in a very social insect, promoting flexibility and adaptability, robustness, and self-organization, according to AskNature.org. Scientists have found that when surrounded by a pack, bees that “fail,” don’t cause major problems because all the others pick up the slack. Innovation, optimization and streamlined processes result from self-organization, which seems to naturally occur in swarms.
- They have different jobs and stick to them: It’s a controversial lesson in efficiency, and one that’s often rejected in the United States, where cross-mobility is appreciated. But bee colonies have a strict hierarchy and class system, and the hive works so well because worker bees sting and forage, male drones mate, house bees build the honeycomb and tend to the queen, and so on.
- Their product is attractive to many industries: Bees don’t just make the honey you put on your ice cream. Their wax is used for cosmetics, religious products and lots of food products, and they also pollinate plants and even whole orchards. Furthermore, their honeycombs and hives are still inspiring architects today because of their complexity and relative durability. What’s the business lesson here? Always aim to create a product and/or service that’s attractive and even necessary for lots of industries and customers, making your company indispensable and practically invulnerable.
- They’re highly adaptable to even drastic changes: Bees that have been relocated thousands of miles — from Hawaii to Louisiana in this case — are still able to locate and collect pollen in just an hour. New locations, temperatures and environments don’t sway their end goal or bottom line.
- They continue to evolve: Scientists believe that honeybees first spawned 130 million years ago, during the landmass of Gondwana. After the breakup of the landmass, some honeybees became extinct, but most have evolved and sub-speciated according to their new environments. Even after continent break-ups and climate changes, bees are still around and working just as furiously.
- Age levels are directly related to work habits: Bees delegate different jobs according to age level, showing an understanding for natural ability, stamina and practice. Young bees, for instance, aren’t allowed out into the field unless there has been a serious blow to the population. Would you want your brand new intern making independent sales calls on his first day? Take a cue from the bees and associate new workers with “housekeeping” for the first few weeks.
- Bees depend on their queen: Every colony or company needs a strong leader. When queen bees are absent or have died, bees start squabbling and are less organized. During the interim between queens, colony morale is down, and honey production is lower. Even the mere presence of a strong leader (hint: you don’t have to micromanage) is vital to directing workers.
- Bees have an innate sense of responsibility and a desire to work: While you can’t force an instinct upon someone else, you can train employees to almost instinctively notice when work needs to be done, minimizing wasted time and micro-mangement. Bees start working a few hours after they’re born, noticing the dirty cells that need to be cleaned around them and eventually moving on to clean the queen, guard the hive, and forage for pollen and nectar, and contribute in any way that’s needed.
You can see the original article here.
Photos by Lesster Leow, Aug 29, 2010
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Dear Mr. Beekeeper Sir,
By the time you read this letter, probably I would have already left this World. You see, my life on this earth is only about 45 days. And it is only the last few days I was able to fly out to collect half a teaspoon of honey for everyone to share.
I was very sad and frightened when I saw this video clip of you and your method of taking honey away from us. I think I should say more of sad than frighten. For so many years, we had to be placed under lots of tests and experiment and cross breeding to develop a mutated species of honeybees that do not know how to protect ourselves the way God had wanted us.
When I was born, I heard from my sisters that our mother was not given the opportunity to find her own mates but instead sent to you, forced against her will to be inseminated according to your desire. And when you found out that our mother is no longer producing, you terminate her life prematurely.
You could not handle our natural aggressive behavior given by God’s to protect ourselves, you took nature into your own hands and made generations and generations of our siblings defenseless. You made us felt that as if the honey is rightly belonging to you and we are hindering your progress when you sell our honey.
You had made us so stressful that we had lost all our own defense system in order for you to take advantage of our docile behavior. Initially I thought it was for the best for both parties, but I was wrong. I thought being docile was a good thing so that we can work harmoniously but instead, you took our kindness as weakness. You abused our gentle friendship and treated us like slaves, without sparing a thought on how we feel. We are also living creatures like you and we do feel pain.
Look at the video clip. How did you mistreat our fellow sisters? My heart bled when I saw so many being crushed in between the box. They had done you no wrong except bringing honey for you to enjoy the fruit of their labor. When you had taken whatever you wanted from us, you simply trashed all of us on the ground, lost, confuse and stressed.
Now all of us are sick and many of us are slowly disappearing with no apparent reasons at all. Have you ever thought about the cause and effect? What is happening now is a vicious circle. Treating us with anti-biotic to prolong our lives is not the solution. Soon the anti biotic will be spilled over into the honey and end of the day, you will be eating contaminated honey from your own doing. In fact I knew this had already happened. But you chose to keep silent so that you can sell the honey. A piece of paper can never wrap a burning flame. That’s why some time back, honey from some Countries were banned because traces of anti-biotic were found in them.
Things had come full circle. If you were to see what is happening around, it will not last long. We used to be very resilient to all kinds of diseases and viruses but for the last decade, many of our siblings were succumbed to diseases and viruses that had always been living together, without interfering with our daily lives.
Look at my fellow sisters in Africa, with little or no human intervention. They had retained their natural aggressive instinct and till now, they are still resilient to viruses and diseases. They are still producing beautiful, natural honey, which is what it should be.
Dear Mr. Beekeeper Sir, I hope this letter will make you rethink how you should treat us and what will be the effect in the long run.
To you, it is just in a day’s work. To us, it matters life and death.
From a frightened little honeybee