Uganda Honey

Honey in its purest

Hive Inspection (Local Hive)…………………….

There is always this misconception that low cost beehives do not produce good quality honey. This is not true. Honey from low cost beehives can be as good as those harvested from Kenya top bars or Langstroths. It is the lack of knowledge on when to harvest the honey, what to harvest in a hive.

Most traditional bee farmer will not hesitate to grab whatever they find in the hive during the flow season. Even before the honey ripens, they would had taken them out. Lack of knowledge had led to the harvesting of poor quality honey.

Below is a clip of one of our farmers inspecting his beehive. The honey inside this hive was not ready for harvesting.

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February 9, 2012 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Beekeeping in Malaysia – Kedah (The feasibility study Part 3)…………………….

FAMA Kuala Nerang Kedah.

My third destination was Malaysia’s Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority or FAMA in Kuala Nerang, Kedah.  FAMA is a marketing agency established by the Government under the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry.  As the Government’s marketing arm for agricultural products, FAMA is responsible for various marketing activities.  Amongst its responsibilities are to set targets and product standards, monitor performance, as well as develop marketing strategies for Malaysian agricultural products. Their job role can be summarised into the following;

Market control and extension, Strategies, Development of national food terminal, Marketing contract, Entrepreneur development, Export manuals, Development of marketing infrastructure, Market information and Branding and promotion.

Frontage of the sale centre.

The setup was very professional and their marketing concept for Malaysia’s most popular honey, “Tualang honey” was very successful. I was really impressed with their presentation in the beginning. After a long discussion and exhange of ideas, my views changed.

There was a video presentation at their sales department. Eco-tourism was being promoted at the sales centre. It showed the beauty of Malaysia rain forest and the mesmerizing journey one can embark on to see the untouched virgin forest. You pay MYR400 to join the eco tour.

One of the main attraction were the sighting of the largest honeybees in the world, Apis Dorsata. You can see them colonizing on the tallest tree, the Tualang tree. You can even see these majestic colony from the ground. You get to see the harvesting of their honey during the night. Now here comes the sad part. In the video, I saw the destruction and killing of these incredible insect. These honey hunters climbed the tall trees to get to them. Once they were within range, they would use fire and smoke to chase and kill them in order to get to their honey. During the collection, many bees perished.

Discussion with the officials during the visit.

Being a bee keeper and a bee lover, I felt the pain when I saw the destruction during the harvesting process. Well I guess there is always this case where the market demand, supply have to be met.

Due to the demand created by the market force, these honey were harvested as soon as the bees place them into the combs, even though when they were still unripe. Api Dorsata are very aggressive when comes to protecting their nest. The only way these local folks knew were to destroy them in order to get to their honey.

The meeting ended with a tour to their honey processing plant. I left the place with a nice gift produced by FAMA.

Slide presentation by FAMA staff.

Small quantity of "Tualang" honey from the village.

Getting ready for some basic honey test.

Refractometer reading moisture content at 24.5%. EU honey standards, (20% max).

Scrapping off the top foamy portion of honey.

Honey being placed in a heating chamber to reduce moisture content.

Packing section.

Products ready for market.

Sales centre promoting eco tourism

Honey showroom.

Gift presented by Mr. Mohd Zaimi Bin A.Razak (Division Director Product Development).

FAMA team from Kuala Nerang, Kedah.

August 18, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, honey harvest, Honey Processing | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beekeeping in Malaysia – Kelantan (The feasibility study Part 2)…………………….

It was a 7 hours drive from Penang to Kota Bahru, Kelantan. The road was challenging with many sharp bends two third of the way. I put on my safety belt after what I had experienced in March. The bus was traveling at 120km on a 70km speed limit road. I just prayed that I can reach there in one piece.

Universiti Sains Malaysia, medical research department.

My first visit in Kelantan was the University of Science of Malaysia (Universiti Sains Malaysia). This is where all the research on the medicinal values of honey in Malaysia were done. A number of honeybee species found in Malaysia . Mainly they are  the “Apis Dorsata”, “Apis Mellifera”, “Apis Cerenas” and “Trigonas”. Currently they are also working on a type of honey harvested in their traditional honey hunting method by their local people, (Orang Asli). They called it, “TuaLang” honey. I had seen many places selling this brand of honey and they are selling like hot cakes now.

This feasibility study had made me understand more about the honey industry in Malaysia. There were so many issues one can never imagine. There are more to it than meets the eye.

Just going into the second day, I began to see the similarities between Malaysia and Uganda when come to this industry.  Honey hunting is still the predominant method used among the local community or the “Orang Asli”. The only difference was that in Malaysia, they need to climb very tall trees (Tualang tree) to harvest honey from Apis Dorsata while in Uganda, honey hunter collect honey from crevices, ant hill and hollow trunks.

Although it was the fasting month and usually this is the most busy part of the year,  all the Professors and researchers were very helpful and I left the place with all the information needed for my study. Later in the day I was invited to a local who kept honeybees  for their outward bound education camp. Finally after one month, I was introduced to these ladies in Malaysia.

Professor Dr. Nor Hayati Othman and her team of Professors and Researchers at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Trigona, Stingless bees.

Entrance to a stingless bee colony.

Docile Apis Mellifera Italiana.

Explaining the harm caused by human if honeybees were not handled correctly.

Observing the more nasty cousin, apis ceranas.

Entrance to the stingless bees apiary.

Top view of a stingless bee colony.

August 16, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Beekeeping in Malaysia – Kelantan (The feasibility study Part 2)…………………….

Imbabazi Orphanage Director’s visit……………………

Last week was indeed a hectic week which saw us covering almost 1,200 km of traveling route. Jeff Ramsey, the Director for Imbabazi accompanied by his assistant director, Devon were here on a field trip to see my work. They intend to invite me over to Rwanda to conduct a feasibility study on a beekeeping project. They were eager to find the way forward.

Within a 5 days span, we moved from South where Timothy Centre is located and Gulu, where my commercial beekeepers are. The main highlight for the trip was meeting up with Carol Higgins from Otino Waa Orphanage, Lira. Meeting Carol would be a very good yardstick for them to understand what to expect.

"I was arrayed at the success of Lesster's technique for managing African bees. Contrasting bees managed using his process was startling. These bees were so calm and non-agressive. It is obvious to even a novice such as myself that this technique really works well." - Jeff Ramsey

Visit to Otino Waa Orphanage's apiary and refinery in Lira, Northern Uganda. Honey sale is already part of their source of income for the last 4 years.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, 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

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

Honeybees – Life Cycle…………………….

Wanted to know more about the life cycle of honeybees? Watch the video below from http://www.hilaroad.com.

August 7, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey | , , , , | Leave a 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 35ºC 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

Honey is simple, keep it simple…………………….

Enjoying a comb of freshly harvested honey.

For the past year, my Singaporean friends who had been following my blog had urged me to write about the frequently asked questions on honey. There are so much information on the net concerning honey, having its own findings, rationales and reasons. I would just be duplicating what had already been written and I don’t see the point of repeating it. In Singapore, there are still a lot of consumers who are not sure about the information received, were they facts or myths.

Three of the common myths are;

1) Ants are not attracted to real honey.

Ants, like honeybees, are social insects, when ever they locate a food source, they will go back to its colony to inform the rest of the findings. Honey is simple sugar. It is made up of fructose and glucose. Fructose is fruit sugar. Fruit sugar is sweet. Ants like all things sweet. 🙂

2) One cannot use metal spoons for honey.

After harvesting raw combs from the hives, we are to break the combs and let it drip through fine filters into food grade stainless steel tanks according to safety food standards. Honey are then stored up to more than 3 weeks for settling. Yes, although honey is acidic, but that will create no significant effect whatsoever while using a metallic spoon.

3) Honey must be crystal clear.

Pure unadulterated honey tend to be cloudy due to the presence of pollen spectrum. That constitutes part of the nutritional values in honey. UltraFiltered Honey or UFH honey are crystal clear. Well that boils down to the consumer preference again. Some consumers feel more comfortable taking honey that are perfectly clean and clear. There are also some Countries prefer having their honey pasteurized.

Zul (Malaysia), having fresh honey comb.

One of the reason why it took me some time before I decide to bring my honey back to my homeland was that now there is growing group of friends that had really understood and appreciate what is real honey, because some had been here and had seen my work and are assured that what they are going to get will be at its purest.

Shuhsien (Singapore), proud owner of her own honey.

At the same time, they knew that by consuming the honey harvested from our farmers, directly they are assisting them in providing a source of income for their children to go to school and to help alleviate poverty. That jar of honey on my friends’ table are more meaningful rather than pondering whether their honey is pure or not. What they have on their table comes with assurance and these three simple facts are more than enough to quench their doubts;

1) They witnessed the source of the honey

2) They received the test report stating the quality and authenticity

3) They know the beekeeper.

Emi (Japan), harvesting her own honey.

Selling our honey in Europe is far more simpler than in Singapore. The honey eating culture is matured and they know exactly what to look for.

Consuming honey is a simple issue. So long as they are getting from a reliable source, having all the necessary certification and test reports backing up from established institutions. Real honey sells by itself. Our honey going back to Singapore will be as no frill as possible so that consumer will get every single drop of their honey worth.

Heinen (Germany), honey at its purest.

I guess knowing the source is a sure way of getting what you really want. Consumers are getting more knowledgeable and vigilant with their purchases now because of the internet. There are a whole lot of information out there. Soon consumers will be able to find out the truth. Its just a matter of time.

To summarize it all, what I can say with regards to this issue, whether you are getting the real honey or getting what is worth, here are the simple guidelines;

1) Make sure you get it from reliable source.

2) Knows where the exact location of the honey are produced. (It is best that honey comes from one location and not blended from various destinations)

3) Look at the test report of the honey. The test report is like the birth certificate for that batch of honey.

Medical doctors (Singapore), visiting my bee farm.

Well, now is the beginning of the harvesting season and I shall be traveling up to meet my farmers soon. The climate we are experiencing this year is a bit erratic. It should be getting hot by now but somehow we are still having heavy rain. We will have to wait a little while longer before we can start the harvest. We have to work around nature and not against it.

Belinda Lee (Singapore), now understood the life of a beekeeper.

I am glad I have friends coming from all walks of life coming over to visit me. Slowly but surely, by word of mouth, they will be able to share what they had learned from their field experience here.

Honey is simple, it is only made complicated by people.

Sato san and friend (Japan), proudly displaying their harvest.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing Eucalyptus Honey at our boutique…………………….

Eucalyptus Honey on sale at our boutique

Finally the test report is out and we are able to introduce a new range for our boutique, Eucalyptus honey.

In our Mellisopalynology report, pollen count shows 95.8% belonging to the Myrtaceae family. Less than 3% consist of Mango, Combretaceae, Anacardiaceae, Senecio-group and Musa. Our Eucalyptus honey is thus considered Monofloral. The enzymes (Diastase) activities detected was found to be much higher than the recommended EU Honey Legislation in Europe. This shows that the honey was filtered raw and natural and has never been heat treated or had gone through UV lights or any forms of heat energy such as microwaves. Diastase, this enzyme is responsible for converting starch to dextrins and sugars and is introduced into the honey by the bees.

The moisture contents of our Eucalyptus Honey falls below 20% and this is one of the most important aspect when buying honey. According to the EU honey standards, honey having more than 20% in moisture content determines the rate of fermentation. Unripe honey harvested are usually having a moisture content of 23% or more. It will taste sourish.

Our Eucalyptus Honey is dark amber and has an intense and persistent peppermint after taste. It crystallizes much faster are usually preferred as an excellent accompaniment to cheeses, pastries and herbal teas.

In Uganda, villagers are often seen using Eucalyptus Honey as a home remedy for mild cough and cold.

Eucalyptus Grandis or E. Grandis is well known in Uganda, being first introduced around 1912. It is commonly planted for fuelwood and poles and is an important source of income for small farmers. As other sources dwindle, E. Grandis is increasingly being recognised as a valuable source of timber too. It is easy to raise from seed and coppices vigorously when cut. Many of the E. Grandis trees in Uganda have hybridised, however, and thus it is important to use only improved seed from tree breeding programmes (mainly in Southern Africa) for commercial plantations here.

Eucalyptus Grandis.

In Uganda, E. Grandis is best suited to deep soils in the cooler, moist areas – particularly in the west – around Kabarole and Bushenyi, in the West Nile region and in the south-west (Kabale). On suitable sites and with good management, E. Grandis can grow extremely quickly: Mean Annual Increments of over 50 m3/ha/yr can be achieved in such areas, though an average of 25-35 m3/ha/yr is more likely. Rotations of 8-15 years are expected for the production of sawlogs and large poles.

March 27, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Quality Control, raw honey | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Interesting discovery…………………….

I had mixed feelings when I left the apiary in Lampun. I was amazed when I saw how beekeeping was done. European honey farming methods and Asian honey farming methods are completely different. I really appreciate the bee farmer to allow me to have a better insight on honey farming in Thailand.

The term “beekeeping” derived from the way how a bee farmer is supposed to look after the bees, how the farmers is supposed to make sure that the honey is only harvested from combs that are filled and capped with honey, with no signs of broods or larvae. Usually the brood will not survive once they were taken out from the hives. They required the constant temperature the worker bees provide. The incubation period is very vital for the young brood to develop properly. I wonder is this one of the causes nowadays where bees are less resilient to viruses?

When I exchanged notes with Professor Burgett while having lunch, he shared the same sentiments. For those who are in the beekeeping industry will know what we meant.

Comb harvested with brood still intact. Honey portion are not capped yet, meaning that the honey is still unripe.

Worker began to decap the brood comb.

Honey harvested from our farm in Uganda. Only fully completed capped honey combs are harvested for consumption. No traces of brood is present in order to meet EU requirement.

After witnessing the difference, somehow I felt very proud of my farmers. They had done a wonderful job by providing such good quality honey for the world to taste. Uganda beekeeping is so many years behind modern honey farming Countries but yet, they can fulfill the EU requirements. A pat on their shoulders.

March 4, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beekeeping in Southern Thailand…………………….

Arrived in Bangkok on 23rd Feb and immediately on the following morning, Raymond and his wife, Koong, drove me down South to visit bee farmers to have a better understanding on how they keep Apis cerena. We arrived in a district called ‘Chum Porn” and there is a large community involved in honey farming. According to the village folks, they are called “The Cave Bees”.

During my last trip, I had gathered some information from Professor Michael Burgett, that Apis cerenas were kept successfully in the South and it will help tremendously if we are able to transfer the knowledge to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Chiang Dao. So far the species has still not yet been use widely in the North. One advantage of using these species is that it is easily available and to capture them, literally cost nothing. This might be a good way for the rural farmers to start beekeeping rather than having to buy colonies.

When I went to open up a colony, I can feel the calmness in them and they were not as aggressive as the African siblings.

Came back on the following day and tomorrow we will be heading up North to Lampang, Chiang Mai and Chiang Dao. Long journey again. Gotta sleep early. 🙂

Raymond and Koong preparing for the trip.

Beehive for Apis cerena

Interior view of the hive.

Bee farmer and I.

February 25, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal | , , , , , | 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

New Year, New Ideas…………………….

Happy New Year everyone! In this brand new year, let me start off with something that is close to everyone’s heart, or I should say stomach – FOOD! Occasionally I will be introducing honey related recipe for those who are keen in trying to use honey on their dish. For a start, here is one Asian dish, Cantonese Shredded Beef.

Cantonese Shredded Beef

Stir-fry over high heat cooks food quickly while sealing in all the flavour. In this recipe, the beef is cooked until crisp and sweet. Blossom honey counteract the spiciness of the pepper while harmonizing with the sweetness of the carrots. The dish is best served with plain boiled rice to absorb the honey juices.

This recipe is meant for a serving of 4.

2½ tbsp sesame oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

12 baby carrots (about 375g), cut into 5cm strips

1½ tbsp soy sauce

6 tbsp blossom honey

¾ tsp chilli powder or cayenne pepper

500g beef fillet, cut into thin strips 5cm long

¼ tsp salt

In a wok or non-stick frying pan, heat the oil until hot. Add the garlic and cook until it is just turning golden.

Add the carrots with 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of honey and ¼ teaspoon of chilli powder or cayenne pepper and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until the carrots are just starting to soften.

Add the beef with the remainder of the soy sauce, honey, chilli powder or cayenne pepper and the salt. Stir-fry for a further 5-7 minutes until the beef is a dark golden brown and slightly crispy and the carrots are caramelized. Serve immediately.

January 1, 2010 Posted by | beekeeping journal, honey, honey byproduct | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Honey and Photography, coming together in perfect harmony…………………….

Jonathan did a fabulous shot on the comb honey we brought to Dr. Anne's tea party. His photography skill brought out the distinct character of the comb of liquid gold.

The timing was perfect and the whole moment was captured to the finest detail.

The image was so sharp that even we are able to see the reflection of the comb on the tray.

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Quality Control, raw honey | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jonathan Wong, bringing out the beauty of my honey…………………….

Jonathan Wong, a professional photographer from Singapore came and did some product shoots for my advertising campaign. The results was astonishing! He had brought out the beauty of my work. Below are my two favorite shots!

Liquid Gold by Jonathan Wong


Simply Honey! - by Jonathan Wong

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, Honey Quality Control | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pre-flight check……………………

ktb300

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shoprite staff arranging honey shelf.

Shoprite staff arranging honey shelf.

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

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

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

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

Constant practice makes perfect…………………….

Safe method of opening.

Safe method of opening.

Last week, my bee master came and had a refresher course with me at my house. Handling bees and using the smoker needs constant practice. This way, my bee master will then be able to share the knowledge with the rest of the bee farmers in the villages.

Beekeeping in Uganda is quite different from beekeeping in developed Countries. Most of the farms are deep in the villages and you will never know what you can find underneath the cover of the hives. Constantly we have to remind our village folks to open the hives away from them. If we are lucky, we only get rats or frogs hibernating underneath the covers. We had come across cobras and adders lying comfortably underneath as well. We just do not want to get ourselves in for a shock. It could be our last harvest if this simply rule is not applied.

Bee master lifting cover gently.

Bee master lifting cover gently, and away from him.

Lifting up the cover needs utmost care. It had to be taken off gently to avoid sudden and abrupt movements. This way, the bees will remain calm and we have to maintain this calmness throughout the whole operation in order to have a non confrontational harvest.

Nothing is perfect. This colony happened to conduct their flight activity from the back due to a gap between the last two bars and having the queen at the rear. It became a good training hive because this will get the farmer to think and use his initiative on how he is supposed to work according to the environment.

All these while, farmers were taught to harvest honey only during the night. In fact, its more of honey hunting than beekeeping.

Bee master calming the bees with a smoker.

Bee master calming the bees with a smoker.

Bees do not really flies in the night because they can’t see clearly. Instead they will crawl or cling on to any movements. Most of the bees are thus killed during the operation. Farmers simply brushed them off vigorously from their body, crushing them mercilessly. I believe harvesting during the day is a more positive approach. But then it boils down to how you handle them again.

The understanding and gentle usage of the smoker is very important. Too little smoke, the bees will not be afraid of you. Too much smoke, it will instill fear of a fire and thus they will retaliate. If the farmers were taught to observe and understand the movement and behaviour of the bees when smoke is introduced, he will stand a better chance of a non-confrontational harvest. Smoking is a skill which I find most of the bee farmers are lacking.

Gentle smoking goes a long way.

Gentle smoking goes a long way.

Many farmers are still having this idea that smoking as much onto them will make them go away. I will always use this analogy on them, “If someone were to direct a lot of smoke on your face to choke you, how would you feel?” That makes them think.

If one were to smoke the bees gently, you will find them hurrying back to one destination, the queen. Some worker bees will try and locate the queen to wait for her instruction. Other worker bees will spread themselves among the unripe honey and restore them into their honey sacs. In case if the queens command is to abscond, the colony will have sufficient supply of food at the next destination before resuming normal work pattern. Bees had developed a systematic approach within its community. If we were just to be more patient and learn their behavior, it will help us in our beekeeping work.

Opening up the hives starting from the back away from the queen and brood chamber.

Opening up the hives starting from the back away from the queen and brood chamber.

When the worker bees had ingested enough honey, most of them will be calm. Many farmers do not realize that. This is when you can slowly lift up the topbars to inspect them.

All these movements have to be performed as slowly as possible. Bees vision have a refresh rate of only 15 frames per seconds. If movements are slow, it is as if there are no movements at all according to the bees vision. So aggression is minimized.

In a bee hive, the front portion where the bees have their flight activities will always be the brood chamber while the back part of the hive will be the honey chamber. During honey flow period, most of the combs will be emptied to allow storage of nectar which later be transformed into honey.

Farmers were reminded not to harvest all the honey but to leave some for the colony. They will then stay.

Bee master harvested honey successfully.

Bee master harvested honey successfully.

Nothing makes a farmer more happy when he is able to harvest honey in a proper way, without killing bees in the process. On top of that, he knows that the honey harvested is clean and pure without the taste of smoke.

Practice only makes a habit. CONSTANT practice makes perfect.

October 2, 2009 Posted by | apiculture | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mobile phone towers threaten honey bees: study…………………….

1779585690-mobile-phone-towers-threaten-honey-bees-studyNEW DELHI (AFP) – – The electromagnetic waves emitted by mobile phone towers and cellphones can pose a threat to honey bees, a study published in India has concluded.

An experiment conducted in the southern state of Kerala found that a sudden fall in the bee population was caused by towers installed across the state by cellphone companies to increase their network.

The electromagnetic waves emitted by the towers crippled the “navigational skills” of the worker bees that go out to collect nectar from flowers to sustain bee colonies, said Dr. Sainuddin Pattazhy, who conducted the study, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

He found that when a cell phone was kept near a beehive, the worker bees were unable to return, leaving the hives with only the queens and eggs and resulting in the collapse of the colony within ten days.

Over 100,000 people in Kerala are engaged in apiculture and the dwindling worker bee population poses a threat to their livelihood. The bees also play a vital role in pollinating flowers to sustain vegetation.

If towers and mobile phones further increase, honey bees might be wiped out in 10 years, Pattazhy said.

Original article – http://sg.news.yahoo.com/afp/20090831/tts-india-environment-bees-science-9819610.html

September 1, 2009 Posted by | Beekeeping, beekeeping journal | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Asia……here we come!…………………….

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey (Front Literature).

For the last 5 years, we had been supplying our honey to Switzerland and East Africa region. Slowly but surely it is gaining popularity through word of mouth from those that came and visited me from Asia and orders are coming from Singapore, Malaysia and Japan now. We have decided to launch our honey on a bigger scale with this new packaging. Due to the cost of freight, it is more economical to airfreight the honey on a bigger volume of 1.4kg.

I guess people now are getting more affluent and particular when come to honey consumption. The feedback I got from my buyers are that they are beginning to appreciate honey coming from bees that are resilient to viruses which are affecting honeybees in most part of the world. We do not treat our bees with antibiotic or mite removal solutions. Sometime back, Europe banned some honey importers because they found traces of antibiotic in their honey. We are glad that our honey met all EU honey quality legislations.

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey back literature.

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey (back literature).

Uganda is one of the last frontier where the bees are still resilient to viruses and diseases. We allow the bees to live as naturally as possible with minimum human intervention to maintain this blessed status. It could be this reason that the bees here are not succumb to viruses and diseases. They are protected by mother nature.

August 2, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal, honey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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…………………….

P1010764.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apis Dorsata nest

Apis Dorsata nest

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

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

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

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

Honey in Kampala…………………….

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

Truck entering the compound.

Truck entering the compound.

Offloading starts.

Offloading of honey combs starts.

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

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

Honey buckets neatly stacked in the store.

Honey buckets neatly stacked in the store.

5 tons of honey neatly stacked.

5 tons of honey neatly stacked.

The morning after.

The morning after.

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

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

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

Honey talk…………………….

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

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

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

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

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

Showing a fresh comb of honey to the families.

Showing a fresh comb of honey to the families.

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

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

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

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

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

The African Pearl

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

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

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

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

It is “the pearl of Africa “

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

Where have all the honeybees gone?

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

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

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

Carrying trial beehive to site.

Carrying trial beehive to site.

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

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

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

Identifying a good spot to place the beehive.

Identifying a good spot to place the beehive.

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

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

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

Siting the trial beehive.

Ready to trap bees.

Ready to trap bees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A simple hand wounded honey press filled with honey combs

A simple hand wound honey press filled with honey combs

Ephriam pressing combs to extract honey

Ephriam pressing combs to extract honey

Francis pressing combs

Francis pressing combs

Liquid gold in motion

Liquid golden honey flowing

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

Where the honey flows…………………….

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

Honey beautifully harvested from traditional log hives.

Honey beautifully harvested from traditional african log bee hives.

Comb honey going to University of Hohenheim for test

Comb honey going to University of Hohenheim for test

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

Homeward bound, dinner at Violet’s place

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

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

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

Spending quality time at Violet's place.

Spending quality time at Violet's place.

Sekaran having a nice chat with Belinda.

Sekaran having a nice chat with Belinda.

Honey from Uganda

Honey from Uganda

Violet frying the pancakes.

Violet frying the pancakes.

Pancakes taste good with my honey

Pancakes taste good with my honey

Uganda honey being used for the pancakes

Uganda honey being used for the pancakes

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

Chiang Dao – feasibility study, part 2.

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

Entomology Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Chiangmai University

Entomology Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Chiangmai University

Professor Pichai Kongpitak and me.

Professor Pichai Kongpitak and me.

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

Opening up a hive at the University.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Close up view of the observation hive at the University.

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

These bees are a healthy lot!

These bees are a healthy lot!

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

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

Air Flown Uganda Honey to Zurich

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

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

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

Mixed Blossom Honey from Gulu, Northern Uganda.

Golden Blossom Honey from Gulu, Northern Uganda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honey in laboratory…………………….

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

Honey queing up for testing

Honey queing up for testing

 

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

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

Our honey waiting in line to be tested.

Our honey waiting in line to be tested.

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

honey in its purest form…………………….

honey in its purest form

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

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