Uganda Honey

Honey in its purest

Pioneers @ Kajjansi B.E.S.T……………………..

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!

Olivia Murphy

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

Louis Chua

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

Kasoma Brian

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

Michael MuprhyI 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

Faisal Muruhura

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

Dramiga Rashid

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

June 4, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Show me an African Queen…………………….

Observing their daily activities.

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.

Knowing now that the drone does not have a stinger, Olivia confidently held a drone with her bare hands.

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
..

June 1, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, honey byproduct, Honey Processing, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , | Leave a comment

B.E.S.T. at Kajjansi…………………….

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.

Michael calming the bees on a beautiful morning.

Lifting up a comb to inspect the activities of these ladies.

Olivia could never imagine that she literally held a comb of bees (bare hands) on her second day of training.

Louis slotting back the repaired comb.

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.

May 31, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , | Leave a comment

Training video…………………….

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?

April 14, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Processing, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Ambassador’s visit…………………….

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.

A short brief to prepare everyone what to expect before entering the apiary.

Rare sight for all of them. Up close and personal with the aggressive african honey bees for the US Embassy staffs.

Calm african honey bees.

Cool combinations...

Ambassador, bees and me.. 🙂

January 23, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

First group for 2011…………………….

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.

TC-BP1005

Participants were taught to overcome the fear by gradually letting them handle colonies of different strength progressively.

Fr. Stanislas

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.

Stan Burkey

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.

Muyomba Wilberforce

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.

William K Mugisha

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.


January 23, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Feedback from our participant…………………….

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.

November 17, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flying without wings…………………….

1st November 2010 – 6th November 2010.

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;

Michael O Doud (USA), "Hands on - very good - very practical & classroom instruction a very good blend of practical that tied well to the sharing of deeper aspects of beekeping. We were challenged to think for ourselves. The exposure to both the traditional bee hive and the modern hive experience".

Ndayishimiye Muhimpundu Georgette (Rwanda), "We did much practice about how to handle bees and understand the different methods applied for different hives. We were also taught to make use of the smoker correctly. The documentary on bee behavior was interesting. The teacher gave us many information and advice".

Devon Kuntzman (USA), "The ecology approach to beekeeping. Your ability to help us gain confidence. The hands on approach. Your enthusiasm. I would like it to be longer and spend more time handling the bees. I would be interested in attending more trainings".

Jayne Wick (USA), "The interactive aspect of lab/class "What did you see" - then explain the variety of situations and conditions. Thank you so very much".

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.

Bee-ain storming session.

Class TC-BP1004

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.

Identification cards for future honey traceability and beekeeper's performance tracking.

November 7, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charge of the “LIGHT” Brigade…………………….

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.

My beeswax candle warriors ready for market.

October 31, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another batch going Switzerland…………………….

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.

Uganda honey going places.

October 28, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, Beekeeping, honey, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

New range ready for Christmas…………………….

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.

All packed and ready for export.

October 23, 2010 Posted by | Beekeeping, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons turning into action…………………….

Last Friday morning, we visited some of our trainees to see how far had they gone with our training. It was indeed a very nice surprise when we met with Simon Peter and his family.

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.

Simon and wife, the beginning of a success story.

October 10, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Less is more…………………….

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.

 

A simple method of turning combs into beeswax.

 

 

Here is a smaller and simpler version of the solar wax melter.

 

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.

 

Beeswax turning into beautiful candles

 

 

A candle is born.

 

 

Candles before going on to the next stage, packaging for market.

 

October 10, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | 1 Comment

BEST Program exploring Malaysia………………..

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.

Proposed Bee Centre at Kampung Temasek, Ulu Tiram Malaysia

October 3, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , | 1 Comment

Transferring a colony in a badly rotten hive…………………….

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.

October 3, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Training on 5th July – 10th July 2010…………………….

5th July saw the second batch of trainees undergoing the program. The idea of having the interviews for selection before training was prudent because we saw serious farmers who were prepared to pay the price of hard work. If not we will not be able to see the results if committed farmers were not chosen.

The 6 days training also saw them spending most of the time in the field, hands-on. By the end of the training, we received very positive feedbacks especially having them recognizing the importance of real field experience rather than classroom lectures of honey farming throughout the course. We had a very interesting participant and we shall talk more about him later in the blog.

TCBP/1002

Our classes were kept to a maximum size of 12 and below. We do not want classes to be of any larger less it might cause stress to the bees if activities were to be conducted throughout the next 6 days. African bees are well known for its aggressive behaviour. The classes will not meet its objective if the farmers were unable to work on them when they turn aggressive.

The class started with the participants introducing themselves and sharing with all why did they decide to embark on beekeeping. This gesture is common here and I do find it is a good practice. It will somehow enable the participants to interact more freely and to share their experiences as we went along.

Different types of hives were shown to the farmers in order for them to have a better understanding.

Most farmers are still unaware of the different types of bee hives that can be used for honey farming. The course provides the insight of the history of beekeeping, the different methods applied in different parts of the World, the advantages and disadvantages of the various hives used. Most important of all the migration of honey hunting to honey farming.

One of the first topic that we had touched on was sustainable beekeeping. It is pointless if we would just simply teach them about beekeeping without them realizing how to keep the business sustainable. We need to instill in their thoughts that the most productive method is the method that will suit them best, in terms of financial and skills.

Beekeeping is a full time job. We have to change their mindset that beekeeping is not easy and simple. You don’t simply put beehives out in the field and wait for the honey flow season to starts. After which you go and collect the honey and sell. All these have to go. When there are no interaction with the bees, you will see zero results.

When the time comes for harvesting, they would find the colony so aggressive, so much so that instead of harvesting honey, they would destroy and kill all the bees before they can to get to the honey.

The fear of these insects was always there and the only method they knew were to approach them during the night with fire to avoid stings. That was what they were taught from their parents and grand parents. The end results – beautiful honey destroyed and contaminated during harvesting.

They were quite skeptical in the beginning when we told them they will be moving into the apiary in the afternoon. We will work on the bees in broad daylight. Some did not believe it. In order for them to accept the fact that beekeeping can be done during the day, we went down to the apiary and let them have a feel of the bees busy flying in and out of their hives.

Hives were neatly placed with short, trimmed grasses for easy mobility and management.

The following day, the team started early to begin their basic on apiary management. Previously some were taught that they were supposed to hide their beehives among tall grasses because bees loves to colonized in thick bushes. This is not true. In fact having all the tall grasses and thick bushes would hinder the mobility of the farmer. On top of that, farmers can even be injured or killed by snakes hiding or moving around. Thus we demonstrated why it is important to have a clean neat apiary for easy handling of the hives during apiary management.

Every batch will be taken to task to start an apiary from scratch. We allocated another part of the farm to have them clear the area to prepare the siting of their bee hives. This time round, they will be setting up 2 rattan hives, 4 Kenyan top bars and 1 log hive coming from Gulu.

After which, they were taught to bait all the hives before deploying them out into the field. Baiting is an important process for it will hasten the process of colonization. Many a times, farmers would use cassava flour or honey or even sugar, placed inside the hive to attract the bees. They did not realized that these items will also attract other insects like ants.

Below are some of the shots taken during the 6 days training.

Team were divided to work on different hives.

Karl's team working on Kenyan top bar.

The rattan hive was covered with dried banana leaf as waterproofing. A combination of natural substance which the bees like were introduced to entice a colony to come.

Rattan hive ready and in place.

Ssali inspecting a brood comb.

Traditional log hive made out of a palm tree.

One of the lesson, making rattan hives.

Rattan hives ready for coating.

Last day of training - harvesting honey during the day.

BEST bee farmers in Uganda.

Earlier in this blog, I mentioned that we had an interesting participant. his name is David Sengaali. He was born physically challenged. His left hand was born stunted but his determination of being a good beekeeper was admirable.

David preparing reed for the basic structure of his rattan hive.

David started beekeeping when he was 9 year old and got his skill of honey hunting through his grandparent. He would move around with them and other beekeepers in his village whenever they went for honey hunting. At the tender age of 9, he was fascinated by these insect and wanted to know more. Soon the desire to keep them was so strong that he started to build his own hive and caught bees in places like abandoned ant hill and hollow logs. He would then transfer them into his hives.

Soon village folks around came to know about his passion and they started to buy honey from him. Honey is like medicine to these villagers. With that little source of income, he managed to send himself to school.

25 years had past and now he makes his living by making bee hives, smokers and bee suit for Organizations. His passion had turned into a business for him.

He chanced upon our project 2 months back and was curious when he saw our apiary. He wanted to know more about our operation and approached Karl. When he heard that we are conducting training, he requested to join in so that he is able to increase his knowledge in beekeeping. My interaction with him found out that his knowledge in beekeeping was good. He does have potential in this trade. I will be monitoring him from now and I believe he will be a good candidate to be a future bee trainer under our wing.

Below is a video of him making his own rattan hive during the training.

Photos by Lesster Leow, Aug 7, 2010

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July 13, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, honey harvest, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , | 4 Comments

Official Birth of The 1st Beekeeping Training School in Uganda……………………

10 years of struggle, ups and downs, zillions of stings and understanding Uganda’s apiculture had seen us establishing the first school for beekeepers in Uganda. The long awaited beekeeping school had finally arrived! Home base is at TIMOTHY CENTRE, MASAKA.

Our school’s motto – “BEST” program – “BRINGING ECOLOGY AND SOCIETY TOGETHER”, defined our direction and the purpose of the setup of this school. We had seen too many bee farmers keeping bees without sparing a thought for these insects. Most bee farmers in Uganda are mainly honey hunters because not much emphasis were put on the well being of these bees. The long term detrimental effect of the decline of the bee population, unbalancing of the ecosystem was not taken into consideration. It’s about time beekeepers learn to appreciate the existence of the bees and understanding the positive impact when they co-habit alongside with them with the least disruption of their lifestyle. Honey farming can thus be done in a more humane way.

PIONEERS FOR THE “BEST” PROGRAM

First batch of trainees for the program. There were from Gulu district. Class conducted on 10th – 15th January 2010.

CLASS TCBP/1001

FEEDBACKS FROM THE TRAINEES DURING THE COURSE;

“I like the training on transporting bees and the way we can work on bees. My most important lesson was the way the trainer taught us on how we must handle the bees gently in order not to kill them unnecessarily. I have also benefited from the training in three ways – 1) How we must set our apiaries, 2) Working on the bees during day time. 3) How to handle the bees gently.” – Achuman Martin Odong

“What I like about the training was that it had given me technical ways of keeping honeybees. The most important lesson in the training was the calm handling of the bees. The training method was practical. I had benefited from the training a lot because I have discovered many different ways of beekeeping/management of which it will make me go back and make modern change in my bee farm.” – Odoki Thomas

“Gin ma omiyo aropwony ma pi medo ngec pipito kic. Pi miyo nge kit me kobo kic metero ne ipoto muken. it ma myeo ibed lorem kic. Ki ngec me kwoko poto obed maleng. Ber pa Lapwong nyutu pwonye itic. Anongo ber pwonye iyo meworo, a) weko itoto kic maleng, b) miyo kic pe bedo ger.” – Odong Julius Peter

The second batch of trainees coming for the course will be on 5th July to 10th July 2010. Slowly but surely we can see more bee farmers coming forward wanting to keep bees the proper way.

WHEN THERE ARE BEES, THERE WILL BE HONEY……

July 2, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | 1 Comment

You never knew…………………….

Yesterday I received an email from a trading Company in Singapore telling me that they are interested to carry our honey products to be marketed back in my homeland. I guessed they could had gotten my contact either from the web or had read an article somewhere regarding my work as a honey farmer here.

The first few questions she asked were, “How much is your honey? Is your honey pure? Is your honey real? I want your cheapest honey.”

If it was my former self, I would had taken it personally. How can she ask me all these questions without first doing her homework on the industry. She had not even understood what a beekeeper had to go through in order to have that clean jar of honey on the table. I was very surprised with myself that not only was I not offended with these questions thrown at me, and instead replied her with an earnest answer. There are no rights or wrongs with consumers asking that kind of questions. Its just because there are not enough information for the consumers to understand about this industry, especially honey farming in a third world country. I had to thank Violet Oon for that.

Violet shared her experiences as a professional in her work, dealing with all kinds of people from all walks of life. While we were discussing about how we are going to present Uganda honey back to Singapore, we touched on the competitiveness of our honey in comparison with the honey from other countries. My main concern was that Uganda has no regular shipment or flight back to Singapore and the cost of transportation will be an issue. What struck me was when she enlightened me on the different consumers’ needs and want. I began to empathize with the way the lady approached me with her questions. There are products that are meant for general public and there are products that only meant for those who knows and appreciate the values. Its not the end product but what kind of social impact the product had benefited the community during the course of development. I should be the one having to recognize which market is best suitable for my product. Once I can place the path correctly, I will get my direction right.

Coming back to the process of harvesting honey, the many challenges that the farmers had to face had never crossed the mind of the people around the table when that small teaspoon of honey was lifted off the jar. Two of the toughest but deadly challenges faced by the farmers are mentioned below. Personally I had encountered some of the snakes during my life as a bee farmer here. With GOD’s blessing and guidance, that is our only protection from grenades or land mines. You can find more informations and pictures regarding snakes here.

THE HIGH RISKS OF HONEY FARMING IN NORTHERN UGANDA.

1) For the last 22 years, Northern Uganda had been under insurgency by the Lord Resistance Army (LRA). Although the fight had ceased and they had left for Central Africa, there are still a lot of unexploded grenades and land mines lying around. To date, United Nation are still deploying mines experts to detect and detonate land mines. Villagers, especially children were still killed by these mine till today. Our bee farmers are like playing “Russian Roulette”. They will never know when they would step on one.

Warning signs were erected at many locations to remind villagers of the danger.

2) Venomous snakes occur throughout many regions in Uganda and are a threat to the people in the agriculture industry, especially in the rural areas where they are most abundant. Out of more than 3000 species of snakes in the world, some 600 are venomous and over 200 are considered to be medically important. There are two types of categories in venomous snakes. Uganda have 13 species.

CATEGORY 1: Highest medical importance

Definition: Highly venomous snakes that are common or widespread and cause numerous snakebites, resulting in high levels of morbidity, disability or mortality.

CATEGORY 2: Secondary medical importance

Definition: Highly venomous snakes capable of causing morbidity, disability or death, for which exact epidemiological or clinical data may be lacking; and/or are less frequently implicated (due to their activity cycles, behavior, habitat preferences or occurrence in areas remote to large human populations).

Africa has the highest number of venomous snake found. Uganda is no exception. Below are the types of snakes that can be found in Uganda and the chances of the bee farmers facing them during harvesting is high. Bee hives have a warm temperature of 35ÂșC and snakes love to hide inside the bee hives during raining or cold nights.

Black-necked spitting cobra.

African bush viper.

Ashe's spitting cobra.

Black mamba.

Boomslang.

East African Gaboon viper.

Egyptian cobra.

Forest cobra.

Forest vine (or twig) snake.

Gold's tree cobra.

Jameson's mamba.

Puff adder.

Rhinoceros viper.

Variable burrowing asp.

To the lady who wanted to import the honey, it’s just a matter of a day’s work, but to the farmers who wanted to sell their honey so that they can provide for their family, it’s a matter of life and death.

Bee farmers is Bushenyi, Western Uganda.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Winning Combination…………………….

Honey harvesting season is over! El Nino had confused the farmers as well as the bees. When it was supposed to rain, it shone and when its time to shine, it was raining cats and dogs. This season the farmers had difficulties in harvesting due to the erratic weather. But still the show must go on. The next few weeks will be consolidation of all the honey buckets from all the parish within the range of 60 kms, All these honey will arrive at the collection centre to be weigh. The farmers will get their payment once we had finalized the quantum.

Now that the honey season is over, we will be looking for other source of income for the villagers. Recently I had been in collaboration with a German friend of mine. He is into Shea butter production for EU market. We will be embarking on a joint co-operation so that our bee farmers and their wives can go into the forest to collect Shea nuts. It would be another good source of income for them. There is a whole demand for Shea butter now. Consumers are slowly appreciating the usefulness of Shea products. Its a good natural ingredient for cosmetic especially for skin.

With the combination of our honey and beeswax and his Shea butter, we will be developing our first range of product – lip balm and moisturizer. Meanwhile our 100% certified Organic Shea butter will be making its way to Asia later part of this year. The product will be available at our Singapore Office.

Final product - 100% Certified Organic Shea Butter.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bees @ Village of Hope…………………….

Over the weekend, I was invited to Village of Hope, in Masindi to assist in removing a colony of bees that had built its nest inside a rooftop of one of the building. The colony arrived at a bad time because Mike and his team were supposed to have the place fully operational by end of this coming week for inspection. Luckily the colony had been there for only about two weeks and they had not reached its full force yet. If not, it will be more difficult to handle them.

I was glad Mike did not chose the easy way out, which was to get a pest controller to terminate the colony. Life was already tough enough for these bees, we tried not to make it any tougher for them. If we were to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, we were actually intruding into their habitat. Although many felt that we humans are the most superior being amongst animal and insects, we should still stay humbled and learn to live with nature in a more peaceful way. What goes around, comes around.

Mike and Bosco getting to know the bees.

After dinner, we decided to let the bees get to know us. We had to do this at night for we need to wait for the foragers to return. In case we needed to transfer them down, we would not miss out the foragers.

When Bosco started to pry open the bottom plank of the roof, they started buzzing, showing their unhappiness. My initial plan was to see whether I could avoid using the smoker. Soon from trickling movement, I could sensed that they will pour themselves out within the next few seconds. Immediately we have to move back and activate plan B, using the smoker.

Smoking simulates forest fire. Bees fear forest fire. Smoking the bees is not as simple as it looks. One must fully understand why, when and how to introduce smoke to the bees. It will then be effective.

Too little smoke, there will be no effect on them. Too much smoke, they will turn aggressive. They will start flying in all directions, making it very difficult to contain them.

It took us about 20 minutes before we can proceed with the opening of the bottom panel.

The view was breathtaking! It was indeed a strong colony as they had already built up to 8 combs with some having brood while other having honey stored.

The smoke had calmed the bees.

The situation looked calm and we decided that we should not make things ugly by having to dislodge the colony. Moreover, we were not equipped with any empty hive to contain them and to relocate them if we were to bring them down.

So our plan of action was to destroy part of the combs, making them feel that this was no longer a safe place to stay anymore. They would find another location and leave this nest the next morning. Our main objective for this decision was that we do not want any confrontation resulting in casualties on both sides. Patience will make us arrive to an amicable solution.

Comes next morning, we went to observe the bees, they were very still. This shows that they were waiting for the queen’s instruction what to do next. Meanwhile Mike shared with me his plight, that he had a deadline to meet. We do not know know long before this colony will find another location to nest.

So we decided to help them hasten their decision by creating a bigger smoke just below the hive so that they have no choice but to abscond and leave the nest immediately.

Bosco ignited the drum of wood shavings, the smoke and heat started to rise. Within 10 minutes, the queen took flight, stopping at a nearby tree. The whole colony started to follow, forming a large dark cloud. The whole area was buzzing and bees were seen flying in all directions. Those who are not accustomed to this scene will tend to be wary of being attack by them. Usually they would not disturb anyone because they are focusing on joining their queen.

Mike and Bosco clearing the remaining combs.

By 10am, everything had quiet down with saw the colony clustering on the tree top. This was where we moved in to clear the remaining combs, painted it with wood varnish demolishing all traces of smells from a previous nest. No other colony will choose this location again.

My first impression of the village when I arrived was a, “YES”! I was impressed with the way things are developing if an orphanage was to take place. The feeling I got was very down to earth, very real. This beautiful family, Mike, Janelle and Jenna, had done a wonderful job, transforming a barren piece of wilderness into a productive, positive haven for these children to move ahead with their lives.

Having such a setup which is very close to the way life should be in Northern Uganda, the orphans are able to grow steadily physically, mentally and spiritually, not having that vast paradigm shift, not taking things for granted. They will learn how to appreciate the changes and opportunities given to them to start life afresh. I can say that the focus right now for the orphans is really their needs and not our wants. The need of a good home, the need of medical attentions, the need for proper education and the need to identify the importance of sustainability. I had seen one too many. Without that portion of self sustainability, projects will not last.

We chatted and had lunch on Sunday before I took off to Gulu to see my bee farmers. We shared many common objectives. Well done! Mike, Janelle and Jenna! 🙂

Bosco, The Douds and I.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bees and Akha Tribal Folks…………………….

Pabong-ngam.

As I was ascending up the winding road to meet the Akha hill tribe folks, these thoughts came to my mind. These small little insects have so much to contribute to the society and yet they had always been taken for granted. With everywhere going through urbanization, these little insects are finding it more and more difficult to call a place their own. Many people love honey, but somehow little or no attention is paid to the creator, honeybees.

There are more than 50,000 Akha people up in the hills and are scattered all around. The tribe that I visited was situated in Maechan Province, Patung District, Pabong-ngam, Chiang Rai. All these while, these folks had difficulty in making ends meet. Originally they had a head count of about 300 but many of the young people are slowly heading down to Chiang Rai main town to look for jobs, leaving the older folks trying to eke out a living through agriculture.

Benz with the village children.

Benz came from this village and she was given permission by her parents to be sent to a missionary school at an early age. She had finished her higher education and now she wanted to contribute back to her village.

She told me that many of the young girls had already gone into the flesh trade because of poverty. There was one parent that literally sold their daughter to the flesh industry for Baht 10,000 (S$450). To them the amount is huge.

When Raymond and Koong mentioned my feasibilty trip to North to her, she was very keen to introduce her village to me, to see in what way the village can benefit from keeping bees.

I told her that there are many factors to look into before one can embark on beekeeping. I need to understand the culture of the people and their reception to bees. Many Christian Organizations are helping the village folks and I do not want to be misunderstood as a businessman trying to come in to exploit the people. This is a very sensitive issue. All of us are doing God’s work. Sometimes I just feel that these Organization should have the heart big enough to open up for discussions rather than setting their directions too stringent, not trying to expand their entrepreneurial skills by interacting with others. I fully understood their good intentions of protecting the people from harm, but sustainability is of paramount in order to see them being able to survive without that constant financial help.

Village pastor and leaders showing us the beauty of the surrounding.

Before the visit, we had a brief discussion with an American Pastor that had been in Chiang Mai for 16 years. He told me they had embarked on many projects, ranging from chicken farming, cattle rearing to fish farming. All failed. Sensitizing these villagers to proper farming is good. I believed additional skill like value adding and marketing play an important role as well. I know every Country has its own sets of problems. I have to prepare to face it if I have decided to move ahead with my plans.

Coming back to beekeeping, I had observed the vegetation and I am pretty sure these folks will have no problem to start bee farms around the hills. The situation and scenerio is quite similar to Uganda. What they are lacking is the knowledge in keeping the bees. In fact in our tour, I had seen a few farmers already keeping bees, but that is only meant for their own consumption.

Apis cerena (cave bees) were kept in tree log, just like in Northern Uganda.

I spoke to one of the farmer and he described to me how he harvest the honey from the hives when it was due. I was tickled when he told me how he had to bear with the stings in order to get to the honey. 🙂

Honey farming contributes to a large portion of poverty alleviation in most part of Third World Countries.

When Raymond and Koong told me about the Akha tribes, It will be a good experience for me too and to share my experience with them. I felt something can be done if they are ready.

Future of Akha.

March 5, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Partners in Singapore for Uganda Honey……………………

After landing back in Singapore and after a week of break, my marketing drive began. The first stop was meeting up with Violet to finalize the way forward in promoting Uganda Honey into the market. The discussion went well and soon Singaporeans will be able to buy our honey at all Violet Oon’s outlet.

Uganda honey will be available at all Violet Oon's Kitchen Singapore outlet in mid 2010.

February 10, 2010 Posted by | beekeeping journal, honey byproduct, Honey Quality Control, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“BEST” Program @ Timothy Centre…………………….

BEEKEEPING for ECOLOGICAL, SOCIAL and TECHNOLOGICAL program. This is what BEST stands for.

TOP GUNS - Training the trainers.

Finally, all the hives are in place at Timothy Centre and the apiary is now fully operational. Last week we saw the first team of farmers embarking on our “BEST” program. They will be the first batch of trainees to be appointed as trainers when the program goes full throttle.

These 6 bee masters had been working with us for the last 3 years in the North and they were selected for their performance and dedication to beekeeping.

With the grant given by US Embassy, we make sure that only genuine bee farmer who has the desire to embark on beekeeping as a source of income generating activity, will be given priority to benefit from it. In this way, the grant would then be utilized properly and productively. Years and years of research, trial and errors from Organizations had shown that if you were to ask any farmer who wants to go into beekeeping, every single farmer would raise their hands. All they wanted is just to ride on the free benefit, get whatever equipments they can get hold of, after which whether they make use of it or not, nobody cares. Worst case scenario, they would sell it just to make a little bit of money to go to town and buy themselves a beer.

Here at Timothy Centre, we are going to make that difference. There will be no free rides but only genuine, dedicated beekeepers who are willing to part take in our “Entrepreneurial Skills” program. These farmers have to fully understand the whole idea of being a self employed rather than a recipient. On performance based, interviews and on site visits to their existing operations will be conducted before enrollment. The farmers will be accessed based on our findings. This way, we will then be able to maintain the quality in all areas. Without neglecting the social base (social), our 26 modules allow some would-be farmers who are serious and wants to try out on honey farming, can still enroll in our basic beekeeping courses. In order not to let these farmers taking this opportunity for granted, and due to their low income capacity, they have to play their part by contributing back to the Centre in kinds, for example collecting of firewoods for the school, assist in maintaining the model apiary occasionally and others not in monetary form.

Participants were trained at my place to overcome the fear of African Honey Bees before proceeding to TC. (Do not try this at home)

“BEST” program emphasis not only on honey production alone. The three other aspects are equally important. Farmers will be trained on how to handle African bees effectively and gently, overcoming the fear of its natural aggressiveness. This is the first hurdle in becoming a good beekeeper. A beekeeper will not be considered a good beekeeper if the harvest consist of a bucket filled with dead bees. That is honey hunting.

The fundamental understanding is to accept the philosophy on how to work with nature rather than against it. (ecological)

Through generations and knowledge passed from one farmer to another, most of the harvesting were done in the night because of the fear, because of its aggressiveness. Very few beekeepers had seen the inside of a beehive in broad daylight. It will be a paradigm shift for them with this kind of practice.

During our last day before we round up the lessons, we had our evaluation. I came to realized that one of them who had attended my talk 3 years ago did not believe that we can harvest or perform any activities during the day. These short 6 days of training had totally changed his views on beekeeping methods.

The other interesting findings for them was that beekeeping is done in a very clean clear environment. All these while, they were taught that bee hives should be hidden amongst tall bushes, away from prying eyes. This has got to change. What they saw at the Centre was a total culture shock to them. Beehives were neatly arranged in order within a few meters apart from each other, not like theirs which some were placed a few hundred meters away.

Our “BEST” program encompasses different types of beehives, from traditional log hives to KTB to modern langstroth. Farmers will be able to identify the different method of beekeeping and can choose which form of beekeeping best suit them. With this direction, smooth transition from traditional beekeeping to modern methods of beekeeping (technological) will still be in place.

Apiary well trimmed.

The first lesson for them was apiary management. They did a fine job converting the whole apiary into a bees’ paradise.

Moving colonies.

Among the 6, 3 of them were their first time out of GULU. After the insurgency, they had never visited other parts of Uganda. I could see the excitement and joy in their eyes that they are going to bring back lots of stories for their children when they return.

We believe all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In recognition for their great effort in making it all the way from GULU, we decided to let them enjoy a piece of their homeland, Uganda. 🙂

Awaiting for their well deserved meal at a local world cup crazy restaurant.

The Equator - Icon of Uganda.

Timothy Centre in co-operation with Little Honey Man. 🙂

January 16, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Quality Control, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , | Leave a comment

Contribution to World Food Chain…………………….

Julius and Martin.

Julius and Martin are my bee masters from Gulu. My work of sharing the importance of having to produce quality honey does not stop at the village. I will make effort to bring the leaders down occasionally to Kampala to show and explain why we need to pursue excellence in what we are doing.

Before I came, keeping bees in the the North is just to produce enough honey for their own consumption and many did not realized that it can be an income generating activity.

Bringing them to the city will somehow motivate them to realize the potential and many aspect of moving forward after being in insurgency for so many year, thinking that there is little or no hope for their future generations.

I had been working with them for three years now and I do feel their sense of wanting to progress. What amazed me was the speed in which they picked up the skill from honey hunting to honey farming.

Proud to have their honey certified, packed and sold at the largest supermarket (Shoprite) in Kampala. At the same time, in support of an Orphanage (Kids of Africa) paying forward for the future generations.

Once that is achieved, they are able to pat themselves on their shoulders and showing the world that they can also be part of the world food chain by producing high quality honey for the world to embrace.

Their trip to the city this time included a short session on how to transfer bees from one location to another. According to them, this is the first time in Uganda beekeeping history that they are able to learn how to do that. They had done short distance transfer but never in their life ever thought that we can transfer bees 120km apart.

They first learn to observe the temperament of the bees before handling them.

They will be part of the team to transfer the colonies to Timothy Centre within the next 3 weeks. It seems that we are unable to fulfill my planned schedule of completing the task before Christmas. Anyhow, the show must go on.

Timothy Centre will be the FIRST-ONE-OF-ITS-KIND apiary in Uganda where bee farmers coming for training will be able to understand the different kinds and methods of beekeeping around the world. They will then be able to fully understand what sort of method best suits them. Rather than just having to listen to others, always thinking that the most expensive and modern hives is the way to go.

Sealing the hives before transportation.

For the time being hives that are going to be deployed at the Centre will be the Traditional Log Hives, Rattan Hives, Kenyan Top Bars and the Langstroths. Timothy Centre will also serves as an information Centre where NGOs who have beekeeping projects, wanting to introduce it as part of their curriculum, to have a better understanding on the way forward in initiating it to their farmers.

Packed and ready to go.

Modernization of beekeeping industry in the North takes time. The current situation requires a lot of effort, especially apiary management. Why the need for these farmers to learn how to relocate hives is that most of the hives were placed in an awkward position where it is so difficult to work on them safely and gently. Others had their beehives located too far apart between every hives, making it time consuming for farmers to work on them.

Taking a quick break to have a shot to show their fellow village folks back home of their adventure. 🙂

Our findings for the honey industry here is this – there is no such thing as whether modern bee hives produces better, higher quality honey compared to traditional log hives. All nectar collected from the bees and being converted to honey are good quality honey. It is the process of how the farmer approach the hive, handle the bees and extracting the combs. Most of our honey harvested are from the traditional log hives and yet they are able to meet EU honey legislations.

Bee hives arriving at Timothy Centre apiary.

The other misconception about beekeeping in Uganda is that farmers were being told that it is one of the simplest form of income generating activity. They simply place a modern beehive on a tree, just wait for the bees to come and deposit honey and collect them during harvesting season. So many quickly jump onto the band wagon but later realized that it was not true, Finally giving it up totally losing their hard earned money to those who sold them the idea.

Too many hypes on modernization but little emphasis on sustainability.

Julius and Martin with the team from Timothy Centre.

Two new neighbours for Timothy Centre apiary.

Julius, 68 and Martin, 45, and the other 300 farmers that I am working with do faced many obstacles but somehow we are determined to face them one at a time.

The only time we failed is the last time we tried. We have not try the last time yet. 🙂

December 21, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, honey harvest, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Back to work…………………….

Three weeks with Jonathan passed by in a flash. Today we started to pick up where we had left off before he came. It rained quite a bit in the morning and our schedule was delayed a little. All the hives were soaking wet when we loaded them on the truck. Hopefully we are able to complete our work before Christmas and spend a relaxing festive season. Francis will be escorting the bee hives to Timothy Centre. Tomorrow he is getting married.

Packing beehives into truck to be deployed at Timothy Centre.

Off to Timothy Center, Masaka.

December 12, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, propolis, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First squadron takes off………………..

After a week of rest, we went back to organize our first colony of bees for our relocation exercise. The process is tedious but it is better to be safe than sorry. The colony will be placed in a bee proof cage for double protection. The bee hive itself will also be sealed except a small portion which we will only cover it with wire mesh.

All this were being done the night before because we have to wait for the foragers to come back. If not, when morning comes, some of the foragers will be left behind. We try to relocate the whole colony if possible.

It will be a slow two and a half hours drive from Kampala to Masaka. Setting off at 5am, hopefully with no traffic jams, reaching Timothy Centre by 9am. We have to abide to the schedule in order that we can quickly release the bees when we reach our destination.

pic1

Francis preparing to seal the top part of the hive.

pic2

Any gap that is more than 49mm must be sealed. If not the bees will escape.

pic3

We leave the last few bars free from tapes so that the bees can breathe through it. A fine wire mesh is place instead.

pic4

Wire mesh neatly covering the last few bars.

pic5

Francis is pleased that the whole process was done without aggravating the bees.

pic6

The colony is going to spend a night in my car.

pic7

Preparing to place the beehive inside the bee-proof cage.

pic9

Helmut came to assist while I was taking all these photos.

pic10

Colony safely inside my car.

The next morning at 5am, the journey starts. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic. We need to get out of town as quickly as possible just in case if there were any mishap or the bees somehow escape. We will then be endangering the public. Keeping our fingers crossed all the way.

pic11

Reached Timothy Centre around 9am. A black cloth is used to cover the cage to reduce the light from entering the hive. The bees will then be less active, less stressed.

pic13

Karl and his staffs were already waiting for our arrival.

pic14

The bees are going to their new home.

pic16

Timothy Centre bees haven.

pic17

The colony has reached its destination.

pic18

The bees are settling in for now.

Due to the aggressive nature of Api Mellifera Scutellata, relocation of these species, great care must be taken. One cannot slack in any of the procedure. Most important aspect when handling these bees is to minimize as much direct contact with them. The amount of smoke being introduced must be just right. Many Ugandan bee farmers are still having this idea of smoking too much, thus aggravating and suffocating the bees.

Once the bees are settled in, we release them. As for the tapes, we shall remove them as we perform our regular hive management. We do not remove all the tapes immediately, if not we will experience the whole colony pouring out, attacking anything within 100m.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 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

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

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

Interesting findings about CCD…………………….

Read an article the other day regarding the problem with “Colony Collapse Disorder” where the honeybees simply vanished from the surface of the Earth. Scientists had came out wth some findings. It has to do with the way modern honey farming are done. Modern honey farming recycle the honeycombs. Now the scientist found traces of pesticides residue that were remained in the combs. This is a very interesting point to look at. Slowly bee farmers around the World are taking effort to understand traditional way of beekeeping.

Below is an extract of the article,

“Scientists Untangle Multiple Causes of Bee Colony Disorder PULLMAN, Washington, July 29, 2009 (ENS) — A microscopic pathogen and pesticides embedded in old honeycombs are two major contributors to the bee disease known as colony collapse disorder, which has wiped out thousands of beehives throughout the United States and Europe over the past three years, new research at Washington State University has confirmed. Working on the project funded in part by regional beekeepers and WSU’s Agricultural Research Center, entomology professor Steve Sheppard and his team have narrowed the list of potential causes for colony collapse disorder. “One of the first things we looked at was the pesticide levels in the wax of older honeycombs,………….”

Here is the full article;

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jul2009/2009-07-29-094.asp

August 10, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, 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

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

It’s colonized!…………………….

Two weeks ago, we placed a test/trial beehive at Timothy Centre [see post] to see how good is the proposed land to start the apiary. Usually setting up a single beehive to trap the bees is the first thing to do. We will observe the trial hive to see whether the place is suitable for beekeeping. Yesterday afternoon, I received a call from Karl. He told me the hive was colonized  on the same morning. He was very excited because he witnessed the colonizing process. The process is breathtaking. You can literally see the whole colony following the queen into the beehive. The photo below was sent to me by Karl after the bees had settled in.

The next move is to visit the hive at Timothy Centre to assess the strength of the colony to decide what is the way forward.

Trial / test hive at Timothy Centre

Trial / test hive at Timothy Centre

Closer view of the hive with a new colony.

Closer view of the hive with a new colony.

May 10, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Hear It for the Bees

LEON KREITZMAN reported on some very fascinating facts about honeybees in Let’s Hear It for Bees, in The Wild Side on NYTimes.com

Here’s an extract 

We have been exploiting honeybees for thousands of years by systematically robbing them of their honey. The least we can do is take proper care of these wondrous creatures. Instead we are killing them off in their billions through our befouling of their environment. The honeybee brain has only a million or so neurons, several orders of magnitude less than ours. It is a moot point as to whether humans or honeybees make the best use of their neuronalresource.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, 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

Is Life Too Hard for Honeybees?

Scientific American has a very interesting section and in-depth reports about honey bees.

 

HARD-WORKING HONEYBEE: A mysterious ailment has been afflicting honeybees, responsible for pollinating many commercial crops.

HARD-WORKING HONEYBEE: A mysterious ailment has been afflicting honeybees, responsible for pollinating many commercial crops.

 

 

In Urban Beekeepers Keep Cities Abuzz with Pollinators . by Katherine Harmon,

Paris, San Francisco, Toronto, Chicago. These cosmopolitan cities hardly conjure up the bucolic image of an ideal home for honeybees. But to millions of busy bees, they’re just that. Whereas large-scale commercial beekeepers are busy trucking hives from state to state to pollinate crops, city-dwellers are learning a thing or two about home-raised honey. Bees are being cultivated on roofs everywhere from the Paris Opera House to Chicago’s City Hall.

In Is Life Too Hard for Honeybees? by Wendy Lyons Sunshine   

Commercial honeybees are tough. They get trucked cross-country to pollinate vast crops, often while fed unnatural diets such as sugar water and soy flour. Their hives are treated with chemicals to deter parasites, and they’re exposed to pesticides and fungicides in the fields where they work and feed.

In Bee and Flower Diversity Decline in Tandem  by  David Biello   

The field scabious is a multipetaled blue–sometimes purple–ball of a flower. It provides sustenance to a host of pollinators, but one bee–the scabious bee, or Andrena hattorfiana–relies exclusively on the plant’s bounty to feed her young. Such specialized matches are common for bees, whose size, shape, range and even breeding schedule can be influenced by the lifestyle of the paired plant. Now a new study shows that such bees and the plants that sustain them are declining in tandem–for reasons unknown.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inefficiencies, low capacity cripple Uganda honey industry

An insightful article on Uganda Daily Monitor by Dorothy Nakaweesi on 9th February told the plight of the Uganda Honey beekeepers;

Here are a few excerpts,

Inefficiencies in honey supply chain, low capacity of producers to understand and negotiate markets, have continued to deny Uganda the opportunity to achieve its full potential in bringing income benefits to the poor.

Currently Uganda produces 3, 000 tonnes only but it has a capacity to produce over 200,000 tonnes if all issues are put together. 

“However often many of the beekeepers receiving handouts from donors were not properly trained to be able to manage their apiaries or even harvest honey on their own. The denoted equipment was also left unattended and eventually destroyed by fire, weather, and termites or vandalized,”

Local hives have proved to be profitable than frame hive beekeeping and overlooking this fact has the opposite effect to the development of apiculture sector in Uganda.

“Commercialisation therefore is about being efficient cost –effective and raising income to alleviate poverty to many and has nothing to do with hive types. Therefore it is necessary to focus training on honey harvesting and handling rather than trying to transform beekeepers from using the local hives to frame-hive beekeepers,” the report said.

For the full article, please visit The Daily Monitor 

The issues illustrated in the article was discussed previsouly in the entry Defining sustainable beekeeping.

February 22, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, honey harvest, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honey bees on Fire! by Attention Span Media

Was running thru some youtube video and I chanced upon this interesting upload. It really speaks about the seriousness the disapperance of the honeybees can lead to.

Here’s a transcript of the video.

Intro: The humble Honeybee is a vital component in the $14bn-worth of US agriculture.

Recently, they have been disappearing in droves …

A: The disappearance of western honeybees colonies began in late 2006. Now, its rampant.

B: Where have all the bees gone and why does it matter?

C: Tens of millions of my friends are missing. Are they dead? I dunno no. I hope not.

A: We polinate 80% of the world’s plants. Thats worth it.

B: If bees die, humans die.

C: Maybe you of my little situation, Well, now its our situation hommes!

A: We make honey, wax, propolis.

B: One bee is no bee.

C: If i cant find my queen or my hive soon, I’m DEAD! DEAD! I dun wan that!

A: We are symbols of immortality and resurreection.

C: Humans thinks that it might be cellphones, it might be nicotine and insecticides.  Well they better figure it out!

A: Dwindle disease, colony collapse disorder, is really acute paralysis virus. Dun be dumped.

B: The Mayans predicted the world will end the year your loard is 2012.  Einstein warned that if bees die, plants die, animals die, humans die, all within 4 years. Is it a coincidence that 4 years from now is 2012? (Unsubstantiated Claim)

C: Your are so afraid of the killer bees….!! What did the killer bees ever do? Killer bees aint done nothingThe honeybee is gonna rack house. What is afraid of us now?

A: My name is April

B: My name is Frank

C: My name is Benson

Together: And I’m a missing bee!

A: Find Me!

B: Find Me!

C: Find Me! I dare you.

Credit: Attention Span Media

 

Original Source: http://attentionspanmedia.com/asmblog/2008/07/15/honey-bees-on-fire/

February 11, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spare a thought for this little insect…………………….

Earlier this evening I had a wonderful dinner in a restaurant but was dampened by this family who was sitting next to my table. I guess the son was about 6 years old. There was this jar of honey on their table and the child was smearing it all over the food, wasting it. The parents did nothing. My heart sank! 😩 . I felt so sad for the bees. Throughout their lifetime, which is only around 45 to 60 days, a worker honeybee is only able to collect half a teaspoon of honey. If one has ever been out into the field and watch how the bees collect nectar for rainy days, I believe the whole mindset of appreciating honey will change. I can only blame myself for not being able to reach out to as many people as possible to share with them what tough times these bees are going through right now.

This brought me to this article my friend showed me a few days back, Low Tech Treatment for a Bee Plague by Arron Hirsh. It’s related to a very serious issue the honey industry is facing……..COLONY COLLASPE DISORDER! If you do not know what it is, it’s about honeybees disappearing from the surface of the earth without any traces or reasons. So far what we have are only theories.

Here’s an extract;

Last winter, over a third of the honeybee hives kept in the United States suffered the strange fate now called Colony Collapse Disorder.

What’s at stake here is not just our honey, or our favorite symbol of cooperative society, but our food. Most of our crops require pollination — deposition of a bit of male pollen on the female flower — to set fruit and ultimately produce the parts we eat. Out of 115 of the world’s leading crops, 87 depend on animals — predominantly bees — to perform that vital act of placing pollen.

And it is important to add that, here in the United States, the majority of our crops are pollinated not by wild bees, or even by honeybees like mine, which live in one location throughout the year, but by a vast mobile fleet of honeybees-for-rent.

From the almond trees of California to the blueberry bushes of Maine, hundreds of thousands of domestic honeybee hives travel the interstate highways on tractor-trailers. The trucks pull into a field or orchard just in time for the bloom; the hives are unloaded; and the bees are released. Then, when the work of pollination is done, the bees are loaded up, and the trucks pull out, heading for the next crop due to bloom.

The mobile fleets have been hit exceptionally hard by Colony Collapse Disorder, and if the epidemic continues, crop yields will soon decline. The consequences of CCD are therefore very clear. The causes, however, are not.

 
Some says it is due to pesticides or viruses. Others narrowed it down to the amount of environmental stress that these honeybees are being put through as mentioned by the Arron Hirish. What actually happens is still anybody’s guesses.

When our research and feasibilty studies on Uganda honey was carried out  in 2001,  we were very pleased to learn that the Uganda honeybees are literally disease free and unaffected by what is happening to their cousins in other regions of the world. We sat down on many occasions to discuss these findings. There are various opinions that we conclude in common. One view that emerged more prominently was that the environment that Uganda honeybees lives in currently is still ideal as per their evolutionary genetics capabilities.

I had handled other species of honeybees and non are as ferocious as these bees in Uganda. In the article, there was this paragraph,

“Some keepers say the problem isn’t just with the honeybees’ lifestyle, but with their genetics, as well, since they’ve been bred for traits that make them easier to handle, but may also render them more vulnerable to disease.”

Uganda honeybees are probably more resilient to diseases because they have still retained their original genes. Yes they can be very very ferocious indeed. Even very experienced beekeepers can get stung by them too if they underestimate their ferocity. Recently, some of my visiting compartriot beekeepers, who have many years of experience,   were subjected to just such a surprise reception from the local bees.

Most consumers may not have realized that many honeybees are infected with some kind of viruses or being deformed by some destructive mites. During my trip back here in Singapore, I visited many stores and supermarkets to have a grasp of the development of honey consumption in this little city state. What I saw are beautifully labelled jars stating the wonderful contents of its honey content. Sadly, what the consumers would never see are the constant struggles these honeybees are subjected to by many of their human attendents in order to fill up that jar of honey :(.

It certainly takes two hands to clap. If we can learn to respect the way bees live their lives, and to learn to work WITH them instead of making them working FOR us, the end result would be good honey that are produced  from bees that do not require medical treatments. Cause and effect.

Whenever I go upcountry to work with the bees, whenever I harvest and collect the honey from them, I feel a sense of achievement and joy because deep in my heart, I know these bees are kept as closely, according to their natural habitat requirement and the honey collected are as pure as it can be. And having stress free honeybees will produce good wholesome honey, and thats Uganda Honey from us.

 

January 31, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Sustainable Beekeeping, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Swarm catcher…………………….

I was taught how to attract and capture a colony of feral bees. This was one of my first lesson when I became a beekeeper.

Watch how a colony enters the beehive and follow the queen into the entrance. Prior to 2004, all my hives were Langstroth hive. Initially I thought using modern beehives was the way to go. I was wrong. It was only in 2005 that I started to keep bees in Kenya topbar hives and traditional log hives, and results start showing for itself. Do read my previous blog, ‘Traditional beekeeping in Uganda‘, for the reason why Kenya top bar hives and traditional log hives work better.

January 21, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quest for excellence…………………….

This footage was done in 2002. Professor Horn was observing the health of the African honeybees. I was his understudy then. We discovered that the bees in Uganda are free from any diseases or virus. No medication is required. Almost the whole beekeeping industry in the New World are succumbed to some diseases or virus. Not in Uganda. There are no traces of American Foul Brood, European Foul Brood or Varroa Mites,which are very common in other parts of the World.

January 19, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | 1 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 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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 | , , , , , | 4 Comments