Uganda Honey

Honey in its purest

Pre-flight check……………………

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Soon all these colonies will be transported to Masaka to start the training school. We will have to do a pre flight check to make sure we understood the stucture of each and every one of the hive in order to have them transferred without any hiccups.

Helmut and I had been keeping bees in our garden in Kampala for the last 5 years. All good things must come to an end. He will be leaving Uganda soon and I had taken the task to adopt his bees. They will come in very handy for my training school at Timothy Centre, Masaka.

An amazing friend that shared the same passion as I. In fact his experience in beekeeping is far more greater than mine for he has been based in a few African countries and he had always kept bees.

francis open hiveWe went to his place around 1930hrs but the rain had disrupted our schedule and finally at around 2045hrs, the sky managed to clear and we proceed on with the checks.

Francis, my bee master, who will be the overall in charge of the training school at Timothy’s, assisted me is making my rounds. So far I am very pleased with his performance and the way he handles the bees, although there are still a lot of rooms for improvement.

We had to perform our harvest and check in the night because Kampala is really saturated with residential housing and we do not want the bees to disturb the neighbors should they became cranky.

francis lift comb300There are a few reasons why we are harvesting some of the honey. When the volume of honey is reduced, the bees tend to be less aggressive because they have less honey to protect. At the same time, the hive will be much lighter for us to transport them for the 2 hrs drive.

Comb honey is highly in demand from the expatriates community because these “Muzungus” honey lover truly appreciate fresh comb honey harvested directly from the hive without going through any processing or filtering. Honey at its purest!

The fascinating sight of having the comb honey being sliced open, watching the liquid gold flowing down onto the platter, makes one wonder how nature had created such a small yet dynamic insect, being able to interact socially amongst themselves without a single conflict.

bees on top300Although African bees are known to be very aggressive, they still do display its gentle side, provided we as human being, listen to them more attentively and not try to force ourselves onto them during harvesting. No clashes will occur.

The result – beautiful comb honey with little or no casualties on both parties. Many a times, bee farmers are too eager to get the job done. They approached the hive with only one intention…… get the honey and go. Whether the bees are destroy or not is secondary. To me, this is honey hunting.

Whenever I harvest honey, I will always think of this friend of mine, Joanna Yue. We used to play squash together back home occasionally and will always share her squash knowledge when we played. She once told me that in order to play good squash, I have to think of the process, not the outcome. So long as I set the process right, the outcome will be right.

broken combIn beekeeping, I applied the same principle. Thinking of the process, by listening to the bees, observing their movement and behaviour, practicing patience. The outcome will see me having that beautiful comb taken out from the hive successfully with little or no stings. I do feel a great sense of achievement whenever I managed to harvest fresh comb honey without agitating the bees and being able to keep their temperament at bay.

Every road that we walked, every path that we take, it’s all about life experiences. It’s just a matter of how one adapt to the situation and environment. Even a young lady nearly half my age, had shared a life skill so valuable that I am applying it now.

Anyone care to have a taste of fresh comb honey? 🙂

November 4, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, raw honey | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sneak Preview…..My Honey Boutique…………………….

Here is a sneak preview of my honey boutique. Eventually, it will house honey of different floral from different parts of Uganda.

This boutique will be the first in Uganda which sells honey that meets European Union Honey Quality Legislations. Every harvest, samples will be sent to University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart Germany for melissapalynology.

For a start, we shall be concentrating on honey, honey snacks for regular consumption. There will also be honey products that come in gift packaging for special events. Occasionally, we will have special “Comb Honey”.

In the future we will include by-products from honey like, bee pollen, royal jelly and propolis. All these takes time because it involve a lot of certification and testing. Once its approved, we shall then launch them. Meanwhile candles made out of beeswax are already on sale.

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My Honey Boutique in Kampala.

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Boutique will have a collection of honey of different floral from different parts of the Country.

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Honey packed in 450gm glass jar.

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Banana fibre box set which include honey, candles and spoon.

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Clay hut contain small jar of honey carefully hand crafted by skilled potter.

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Little angels made out of beeswax.

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100% natural beeswax candles.

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Honey coated snacks (sweet potato & G-nuts)

October 27, 2009 Posted by | Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, propolis, raw honey | , , , , | 4 Comments

Routine tour of duty at Shoprite…………………….

Shoprite staff arranging honey shelf.

Shoprite staff arranging honey shelf.

Today I went to Shoprite to check on my stocks. Ramadan (the Shoprite staff in the picture), told me that although things are moving slowly, it is still moving. My honey is slowly gaining ground with shoppers there. By the way, Shoprite Checkers is an established South African supermarket based in most parts of Africa Continent. Most of the customers that are using my honey are mainly Expatriates and Somalian. They are more particular about the quality.

Kids of Africa honey well stocked up for this coming festive season.

Kids of Africa honey well stocked up for this coming festive season.

October 19, 2009 Posted by | honey | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flashbacks………………..

Talking to Minister regarding the consequences of importing bees.

Talking to Minister regarding the consequences of importing bees.

International exposure for Ugandan beekeepers.

International exposure for Ugandan beekeepers.

October 3, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The making of…………………….

Last year was a year of filming. After the media team from Singapore left, another TV media crew from Japan came and did a documentary. I was invited to assist them in calming the bees before the filming. They had no idea that the African bees were so aggressive. The camera man got stung and he nearly fainted. He applied insect repellent prior to the filming without checking with me, thinking that would repel the bees. On the contrary, bees hate scents. We had to go around the villages a few time to identify a suitable colony for filming. By the time the shoot was over, it was coming to 11pm.

The main objective for this filming is to showcase the possibilities of bees by-product, beeswax. After the harvesting of beeswax, the crew proceed to an orphanage in the North which was funded by Japanese NGO. The orphans were taught how to use beeswax to make crayons.

I had to leave them for other commitment after making sure that they were not injured during the engagement with the bees.

TV crew from Japan.

TV crew from Japan.

Taking a deep breath before getting close to the hive.

Taking a deep breath before getting close to the hive.

In action.

In action.

It took quite some time for the host of the program to pluck up the courage to approach the bees.

It took quite some time for the host of the program to pluck up his courage to approach the bees.

October 3, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rare view in a traditional local rattan hive…………………….

Many had seen honey in jars. Some had seen honey stored by bees kept in modern beehives. But few had really seen how does a traditional local beehive with bees keep their honey. Here we bring you as close as when we are harvesting the honey from a traditional beehive. Noticed the smoke that is hovering around the entrance of the beehive. We used smoke to break the communication amongst the bees. Unity is strength. So long as the bees could not interact with each other, they tend to be less aggressive, instead they will try and find its way back to the queen to wait for instructions.

Smoking the surrounding of the hives simulates a forest fire. Their instinctive reaction is to first see what’s the queen’s decision, to stay or flee. If they find that the smoke is not that threatening, it could be just some smoke coming from a faraway fire, they will stay. But if they sense that the smoke is getting unbearable and the heat getting stronger, they will turn aggressive and flee or abscond the hive. Smoking bees takes years of experience in order to understand how much is not too much.

I find beekeeping with traditional hives is much better when comes to farmers’ beekeeping knowledge and skills. They have more confident in handling the bees as compared to the modern way of keeping bees in “Langstroth hives”. One thing I had witnessed was that there were less destruction and casualties to the bees during harvesting.

Here is a footage of us inspecting a colony in a traditional local rattan beehive. Observed how calm the bees were even when the hive is fully opened. African bees are considered the most ferocious species of honeybees, but with understanding and careful way of approach and handling them, it can be achieved.

Every approach is a challenge. African bees when annoyed will turn aggressive within 4 seconds. In this instance, we would have to close the cover quickly and move away as fast as our legs can carry us and move on to the next hive. We will only return to the same hive in the next few days. Cranky little ladies 🙂

So as you can see, the joy we have in putting that teaspoon of honey in your cereals 🙂

September 28, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Uganda honey spreading wings…………………….

Ray and a display of honey and honey products that will be produce at Timothy Centre.

Ray and a display of "value added" honey and honey products that will be produced at Timothy Centre.

Another productive Saturday. I had a very fruitful discussion with Mr. Ray Sutton, the Executive Director of Pacific Academy Outreach Society, Canada. Timothy Centre is one of the many projects that he oversees. Its another one of his babies.

Our discussion touches on the development of agriculture products that will be exported to Canada and North America once Timothy Centre has fully develop the sector.

Meanwhile, honey products is already underway and this time round Ray will be introducing honey and beeswax candles into Canada and North America market. Following suit will be coffee and passion fruit as discussed with Karl earlier.

As our discussion took us further regarding the development of Timothy Centre, we concurred that we should also develop the eco-tourism sector where tourists can experience farmstay feeling. Waking up in the morning, strolling into farm, getting fresh vegetables and fruits, harvesting fresh raw honey for breakfast.

When I left Ray and his team in the evening, this thoughts came to my mind. In this fast pace society, Uganda should not be looking at production level only. Quality plays a vital role as well. This is where I feel financial institution can come in to assist the farmers financially in getting, not the most expensive equipment or tools but the RIGHT and appropriate equipment and tools, where the farmers are more adaptable and able to handle. We should help them with what they are familiar with and fine-tune from there, rather than giving them what we want them to have. Sadly enough, some financial institutions who engaged in such assistance got burned because they were not given the proper direction by the right people, ending up with bad debts. Those giving out the monies do not even understand a single bit of what is on the ground. They just simply wore their grey suit, sitting behind their grey desk, inside their grey office under the grey sky, waiting for their grey papers to be laid on their grey table. They only know how to  engage PAPER, they don’t engage PEOPLE.

Many a times when I moved around the villages, I do come across a lot of “Signboard Projects”. The signboards are there but you don’t see any projects. One reason it could be that the project had ended, so are the equipment. The locals do not know how to use them but since it is free, might as well take it. After which the tools and equipment might had found its way to a nearby market.

Uganda should also start picking up ideas on value adding in order to be more competitive with the rest of the World. Once I met an old man and he shared this with me, “The earth is always revolving forward. We have to keep pace with time and not to stand still. If we were to do that, we are in fact moving backwards”. Interesting analogy.

I felt that I am very blessed to be invited to work with Timothy Centre. It is well organized with an achievable and amazing vision. I can foresee Timothy Centre will be one of the most talk about destination in Uganda once it is fully developed.

“Global Servants in Christian Education”

September 20, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, Beeswax candles, honey | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gulu – Refinery and collection centre…………………….

Finally the dry spell is over. The weather is getting cooler and the rainy season is coming. Its that time of the year where the villagers start to plant crops again. Going up Gulu with Fischer last two days was refreshing. Same time we look at the progress of the refinery and collection centre. Hopefully it will be ready when the next season comes in April 2010.

This Centre will serve as a meeting point for all the bee farmers around the region. All future honey harvested from our selected bee farmers whom had gone thru our training will be sent to this centre for processing. Come next year I will see myself being split between Timothy Centre which is in the South and Gulu, in the North. I hope I can have the strength to see it thru.

September 10, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Timothy Centre, development in progress…………………….

Yang have to take the back seat now because he is too big for the front.

Yang have to take the back seat now because he is too big for the front.

Yesterday took a trip to look at the development of Timothy Centre. Karl told me that the fences are up. The next thing will be to clear the land further and start to identify the locations for the bee colonies before we transport and deploy them at the apiary. As usual my “bodyguard”, Yang accompanied me on this trip 🙂

This time round I had brought my farm Manager, Francis, to show him how I wanted to do up the bee farm. Francis had been with me for the last 2 years and so far he seems promising. The last 2 field operation staffs got fired because they were caught stealing honey from my farm, selling them and pocketing the sales proceeds themselves. In Uganda, one will have to be on their toes. If you slack in monitoring the people, they will try to be funny. This is one of the many challenges you face working in Africa. 🙂

Apiary main entrance.

Apiary main entrance.

Karl’s staff had done a great job with the fencing. It is made from eucalyptus poles coated with used engine oil and paint to prevent termites from eating on them. Eucalyptus trees are abundant in Uganda. It reproduces itself very quickly and there are no shortage. Its a good form of renewable energy.

Getting the roof up for the guest house.

Getting the roof up for the guest houses.

These guest house near completion.

These guest houses near completion.

Timothy Centre is busy getting the rest of buildings up. So far a few guest houses is underway so that the management / operation team will be relocated there to see things through.

Plot for honey refinery and training centre.

Plot for honey refinery and training centre.

Central store.

Central store.

Following closely will be the construction of the honey refinery and the training cum resource centre. The training centre will be used not only for training bee farmers, it will also be used for other agricultural activities. The main objective with the resource centre is to establish a basic test centre for testing the quality of the honey before we send samples to The University of Hohenheim for a more detailed Melissopalynology test. It will also be used to develop more by-products from honey farming for example, propolis, bee pollen and beeswax.

I guess the most important aspect of working in Uganda or any Africa or Third World Countries. one must be prepared to give your 100% to make sure the project will be a success and after which able to train the locals to take over the whole operation with you taking a backseat just overlooking the whole project. It is pointless to give so much to the community without giving a second thoughts of the repercussions of what will become of the project if fundings are stopped due to the economy crunches or we are no longer able to run the projects. With all the expensive equipment hanging around with no extra funds to maintain, it will then become “White Elephants” or be sold as scrap metals.

Identifying locations for the bee hives to be deployed.

Identifying locations for the bee hives to be deployed.

My working relationship with Timothy Centre is mutual and we shared the same philosophy. We believe by dumping money into a project and buying the most expensive equipment to make the place look glamorous is not the way to go. Becoming a comfortable and motivating place the Ugandans to work in is important but not becoming a haven where they think it is a place that they can simply take things for granted. Project must include entrepreneurial skills in order for the project to reach self sustainability at the shortest possible time. Timothy Centre is taking that step by complementing our private business solutions to the community. This way, the project will not have to rely only on donors funds……..for ever in order to keep the project going.

Recently I visited one project and the set up was fantastic! The equipment they used was like “WOW”! When I asked the in charge, when are they going to let the locals run, they told me that they are still waiting??? I was wondering are they waiting for the locals to run or are they still waiting for more funds. In fact, I don’t see much locals but too many volunteers from overseas. To me, I find that they are just babysitting the project. Once the overseas management leaves, I know the project will fall apart. The locals and the benefactors will never be able to blend themselves back into the society after being “pampered” by this wonderful lifestyles. Sometimes I wonder does the donors really know how the money were spent. They are doing a disservice instead.

Taking a break after the walk.

Taking a break after the walk.

I guess this happens everywhere. Donors just donate without first understanding what is on the ground or how the funds will be utilised. I recalled the recent incident in Singapore where a charitable Organization will perform stunts to entice the public to donate. Later it was found out that the people that are running the Organization is using the money otherwise.

I really hope these donors do look into their contributions so that they do not create an “economy” that is unrealistic for the benefactors. Once the Organizations leave, no one will buy their produce at that luxurious price because the real market will never pay that price. That will lead the farmers back to square one, crying out that there are no market for their produces after they had been taught to grow.

September 4, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Urban Beekeeping…………………….

The roof of the Grand Palais, Paris holds two bee hives. -- PHOTO: AFP

The roof of the Grand Palais, Paris holds two bee hives. -- PHOTO: AFP

PARIS – STRANGE as it may seem, bees get a better buzz from the urban Paris jungle than from the countryside. There are all sorts of flowers only short flights away, and little risk of death by pesticide.

Some live in penthouse hives atop historically prestigious monuments – the spectacular steel and glass domed Grand Palais exhibition hall by the banks of the Seine, for instance. ‘Honeybees are happy in town, they have everything they need,’ said Grand Palais director Sebastien de Gasquet.

Collecting pollen and nectar is no sweat with the Tuileries gardens lying only a short distance away, ‘not to mention the Grand Palais’ own flowerbeds’, he said.

The two beehives set on the edge of the building’s huge glass dome last May are rooms with a view of the Eiffel tower and Notre-Dame cathedral. Three or four extra hives are to be added to bring production up to half a ton of honey a year.

City bees, said Nicolas Geant, the beekeeper behind the Grand Palais scheme, nowadays produce four to five times more honey than their country cousins. ‘In agricultural areas you can produce around 10 to 20 kg of honey per year per hive while in cities you can get between 80 and 100 kg’ he said. And his idea of placing beehives at the Grand Palais – Paris’s Garnier Opera house has had its own beehives for years – is aimed at illustrating the paradox.

In rural areas close to farms, there are fewer and fewer hedges, trees and flowers. But in the city ‘there are a myriad of small flowers in parks and on balconies, as well as a wide variety of trees along streets and in public gardens – acacia, lime and chestnut trees – that are nectar to the bees.’ While Paris is polluted, notably from car exhaust fumes, ‘this bears no comparison with agricultural areas where pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers kill massive numbers of bees,’ he said.

France’s Union of Apiarists (UNAF) has signalled high mortality rates near corn, sunflower and rapeseed fields, while bee deaths across Europe have been 30 to 35 per cent higher than average since the 1980s thanks to a number of factors, including the use of pesticides.

‘There are practically no pesticides in the city,’ said Jean Lacube, the beekeeper in charge of eight hives at another Paris building in the city’s chic 7th district.

City bees also thrive in a town’s more temperate climate, he added, and are safe from attacks by the deadly Asian hornet that has decimated bees in the south-west part of France in previous years.

There are some 300 beehives in Paris, Mr Lacube said. ‘But beekeeping in a city is a luxury,’ he added. ‘Beekeeping should be in the countryside, the future is not in the cities.’ — AFP

Original Article – http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Lifestyle/Story/STIStory_417525.html

A few months back I posted this question in some forum regarding urban beekeeping in Singapore. Some of the replies were concerned about the danger of having bees around residential areas. Others feel that it is a good idea because the bee helps in pollination and its environmental friendly. On top of that with proper education and know how, one can have their own honey produce behind their backyard. Beekeeping in urban areas are very common in other parts of the World. Singapore has always been regarded as “A Garden City”. Can honeybees strive in this “Garden City”? What do you think?

August 16, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chiangmai University – Entomology Department…………………….

Was at the University beginning of this year conducting a feasibility study on rural beekeeping in Chiangdao, North of Chiangmai, Thailand. Here is a video footage while I was at the University observing some bees and having a discussion with the Professor. The honey bees they are using is a very docile species. Apis Mellifera Italiana. That is why it was not necessary for me to don on my beesuit. But when it comes to African bees, Apis Mellifera Scutellata, I will definitely have my suit put on with the veil flipped back. If they became aggressive, I will then fully cover myself.

July 25, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Otino-Waa, Our Children…………………….

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Karl and Arleen at Otino-Waa Bee Center

Development of the beekeeping resource centre at Timothy Centre is underway. In order for Karl and Arleen to have a better understanding on how the resource centre is going to be, I brought them to Otino-Waa in Lira. 4 years ago we did a honey farming project with this orphanage and the project was successfully implemented. Today Otino-Waa is producing EU quality honey for the market. Otino-Waa in Luo, means “Our Children”. The orphanage is run by an American couple, Bob and Carol Higgins, that has painstakenly built from ground zero a couple of years back. Now the place has turned into a haven for these lost children.

When I first met Bob and Carol 5 years ago, they came to my house with 12 kids aged between 14 to 17 and they wanted to learn how to start an apiary so that they can have honey produced from their own farm. We had a 6 days “Introduction to beekeeping” course which saw the children learning how to set up an apiary and getting acquainted with the bees. Of course there is Douglas, a 40 years old Ugandan who will be basically be in charge of these children when comes to the real management of the bee project in Otino-Waa. The orphanage now has 250 orphans from different parts of Northern Uganda. Some were rescued from the jungle when they were abducted by the “Lord Resistance Army” while others had lost both their parents from AIDS. There are some who were abandoned by young parents who left them at the hospitals or police stations.

Gift shop at Otino-Waa Orphanage,

Gift shop at Otino-Waa Orphanage,

Bob and Carol did a great job transforming these children from street kids and urchins into fine young boys and girls. The girls are learning home economics and tailoring while the boys embark on carpentry and catering and beekeeping.

Great effort were made by Carol to teach the children to be independent and self-reliant. This gift shop has become a talking piece in Lira. Most of the gifts, art and crafts were done by the orphans. Not forgetting the bee centre, The boys had harvested honey from the farm and were sold at the gift shop as well. In fact soon after the bee centre was setup, it has attracted bee farmers in the community to bring their honey to the centre to sell. Bob and Douglas will make sure that the farmers acquired the basic requirement of the quality they wanted. Those who are not familiar with the requirements will be taught on how to observe the quality parameters.

Bob showing Karl and Arleen the bee centre

Bob showing Karl and Arleen the bee centre

After having our lunch, Bob brought Karl and Arleen to visit the orphanage and the bee centre. The bee centre is Bob pride and joy. Every single brick layed and every drop of paint was his hardwork.

All the beesuits at the centre were made by the students in the tailoring department. We even saw some very innovative beesuit that Carol and the children had thought up. You can literally feel their sense of achievement when you hold the suit close to you. I felt so proud of them when I saw the development. It was just like yesterday when I agreed to train the children. 5 years on and it was a dream come true for Bob and Carol. Their determination and passion had paid off.

Tough times never last………….. tough people do. 🙂

Otino-Waa workshop

Otino-Waa workshop

I admire their philosophy in life. Although these children were deprived with a lot of things, Bob and Carol make sure that they are not spoon fed but given the right directions and way forward in becoming a good person. The moral education which they instilled into them is fantastic! Although they were given the best, but they also make sure that these children are not pampered to the extend that they cannot blend themselves back into the society when the time comes. A luxury once enjoyed, becomes a necessity.

All the fittings and furnitures were done in-house, with local materials. Nothing comes easy for them. This way, the children will then appreciate what they have because they have to work hard for it. There are still many in Uganda think that money falls from the sky. Many organizations made them think this way because of the way they splurge on them without understanding the repercussions.

Rattan hives made by the orphans.

Traditional method of beekeeping. Renewable energy. Palm tree trunks are a good source for making bee hives.

Being successful in projects do not mean that everything have to be most expensive or with the most modern and updated equipments. Take these local beehives made at the orphanage for example. They are very basic but yet, they produce results. In fact, the results from these hives are more positive than other modern beekeeping methods.

Karl and Arleen realised that Bob and Carol had so much in common. They shared the same philosophy. They were happy to see such a successful project being developed in the North. A new friendship had established and indeed, there are so much things we can learn from each other. Life experiences in Uganda is much more important than implementing own experiences based on the environment we grew up on.

*There are no strangers in our lives………..it is only friends that we have not met yet. 🙂

Bob and Carol’s project was so successful that U.S. Embassy recognized their hardwork and supported their work for the last three years. I am very proud of their success! 🙂

 

Community grant from US Embassy.

Community grant from U.S. Embassy.

July 8, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Uganda honey is very rich in minerals…………………….

After listening to Professor Horn’s explanation about the quality of Uganda honey, it really made me feel so glad that all my effort spent here are worth every minute of it! When I received the test report the other day, I discovered that the electrical conductivity for our honey is very high. So when I called Professor to clarify on the issue, he told me that this is a good indication for quality honey. Electrical conductivity reflects the amount of minerals found in the honey. The higher the electrical conductivity, the higher the minerals content. Minerals found in honey are usually Potassium, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Copper, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus and Sodium. The test result shows that Uganda honey has 100% MORE MINERALS THAN NORMAL BLOSSOM HONEY! One very important mineral present is Potassium. Health benefit of Potassium includes the fight against stroke, blood pressure, anxiety, stress, heart and kidney disorder, nervous system and muscular system. If one has any deficiency of any nutrient in our body, it will not be desirable. Potassium is one very vital nutrient. If a diet is lacking in potassium, the usual symptoms are weakness in muscles and fatigue. Lack of potassium will lead to inactive reflexes, anemia, irregular or abnormal heartbeat. People lacking in potassium will also lead to high blood pressure, intestinal pain, diabetes and swelling of glands. In this blog, I will touch on the health benefits of Potassium;

  • Stroke: Potassium plays an important role in keeping the working of brain in normal state. It is of great importance in preventing the occurrence of stroke in human brain. It is a fact that a person suffering from this dreadful disease may be found deficient in this essential body nutrient.
  • Low blood sugar: Decrease in potassium level causes a drop in blood sugar level. Decrease in blood sugar level causes sweating, headache, weakness, trembling and nervousness. Intake of potassium chloride and sodium provides immediate relief from such situation.
  • Muscle disorders: Potassium plays an important role in regular muscle contraction. Right concentration of potassium, is required for the regular contraction and relaxation of the muscle. Most of the potassium ions of the human body are present inside the muscle cells. It maintains muscle function and optimal nerve.
  • Cramps: Muscle cramps result due to low level of potassium in the blood, a condition called as hypokalemia. Intake of a honey rich in Potassium everyday prevents muscle cramp.
  • Brain function: Potassium channels play a key role in maintaining the electrical conductivity of brain and affect the brain function. It is also involved in higher brain function like memory and learning. In addition to it, serious ailments like epilepsy are related to the functioning of potassium channels.
  • Blood Pressure: Potassium is helpful in reversing the role of sodium in unbalancing the normal blood pressure. Thus, it acts as a vital component, which maintains the normality of blood pressure in human body. This further abolishes the possibilities of heart diseases and hypertension. Regulation of blood pressure is an important function of this mineral.
  • Anxiety and Stress: Potassium is of great importance for people suffering from undesirable mental states like anxiety and stress. It is considered as a perfect stress buster and thus it ensures efficient mental performance of human body.
  • Muscular Strength: This is in fact, one of the most appreciable benefits of potassium, as it ensures proper growth of muscle tissues and proper utilization of energy released during metabolism to add significant worth to muscular strength. The muscles, together with cardiac muscle, are prone to paralysis due to deficiency of potassium in diet.
  • Metabolism: It assists in metabolic process of various nutrients like fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Thus, potassium is of great value in extracting the energy out of nutrients consumed by man.
  • Heart and Kidney Disorders: The health benefits of potassium ensure good health for heart as well as kidneys. It plays an irreplaceable role in regulating the functions of potassium. Apart from this, this mineral assists kidneys to remove waste by the process of excretion. However, it is strictly advisable to consult your doctor to get recommendations about dosage.
  • Water Balance: Potassium has another significant role to play in maintaining the desirable water balance in human body. There are different types of cells, which require having proper water balance for proper functioning and potassium aids these cells in regulating this balance.
  • Electrolyte: Potassium plays the significant role as an electrolyte in human body. It helps in regulating the level of fluids in human body and thus performs a number of critical body functions.
  • Nervous System: Potassium helps in boosting the spirit of nerve reflexes to transmit message from one body part to another. This in turn helps in muscle contraction to perform various activities every day.

June 30, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal, honey, Honey Quality Control, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Some facts about honey consumption……………………

Went to open my letter box yesterday. The test report had arrived! 🙂 This evening I gave a call to Professor to thank him. We had a long talk about the report and the honey we had harvested. There are so many things one will never believe what we can find from this tests. Many people only knew about honey from salespeople telling them how good the honey is or whether your grandfather or grandmother used to take them. Too much of marketing hypes. If you really ask the salesperson what actually is inside the honey, they will never know. I recalled sometime back in Singapore, when I asked one of the salesperson whether the honey was harvested riped or unriped, she gave me that queer look. 😛 She simply brushed me off telling me that the honey are pure honey and my grandfather used to take them???? I was wondering how did she ever knew my grandfather? I didn’t even knew him.

As much as one knows about internet and googles, one can find tons and tons of general and common information about honey, cut and paste from one website to another. Having said that, you can find at supermarket, salespeople trying to sell their product as if theirs is the ultimate honey and a miracle wonder compared to the rest of the honey from other honey suppliers. Little did one realised that most of the honey are coming from the same source. Same product, different packaging.

From the scientific point of view, honey is simple sugar. It is more easily digestable compared to complex sugar. What is important are following questions one should ask when buying honey from the supermarket;

1) Is the honey pastuerised? Once honey is heated, all the nutritional properties are damaged, enzymes are destroyed.

2) Is the honey collected from bees that are treated with anti-biotics? Most of the commercial bee farm, the bees are infected with some form of viruses.

3) What are the percentage of anti-biotic contamination? Is it within the safe level. There are cases where the anti-biotics are spilled over into the honey.

4) How does one define pure honey/Organic honey/natural honey/raw honey? What are the difference? Many a times, I find honey branded “Organic” but do not have any Organic certifications.

5) What is riped and unriped honey? Good quality honey are honey that are ripe and has a moisture content of less than 20%.

6) How can one harvest so much wild “riped” honey from one country and sold at the supermarket in tons? Wild honey are usually honey harvested from a species of honeybees called, “Apis Dorsata”. They are also known as “The Himalayans bees” or “The Giant Honeybees”. They are normad bees and only colonised on one hugh honey comb, unlike the “Apis Meliferra” honey bees. “Apis Dorsata” will “eat” the honey back before they are ripen before they travel to another destination.

Apis Dorsata nest

Apis Dorsata nest

7) If one is selling “Wild Honey”, are they “Honey Hunting”? Are they killing the bees in order to acquire the honey? “Wild honey” are seldom ripe. Unripe honey has a higher moisture content and are usually sourish in taste. Fermentation takes place at a much faster rate. Usually you are advised to consume the honey within a short period of time. Ripe honey will not ferment and has no shelf-life.

8 ) What sort of floral are they honey derived from? Different floral has different character in taste and colour. It must coincide to confirm the country of origin.

9) Tracebility? Do you know exactly where your honey is coming from? Or the honey has been mixed from all over the world.

June 23, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, honey, honey byproduct, Honey Quality Control, raw honey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honey in Kampala…………………….

First part of the honey harvesting work is finally done! 🙂 Hurrah! The next part – getting the honey extracted from the combs begins tomorrow. The journey of the honey from Gulu to Kampala took 10 hrs. By the time it reached Kampala, it was 2358hrs. This time round we had 2 more guys helping out in the transferring of the honey from the truck to the store. It took us 1 hrs to transfer them.

Truck entering the compound.

Truck entering the compound.

Offloading starts.

Offloading of honey combs starts.

House girl helping out in the offloading. Ugandans have very strong necks.

House girl helping out in the offloading. Ugandans have very strong necks.

Honey buckets neatly stacked in the store.

Honey buckets neatly stacked in the store.

5 tons of honey neatly stacked.

5 tons of honey neatly stacked.

The morning after.

The morning after.

95% of all these honey were harvested from traditional log hives. Honey samples from this batch sent to Hohenheim for test has met EU honey quality parameters. Many young NGOs always feel that only modern honey farming is the way to go. I feel that they have to do more studies before they come to that conclusion. They are throwing away good money by not having a better understanding of this industry first.

All you can is all you can do, and all you can do is enough.

June 7, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Honey talk…………………….

A comb of honey still with the bees clinging on it.

A comb of honey still with the bees clinging on it.

Once in a while I would get some invitation to do talks on honey and bees. Last Wednesday, we had a small group of 10 families wanting to know more about bees and honey. It was more of a friendly get together with children running around waiting for the honey eating session.

Many people are still unaware how does honey looks like when it is still in the bee hive. So the night before the talk, I harvested 2 fresh combs for the folks to see.

When we arrived the next morning, most of the children were already sitting at the playground with their parents. I realized that this session would not be much of a talk but more of getting the children to see where does honey comes from and how does it look like before being sold at the supermarket. Anyway, it was a good start. The children enjoyed the honey and the parents were very appreciative and that was what matters most. 🙂

Showing a fresh comb of honey to the families.

Showing a fresh comb of honey to the families.

I remembered once a friend of mine from Singapore told me that when they asked some of the kids in Singapore where does the chicken come from, some gave the answers as, “coming from NTUC Supermarket”. I was even more surprised that some children doesn’t even know that chicken has feathers. Sometimes I wondered whether has modernization made us took a step backwards towards nature. My nephew grew up sitting in front of the computer 24/7 playing games. Playing marbles, catching spiders, flying kites are childhood activities long forgotten.

I am glad that parents now are making effort to find education materials related to nature to empower their children at an early age. These early childhood development activities are very healthy for them. Education are no longer confined to classrooms. Creative methods and techniques are deployed to make learning much more interesting and exciting. I am glad I am part of it. 🙂

Uganda has come a long way. With the Country experiencing peace and prosperity, with all these activities going, it is a sign that the society is ready to move forward and the thirst for knowledge had increased. In no time, I believe Uganda will be one of the most aspiring and affluent place to visit in Africa!
That brings me to an article which I found when I was here for the first time in 2001. It was titled, “The Africa Pearl” by Sir Winson Churchill. It goes like this;

Kids looking at how honey are kept by the bees in the beehive.

Kids looking at how honey are kept by the bees in the beehive.

The African Pearl

My Journey is at an end, the Tale is told and the reader who has followed so faithfully and so far has a right to ask what message I bring back. It can be stated in these words – concentrate upon Uganda

“But it is alive by its’ self. It is vital! And in my view in spite of its insects and its diseases. It ought in the course of time to become the most prosperous of all our East and Central African possessions and perhaps the “financial diving wheel of all this part of the world”

My counsel plainly is concentrate upon Uganda! Nowhere else in Africa will a little money go so far. Nowhere else will the results be more brilliant, more substantial or more rapidly realized.

Uganda is from end to end one “beautiful garden” where the” staple food” of the people grows almost without labour. Does it not sound like a paradise on earth?

It is “the pearl of Africa “

From my Africa Journey by Winston .S. Churchill 1908, Uganda

Where have all the honeybees gone?

Bee-u-tiful honey harvested from this beautiful garden for these beautiful children.

June 5, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, Honey Quality Control, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things are moving…………………….

Honey storage room at collection centre

Honey storage room at collection centre

Honey harvesting season is over! Since early March, the farmers had been busy with the harvesting and they saw all their hardwork paying off. Was up in Gulu last few days to finalized the paperwork for the honey to come to Kampala. Am very pleased with the harvest and this year’s operation. The farmers were very co-operative and were also glad that they had found another source of income to supplement their livelihood, especially able to pay school fees for their children.

I was chatting with some of the farmers and asked them what they intend to do with this extra source of income. Some are going to reinvest in more beehives so that come next year, they will have more production. More production means more income. Others are thinking of buying some chicks to start a small poultry farm producing eggs for their local market. When I heard these, I was very proud of them. How I wish readers can be there to see the smiles on their faces. 22 years of insurgency had made them so wanting to get out of poverty. The Acholis, (people from Gulu), are really hardworking and serious with their work. Our honey production had increased 20% compared to last year. Ugandans with these kind of attitude are worth supporting. These farmers really impressed me.

Honey ready for transfer

Honey ready for transfer

The best news of the day was receiving a call from Professor telling me that the honey samples harvested from this season, which was sent to the University in early April had met European Union Honey Standards requirements again. (a pat on the shoulder) 🙂

Beekeepers' paradise taking shape

Beekeepers paradise taking shape

Coming back to the collection centre, it’s taking shape and with this period having abundant rainfall, things are growing and the flowers and plants are developing nicely. Soon I will be able to stay there, saving money from staying in hotel and best of all, my great dane can travel with me.

The next task is to organize the whole lot to come to Kampala. Meanwhile, we have started packing for Shoprite Supermarket here in Kampala since I had brought a few buckets back with me during my last trip. The honey will be sold under “Kids Of Africa” brand. A portion of the proceeds will go to the orphanage.

"Kids of Africa" honey packed and ready for delivery for Shoprite Supermarket, Kampala

"Kids of Africa" honey packed and ready for delivery for Shoprite Supermarket, Kampala

May 31, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal, honey, honey harvest, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Timothy Centre – the next big project!…………………….

Carrying trial beehive to site.

Carrying trial beehive to site.

Honey season is over. I will be embarking on my next project – Timothy Centre in Masaka. Karl and I had known each other since 2005 and we had always been keeping in touch, discussing beekeeping.

When he was given the task to develop a girls’ school in Masaka, he approached me to see whether would I be interested to join force and start a beekeeping project at this new centre. This is exciting for me for it will be another challenge in Uganda. Honey will never be enough for me because of the demand I am facing. Many challenges awaits me and the most difficult challenge I have to face is to instill proper handling of bees and honey onto the farmers.

Timothy Centre is still at its infant stage and it is Karl and Arleen’s baby from now on. I hope with this apiary being setup, it will benefit all, including farmers around the centre. We will conduct beekeeping training for the farmers so that they will acquire another skill to improve their source of income.

Identifying a good spot to place the beehive.

Identifying a good spot to place the beehive.

Setting up an apiary is not that easy as it seems. There are a lot of preparation and also understanding the environment and surrounding. Once the apiary is properly sited, and when the bees colonized, it will be very difficult to change the location later on. Hopefully this trial beehive will enable us to do an analysis to see whether beekeeping is suitable here.

If it is successful, I can forsee that this beekeeping project could well be my biggest project ever in my 8 years stay here. We had some indepth brainstorming session and the developing ideas we had is really exciting. I shall keep our plans for the time being until everything is concrete and finalized.

It will take roughly about two weeks for this beehive to be colonized. If anything less than two weeks, it will be a bonus. Looking after a young colony is like looking after a baby. Much care and attention is needed if not they will abscorn and all your effort will be wasted. African bees are well known for their abscording rate but that is because not many really try to understand what’s the reason.
Siting the trial beehive.

Siting the trial beehive.

Ready to trap bees.

Ready to trap bees.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Extracting honey from honey combs…………………….

Honey harvesting season is coming to an end. To date, we have harvested about 2.5 tons of honey and would likely be able to hit our targeted 5 tons production by next week.

I’ve brought back a few hundred kilos of honey combs for the extraction of  honey. Comb honey are the best way to acquire from local farmers. This ensures that we can inspect the honey in its original form. Very often, traders who buy honey directly from farmers, will likely to have the honey adulterated with mollasses or diluted with water to increase the volume before they sell them. So buying liquid honey from these traders is not ideal.

Our company’s policy is that we only acquire our honey from the farmers that we trained in beekeeping.  The initial few harvest, farmers will extract the honey combs together with our beekeeping masters. A few more followups will be conducted to ensure that they handle the honey with our best practices recommendations. Afterwhich, these farmers will continue to harvest their honey independently with occassional observations by us. In order to make sure that the honey are still in its purest form, we only acquire raw honey combs from these farmers. We shall then process these honey combs back  in Kampala.

To ensure the quality and hygiene of the honey , we use simple honey presses to extract the honey. Farmers would however usually extract them using only their hands. Since Uganda Honey is only a small scale production line, two honey presses suffice to meet our honey production capacity . After pressing, the honey are then settled in tanks, (stainless steel tanks infront of the honey press), for a few weeks to allow any small particles of beeswax to rise to the top and removed. Meanwhile, these honey will have to await the test results from Germany before they are sold to our customers overseas.

A simple hand wounded honey press filled with honey combs

A simple hand wound honey press filled with honey combs

Ephriam pressing combs to extract honey

Ephriam pressing combs to extract honey

Francis pressing combs

Francis pressing combs

Liquid gold in motion

Liquid golden honey flowing

April 22, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, raw honey | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where the honey flows…………………….

After moving up and down Gulu for the last two weeks, finally we are able to take a break on Easter Sunday and Easter. I am very glad to see that the farmers had improved on their harvesting skills and the quality of the honey thus had improved too. Collected some honey sample so that we can put them on a trip to Germany for melissopalynology test again. Every batch of honey harvested, samples from different part of the village must be sent to The University to make sure that they conform to the  EU legislations in order for us to export them to the European Union. One important criteria for the test is to send comb honey instead of liquid honey. Comb honey is directly from the hive and it also prove that the honey is still in its original form and no heat is applied lest the combs melt. Another aspect is that comb honey also confirm that the honey has not been adulterated or mixed with honey from other parts of the world.

Honey beautifully harvested from traditional log hives.

Honey beautifully harvested from traditional african log bee hives.

Comb honey going to University of Hohenheim for test

Comb honey going to University of Hohenheim for test

April 12, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, honey, honey harvest, Honey Quality Control, raw honey | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The beauty of nature…………………….

7 weeks of concrete jungle and now I am back to true blue nature! 🙂 Going into the second year working with the bee farmers in Gulu. While traveling up to meet them, I had to stop to take this breath taking view, a beautiful tree with her branches spreading over a radius of nearly twenty metres. I just stood there and admired the tree. Thinking out loud, how this tree had seen twenty two years of insurgency and I believed she also felt the pain and suffering the villagers had gone thru. Now that Gulu is at peace once more, when I looked at this tree, it does gives me a sense of serenity, peace and tranquility.

The wonder of nature!

The wonder of nature!

Honey flow season had begun and we are preparing for the first harvest for the year. Odong, one of my beemaster and I went round a few villages last week to meet up with the bee farmers and refreshing them with some pointers on getting better quality honey thru proper handling of the bees and honey.

Getting ready for harvesting. Final briefing from beemaster.

Getting ready for harvesting. Final briefing from beemaster.

Farmers group at one of the apiary at Paicho district.

Farmers group at one of the apiary at Paicho district.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey | , , , , | Leave a comment

Homeward bound, dinner at Violet’s place

Tomorrow I am heading back to Uganda and will travel up North. The harvesting season had begun. Violet prepared a wonderful meal for us and we had a wonderful time after that. Violet is the Food Ambassador of Singapore. 

The lamb was so tender. It literally melt in your mouth.

The lamb was so tender. It literally melts in your mouth.

Spending quality time at Violet's place.

Spending quality time at Violet's place.

Sekaran having a nice chat with Belinda.

Sekaran having a nice chat with Belinda.

Honey from Uganda

Honey from Uganda

Violet frying the pancakes.

Violet frying the pancakes.

Pancakes taste good with my honey

Pancakes taste good with my honey

Uganda honey being used for the pancakes

Uganda honey being used for the pancakes

March 13, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal, honey, raw honey | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chiang Dao – feasibilty study (final part)

05/03/2009 – I was very lucky and the timing was so right that I was able to meet up with a very experienced Professor in Entomology from America at Chiangmai Univeristy. He is Professor Michael Burgett, Emeritus Professor of Entomology, Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University. He had been going to Chiangmai for the last 27 years, researching on mellifera and cerenas. His presence sped up my learning curve. In my course, I was contemplating whether should I introduce Api Cerena or Api Mellifera. Both have its advantages and disadvantages. After having a long discussion with him, we come to a conclusion that we should explore the possibility of introducing cerenas instead. Professor is also keen to explore the possibilty of using KTB, Kenya Top Bars, which I am using for my African Honeybees.

Michael Burgett, PhD and I

Michael Burgett, PhD and I

Api cerena, commonly known as “Jungle Honeybees” here, are easily available all over Chiang Dao. The advantage of this species is that the villagers can learn to trap them for free. Whereas for the mellifera species, they were introduced in Thailand sometime back and they are bred commercially. My main concern was, if the villagers were to start beekeeping, we have to look into the sustainability with the farmers. The cost of a starter pack of mellifera bees will cost the farmers between Bht1500 – Bht3000, depends on when they are buying them. If the sale is much closer to the honey flow season, which is around this time, the bee starter pack will be more expensive. We had a good lunch and bade goodbye before I set off back to Chiang Dao to start a “get-to-know” session with a few of the villager’s representative. They will then disseminate the information to the rest of the villagers. Its more productive this way. But anyway, The first message I sent across during the session was to let the farmers choose which type of bees they prefer to work with. This way they can decide what’s good for them.

Village representative gathering for the first "Get-to know" session.

Village representative gathering for the first "Get-to know" session.

Current type of beehive that are used by some of the villagers to collect honey.

Current type of beehive that are used by some of the villagers to collect honey.

Demonstrating on how to "bait" the beehive in order for the "jungle bees" to be attracted to it.

Demonstrating on how to "bait" the beehive in order for the "jungle bees" to be attracted to it.

March 7, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chiang Dao – feasibility study, part 2.

4/3/2009 – Made my first stop at Chiangmai University, Entomology Department, Faculty of Agriculture. Had a very good insight of the beekeeping industry, thanks to Assistant Professor Pichai Kongpitak. His passion for developing this industry in Thailand made me feel much more confident that if I were to start honey farming here, I will not be lost. 🙂

Entomology Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Chiangmai University

Entomology Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Chiangmai University

Professor Pichai Kongpitak and me.

Professor Pichai Kongpitak and me.

I had the privilege to be able to see some of his work.

Opening up a hive at the University.

Opening up a hive at the University. You might be wondering which is more dangerous and threatening, the bees or him behind me holding a chopper. 😛

Clearing the feeder to have a better view of the bees.

Clearing the feeder to have a better view of the bees.

Carefully raising up one frame to observe the behaviour and activities amongst the bees.

Carefully raising up one frame to observe the behaviour and activities amongst the bees.

This box contains all the brood. It is called "The Brood Chamber".

This box contains all the brood. It is called "The Brood Chamber".

Close up view of the observation hive at the University.

Close up view of the bees inside the observation hive at the University.

These bees are a healthy lot!

These bees are a healthy lot!

This part of my fact findings had given me more confident in crystalizing the direction for the bee farmers in Chiang Dao. The main issue lies in the sensitizing of the farmers and to guide them in making the correct decision for themselves. Let see what turn up next.

March 4, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Invitation to conduct feasibility study to set up beekeeping industry in Chiang Dao Province.

Finally I managed to get my hands on the right adaptor to power up my laptop and to surf after 3 days! Computer is so part and parcel of my life that I will suffer from withdrawal syndrome if I do not work on my computer. Anyway, this was really a sudden pleasant surprise for me to be invited to Chiang Dao (70km North of Chiang Mai). This could be a new journey for my beekeeping life. I am supposed to visit this province to explore on the viabilty in developing a beekeeping industry with the villagers.

Left Singapore for Thailand on 1st March. I had to postpone my trip back to Uganda till 15th March. As usual, landed in Thailand at 2035hrs and got stuck in traffic for about 2hrs before reaching my friend’s house at Charan Sanit.

Traffic jam (One night in Bangkok)

Traffic jam (One night in Bangkok)

Morning comes and we started off the 10hrs drive from Bangkok to Chiang Dao. To make the long trip an interesting one, we stopped at quite a few places for breaks and snacks and to experience some interesting happenings.

Stopping along the roadside for brunch

Stopping along the roadside for brunch

Snacks....snacks.....snacks...

Snacks....snacks.....snacks...

We passed Ayutharad and visited a model agricultural farm set up by the Queen to cater for the farmers. Villagers can come to this farm to learn more about agriculture.

Model agricultural farm for Thai farmers.

Model agricultural farm for Thai farmers.

Mushroom production hut

Mushroom production hut

Cultured mushroom

Cultured mushroom

We discovered we cannot stop anymore if not we will not be able to make it before midnight in Chiang Dao. Beautiful and smooth 10 hrs drive, not like Uganda roads.

Smooth road to Chiang Dao

Smooth road to Chiang Dao

03/03/09 – Today first visit is to a bee farmer who has about 100 beehives in Chiang Dao. He told me he deployed his colonies in Lampun, about 120km from his home. What we did was to inspect his bees in his garden and had a good discussion with him.

Thai beekeeper showing me his bees in his garden.

Thai beekeeper showing me his bees in his garden.

Slowly lifting up the ladies' veils

Slowly lifting up the ladies' veils

The ladies are comfortable with me now after knowing I meant no harm.

The ladies are comfortable with me now after knowing I meant no harm.

Getting a closer look to make sure they are in good health.

Getting a closer look to make sure they are in good health.

Arranging them back in place before closing up the hive

Arranging them back in place before closing up the hive

The italian species are definitely more sweet and gentle compared to their cousins, the African honeybees.

The Italian species are definitely more gentle in its behaviour compared to their cousins, the African honeybees.

March 3, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, honey | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Air Flown Uganda Honey to Zurich

Another batch of honey on its way to Zurich. Yeh! 🙂 Next honey harvesting season will be sometime late April and May.

Honey are packed in 25kg airtight bucket, air flown to Zurich

Honey are packed in 25kg airtight bucket, air flown to Zurich

Mixed Blossom Honey from Gulu, Northern Uganda.

Golden Blossom Honey from Gulu, Northern Uganda.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, honey | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Value adding…………………….

Product at airport

Uganda Honey Products at airport

Last week was kind of hectic. Needed to rush to the airport to do some adjustment on my products. By the way we have our honey products sold at the duty free shop at the Entebbe International Airport(EBB),  the principal international airport of Uganda .

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100% natural beewax candles on display at Entebbe International Airport

January 16, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, propolis | , , | Leave a comment

Traditional beekeeping in Uganda, Africa…………………….

Modern beekeeping had changed the way human interact with the honeybees. It’s sad to see man intervention on the way bees should live their life. So much so that the beautiful art of beekeeping and the natural way honey being produced were long forgotten. All over the world, a lot of good quality honey were being adulterated just to increase the volume to increase sales. Yet consumers just simply buy honey without even knowing what they are buying. What goes around, comes around. End of the day, it is us human will suffer the consequences if we do not pause a while and reflect what we had done to the honeybees.

But why the shortage of honey in the world demand? During my trip to South Africa in 2001 for a conference, there was already a world shortage of honey of 700,000 tons annually. And recent years the industry was faced with a “Colony Collapse Disorder”. Bees just simply flies out of their hives in the morning and never return. Where did they go? Nobody knows.

A very simple approach to the above equation is this; shortage of honey = shortage of bees. Period. If there is an opportunity to ask many commercial beekeepers, you will be able to know the answers. Hopefully they can pick up the courage to tell you what they do to the queen when they feel she is not productive anymore. How they mutilate her wings just to prevent her from ordering the whole colony to flee. I for one will feel so sad knowing how much they need to suffer to cater for humans.

Uganda is one of the last frontiers that the bees are still resilient to bee viruses. The honey that were harvested are indeed in its purest form, It is so much more rewarding to work inline with nature rather than working against it for man conveniences. Bees are handled in its own natural way, no destroying of unproductive queen, no mutilation of wings, no introduction of antibiotic or medication.

I know it is not easy to visit these kind of beekeeping especially in the Northern part of Uganda. I hope I can bring you closer to see traditional beekeeping with my blog.

Below you will be able to see one of my beekeeper working on a traditional hive. This traditional hive is made from natural rattan wooven together. The outer surface is covered with mud, Mother Earth. This natural way of keeping bees does give the bees a natural feel as if they had found an empty crevice in the wild. You can see the bees moving around the honey combs.

This traditonal bee hive is made from natural rattan wooven together. It is then covered with mud. The final touch to make this bee hive cool is to wrap it with dry leaves to reduce the heat from direct sunlight.

This traditional bee hive is made from natural rattan woven together. An eco-friendly beehive. It is covered with layer of mud for insulation purposes and finally wrap it with dry leaves to reduce the heat from direct sunlight.

This is a closeup view of the ripe honey ready forharvesting. The beekeeper had already pushed the bees gently forward to the front with a little bit of smoke.

This is a closeup view of the ripe honey ready for harvesting. The beekeeper had already pushed the bees gently forward to the front with a little bit of smoke.

Gently the farmer will cut the top part of each ripe comb and then using a very soft brush, brushing the bees away.

Gently the farmer will cut the top part of each ripe comb and then using a very soft brush, brushing the bees away.

One by one from the back, the bee keepers remove the ripe honey without aggrevating the bees or killing them.

One by one from the back, the bee keepers remove the ripe honey without aggravating the bees or killing them.

Usually the beekeeper would not take more than 7 combs per hive. The rest of the honey will be left behind for the bees to consume. A banana fibre cover is then used to cover the back.
Usually the beekeeper would not take more than 7 combs per hive. The rest of the honey will be left behind for the bees to consume. A banana fibre cover is then used to cover the back.

The next time when you visit a supermarket to look for honey, simply ask how the honey was harvested. Exactly where is the honey coming from. 🙂

January 12, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, honey, honey harvest, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

When paths cross, life can change…………………….

Last Sunday I felt so honoured to have been invited to lunch with Burkhard and family. My aquaintance with his brother Volker went way back in 2007 when he contacted me to help Kids of Africa, an orphanage in Uganda to set up a few bee hives at the farm. Their vision and plans for these orphans had made me open up my eyes and heart and to know that these kids are not alone.

Burkard and Volker did not just simply end their task by giving these children a home. They have even developed a long term journey for them to be independant when they have reach working life. Not only did they help these children to pursue their dreams academically, they have also catered for those who are more technically inclined. Within the compound, development process is already underway for a carpentry workshops, agriculture knowledge, animal husbandry and even an apiary where they can learn something that is close to their nature and culture. This way, these children will have an easier time to intergrate back into the society.

Since then our collaboration has evolved beyond Kids of Africa´s farm. Volker and his brother Burkhard have been acting as business angels to me in my honey projects. In return they are using my honey in their home country Switzerland to raise awareness about orphans in Uganda. Our common ambition is to create opportunities where there were none before – and to produce truely outstanding honey on a sustainable basis.”

True to their mission slogan, “WE ARE FAMILY”

They have indeed changed my life too!  I thank you.

www.kidsofafrica.com

Honey for Kids of Africa - Visit http://www.kidsofafrica.com

January 5, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal, honey | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honey in laboratory…………………….

Every batch of our honey harvested, samples were sent to University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany to be tested for EU quality. We make sure that the honey meets all the requirements before they are sold.

Honey queing up for testing

Honey queing up for testing

 

Our honey will then undergo Melissopalynology.  Melissopalynology is the study of Honey. By extension, it also includes the study of any pollen contained in honey as well as the pollen’s source. By studying the pollen in a sample of honey, it is possible to gain evidence of the geographical location and of the plants that the honey bees visited, although honey may also contain airborne pollens from anemophilous plants, spores, and dust due to attraction by the “Electrostatic” charge of bees.

Generally, melissopalynology is used to combat fraud and inaccurate labelling of honey. Information gained from the study of a given sample of honey (and pollen) is useful when substantiating claims of a particular source for the sample. Monofloral honey derived from one particular source plant may be more valuable than honey derived from many types of plants. The price of honey also varies according to the region from which it originates.

Our honey waiting in line to be tested.

Our honey waiting in line to be tested.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, honey, Honey Quality Control | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Extracting honey…………………….

Here you can see my collegue extracting honey from combs using a honey press. Honey in these form are as pure as they can be.

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p1080346

December 30, 2008 Posted by | apiculture, honey, honey harvest, Honey Processing | , , , , | 2 Comments

Waste not, want not………………..

After I had filter out the honey from the combs, there are bound to have some honey remain. What I normally do is to feed them to the bees in my garden. This way, little or no honey is wasted. The bees will benefit from these left overs. I will have my dry combs ready for processing to become candles later. Win-win.

December 27, 2008 Posted by | honey, honey byproduct | , | 1 Comment

How does one define a sustainable beekeeping project?…………………….

There are many people who want to help in alleviating poverty in third world countries. I know it is for a good cause. I admired that. Thus beekeeping is one of nature’s ways of providing a source of income opportunities for these farmers. Many Organizations will come in and give the villagers their entire high-end, expensive, complicated beekeeping equipments.

There are a few questions that always ponder in my mind. Is these kind of support sustainable? Is it really cost effective? Is it really that traditional beekeeping cannot sustain their livelihood. Is the honey produced from traditional beekeeping will be of bad quality like some always claimed? Is modernization of this industry the only way to go? Can the farmers keep up with the regular maintenance of the modern equipments?

All my honey are harvested from traditional beehives and yet they are still able to meet EU legislation when I sent them for testing in Germany. I wondered where did they get this idea that honey from traditional beehive will be of bad quality. All honey inside the beehive is good quality honey. The only time you get bad honey is when it is being harvested by the farmer without understanding the correct method of harvesting.

Recently I was reading some news about some NGOs giving funds and modern beehives again, (too many that I had lost count) for some communities and associations to start a modern beekeeping project because they feel that that is the way to move forward. In the article, they mentioned that bees are unlike poultry, where feeding is required. Bees find their own food. Is that really true? Has the Organization done any studies on this industry before helping to develop the industry? Have they really understood how the investment will lead to if the true picture is not visualized? Are they really sure that the initial investment can be recouped in one year and a farmer continues earning profits thereafter for more than 10 years, without additional capital investment or regular repairs of the beehives due to wear and tear? Are they painting a false picture that beekeeping is easy money? Will the farmers get disappointed if the whole thing turns out not to be what it seems?

Given the tough conditions of the environment, and the lack of good, precision carpentry equipments to produce the beehives, I really cannot see how the farmers are able to maintain the hives. Understanding where the farmers are coming from, in terms of the art of beekeeping passed down from generations, it will take a steep learning curve for them to handle bees in a modern langstroth beehive. It is not a one two-months kind of learning process. On the contrary, all the farmers that I am working with are so well versed with the traditional hives and the kenyan top bar hives.

I had worked with farmers with different types of beehives and langstroth is the only hive that they do not know how to handle the bees, especially the aggressiveness of the api melliferra scutellatas. In the article, the farmers were taught to put the langstroth beehive on a platform about two meters high! I was going…What!?? Langstroth two meters high above the ground? I wonder how are they going to inspect the honey chamber that is more than two meters high on a regular basis.

If the honey quality is not an issue, which I know, Lets us have a hypothetical scenerio to see the sustainability issue.

Cost of langstroth hive – Ush120,000

Honey harvested in a year as claimed –  25kg

Selling price of honey @ Ush4000 per kilo (as stated in the article) – Ush100,000

Gross loss for farmers for 1st year, excluding protective gears and other minor repair work of the beehive – Ush100,000 minus Ush120,000 = (Ush20,000). How can the farmer make profit in the first year?

Here is the cost of a traditional beehive investment….

Cost of traditional beehive – Ush5,000

Honey harvest in a year, according to my harvesting experience – 15kg

Selling price of honey @ Ush4,000 per kilo (using their statistic) – Ush60,000

Gross profit for farmers for 1st year, excluding protective gears and other minor repair work of the beehive – Ush60,000 minus Ush5,000 = Ush55,000.

Based on the cost of 10 langstroth beehive – Ush1,200,000, the farmer can acquire 240 traditional hive.

1 traditonal hive gives the farmer 15kg

Therefore for 240 hives, the farmer will get 240 X 15 X  Ush4000 = Ush14,400,000.

I do not forsee all 240 hives colonized and producing honey. If we were to go according to Pareto’s principle, we will only have 20% of the work force producing, thus giving the total production income of only Ush2,880,000 – Ush1,200,000(cost of 240 tradtional hives) = Ush1.680,000 per household. This figure is more realistic and achiveable.

If you were to multiply the cost of the number of traditional beehives the farmer can get out of one langstroth beehive, you will be able to see that the farmer will be able to sustain much better with traditional beehives. By the way, with the high cost of beehives, how many langstroth beehives does the farmer need in order to make beekeeping business a viable business? Provided that the farmers has a centre to extract the honey, I cannot see how the farmer is going the get the money to buy all the expensive extracting equipments to get the honey out.

African honeybees produce a lot of propolis and the chances of breakage of the langstroth frames due to the difficulty of prying it out is great. I use to have langstroths but it never work because the need of precision work on these frames is almost impossible. On top of that, the frames require stainless steel wires to hold the wax foundation onto the frame. The cost of stainless steel wires is so expensive here and you might not even be able to get it. So if they were to use normal wires, the honey will subject to contamination due to rusting of the wires.

Recycling the empty combs after extracting the honey is not a good idea because that will lead to contamination again. There is this possibility of fungus growth on the combs after they had been taken out from the hives. It does not save much time for the bees to build again.

In short, actual beekeeping is not as simple as it seems. There are lots of unseen factors that many chose not to recognise. I can only concur with the last paragraph in the article. It says many people have tried beekeeping but without the required knowledge, commitment. You need good preparation, training and constant advise. Like any other venture, you need to do it right to harvest right. Other than this paragraph, there are open-end questions. It’s more like the project will end when the paperwork ends.

December 26, 2008 Posted by | apiculture, honey harvest, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | 3 Comments

For better or for worst……for the bees…………………….

Api Mellifera Scutellata

Have you ever wonder what would happen to the bees if you and I or any beekeeper did not exist? Nature will have its way of making sure of their existence one way or another. Greed comes with destruction. I may sound esoteric, but yes I am a commercial beekeeper. I do make a living harvesting honey from these wonderful insects. And NO, I do not believe they require human intervention or modification with their way of lives to provide honey for us. All we can do is all we can do, and all we can do is enough. Maybe it was this journey of mine for the last 8 years that I saw too many bees sacrificing their lives in the name of eradicating poverty. It has become so fake! So much so that the joy of being in this industry is somehow marred by notion from Organizations claiming that they are making a better life for the people.

But they have forgotten some………….the bees. 😦

The meaning of beekeeping is to grasp the joy of the evening sun, walking towards your beehive, interacting very closely with what GOD has allow us to see – peaceful communal living amongst the bees. Trying to help us understand why we as humans have to succumb to discontentment.

But instead, we destroy nature’s way of putting all things in their correct prospective. AHBs did not asked to be in USA, it was we humans that brought them there in the name of science. So I guess we have to take responsibility in learning to live with them and not just destroy them.

I do not re queen my weak colonies, I let them decide how and when they want a new queen. they are their best judge. I can only say I will work doubly hard to make sure I go into the forest to trap more swarming bees for my apiaries.

I had been approached by some commercial beekeepers that this is not the way to produce more honey commercially, but still it all boils down to greed again. I am still happily producing enough honey for my customers without jeopardizing the lives of these insects.

I believe for any hobbyist beekeeper, the challenge should not be bothered by how much honey his or her colony can produce or how strong is the colony. The challenge is to watch how they grow and procreate, be it fast or slow. Having honey is a bonus for your tender loving care for them. And most important of all, how they live. 🙂

I would like to leave these few words for you to digest – Beekeeping…..for better or for worst……for the bees!

December 24, 2008 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, propolis | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

preparing refinery for next batch of honey…………………….

slowly but surely i am expanding my refinery. i am glad after all these years, people are beginning to appreciate the honey that we have. most of my customers now know how to identify good honey. many people are still looking for honey that are light and crystal clear. in europe, those who knows about honey will always go for honey that are cloudy. cloudy honey are rich in pollen. well anyway i have to get ready for April’s honey flow season now.

stainless steel honey tanks

Stainless steel honey tanks for honey refining

December 18, 2008 Posted by | apiculture, honey, honey harvest, raw honey | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

house cleaning…………………….

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Black gooey substances on top super of hive - Propolis

since half of the colony had left for a new home, i have decided to do some house cleaning. i need to reduce the size of the hive by taking away the top super. you see, bees are very sensible insects. if they discover that their home is too big for the family, they will look for another home that is suitable for their size. so since the colony had shrunk, i have to reduce the size of their home to make it more cosy for them. this way, the house bee will not complain of too much work less they will be stressed out soon.

Meanwhile can you see the black gooey substance that is sticking on the top of the beehive? well they are call “Propolis”. there are a lot of write ups about propolis when you google. you will be amazed by its potency in your findings. i collect these propolis and turn them into tintures, paste and cream. it fetches quite a high price in the market.

Propolis

December 3, 2008 Posted by | propolis | , | 1 Comment

honey in its purest form…………………….

honey in its purest form

honey harvesting is round the corner again. we will be preparing for the dry season to come in gulu. i have discovered a lot of people are into raw, pure honey nowadays. but in actual fact have you ever seen how pure, raw honey looks like? the above picture shows me holding a comb of honey that had just been pulled out from the bee hive. pure honey do not go thru any processing. we simply uncapped the wax that is sealing the honey. after which we will simply let the honey drip thru a filter over night. well this is honey in its purest form.

December 1, 2008 Posted by | bee hive, honey harvest, raw honey | , , | 1 Comment