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, a full time job…………………….

Many bee farmers in Uganda are lacking the skills in hive management. Many were taught to simply place the hives out into the woods, wait for it to be colonized and hopefully when the honey season starts, go and harvest the honey. At times they would discover that the hives are empty. They will just wait for the next colony to come. African bees are quick in absconding and a mismanaged hive is one of the reason.

In one of our topics, we teach farmers the importance of hive management and to rectify any discrepancies. If the hive is not in good condition, eg wet or too many openings due to wood warping, they need to change the hive.

In this video below, you can see one of the lessons in hive management.

January 23, 2012 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

First batch of trainees for 2012…………………….

The year started with a group of very dedicated beekeepers wanting to come to learn more. It was a total paradigm shift for them compared to the way they kept their bees back in the villages. We had captured a day during the training. This was how they felt about the whole course.

January 22, 2012 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Preparation for the first course for the year…………………….

We will be having our first course in one week’s time. Pre training hive inspections are done to make sure the course runs smoothly.

January 8, 2012 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | 5 Comments

BEST Basic Beekeeping Course Prospectus 2012 – 2013

A Very Happy New Year! We are glad to present our latest BEST Basic Beekeeping Course Prospectus.

 

You can download a PDF copy of the prospectus below.

BEST Basic Beekeeping Course Prospectus 2012 -2013

January 2, 2012 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A week of bees, fresh air and sunshine…………………….

We had just concluded another session of beekeeping course at Kajjansi beekeeping centre, entebbe. The quality of the participants are getting better. I was really impressed with this batch of students. It was no longer a,”teacher speaks, student listens” kind of classes anymore. There were so much interaction between the trainer and the students. The feedback on how to improve and finetune the program was constructive and interesting. This shows the evolution of what are needed in order to be competent in one’s progress.

KJBP-1102

October 22, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Making moulds…………………..

Christmas is round the corner and it’s that time of the year where people are looking for Christmas gifts. This year we intend to increase our beeswax candles range. We will be introducing more moulds and the designs are more towards African themes.

Out in the market there are not much candle moulds catering for African themes. We decided to produce our own moulds.

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October 2, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , | 4 Comments

Beekeeping in Malaysia – Ulu Tiram, Johore (The final lap)…………………….

After 28 days of traveling around West Malaysia, visiting researchers, professors and bee keepers, I had finally reached the place where all things will take place, Kampung Temasek, Ulu Tiram, Johore.

Route from Malacca to Ulu Tiram, Johore

Kampung Temasek is the main reason why I did this tedious feasibility study. Before we can ascertain that the project will take off on the right foot, we have to make sure that the potential of having a bee education centre and the introduction of beekeeping into the community will benefit all parties involved.

For those who are unfamiliar with this project, basically Kampung Temasek is about “The School of doing”.

The second houses from the right had been earmarked as the bee education centre.

Kampung Temasek, The School of Doing is an outdoor laboratory for schools to run their curriculum such as mathematics, science, geography, history and others in a natural environment. Schools can experiment programs and activities that they cannot usually do in Singapore. For example, students can spend one week from their academics semester to learn mathematics through build a solar oven by calculating how much energy is collected from the sun and the science involve in cooking an egg or they can walk into the forest to learn about the bio-diversity and how the eco-system work. Our aim is to reinforce the students’ learning through Doing. City schools can now access this outdoor learning platform in just 30 minutes after Singapore Customs, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia!

There will be many activities at the Kampung and my responsibility is to convert one of these houses into a educational centre where the younger generation or public will have an opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the most amazing insect, the honeybees. It will be a paradigm shift for them to overcome the fear and to learn to live these them harmoniously.

Other than serving as a bee education centre, it will also be a place for the local community or “Orang Asli” to come forward to be trained as bee farmer, to have another source of income to provide for their family. In fact we had already identified a village to begin with.

When everything is completed, Kampung Temasek will be a place where schools can bring the students to learn more about outdoors activities, closer to nature. Parents with their children, can explore on something more meaning, like understanding how trees, plants and insects help in balancing the ecological system instead of sitting in front of the computer 24/7.

Reaching home on 28th evening, I then realized that my whole body was aching from all the traveling. Somehow the biological clock inside me was telling me its time I need a break. I can feel my whole body crashing in with flu, cough and fatigue.

I am finally home.

 

August 29, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Beekeeping in Malaysia – Malacca (The feasibility study Part 4)…………………….

Bus route from Kedah to Malacca. Took a break half way at Kuala Lumpur.

The bus ride from Kedah to Kuala Lumpur took almost 6 hours. I had a break in Kuala Lumpur before a friend of mine drove me another 2 hours further South to the thriving city of Malacca.

Extracted from Wikipedia – Malacca (dubbed The Historic State or Negeri Bersejarah among locals) is the third smallest Malaysian state, after Perlis and Penang. It is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. It borders Negeri Sembilan to the north and the state of Johor to the south. The capital is Malacca City, which is 148 km south east of Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur, 235 km north west to Johor’s largest city Johor Bahru and 95 km north west to Johor’s second largest city Batu Pahat. This historical city centre has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 7 July 2008.

Although it was the location of one of the earliest Malay sultanates, the monarchy was abolished when the Portuguese conquered it in 1511. The Yang di-Pertua Negeri or Governor, rather than a Sultan, acts as the head of state now.

Mr. Ong had been a beekeeper for the last 25 years and his bee farm could be considered one of the largest one in the whole of West Malaysia. He used to keep apis cerana in the seventies but after the introduction of European bees, apis italiana, Malaysia honey industry using apis cerana was completly wiped out due to the introduction of viruses by the European species as well.

Since then, the domestication of apis cerana had been unsuccessful until of late, many small scale farmers are beginning to use apis cerana again. it is a good sign that these species coming back.

Right now, Mr Ong had been keeping the European species after learning how to treat them. He does not have any of the asian species anymore but instead started to keep stingless bees. He found keeping stingless bees are very interesting too.

Bee exhibition hall

Wall to wall bee display

Information counter

Interior view of stingless bees colony

Mr. Ong and his bees

Honey production centre

August 22, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Agricultural Finance Year book 2010…………………….

Beginning of this year, I was commissioned by Bank of Uganda to write an article about the honey industry in Uganda. It was meant for their year book for 2010. It had been published and I had duplicated it for all to read.

In this article, you will have a better insight about the honey business and its potential.

Agricultural Finance Yearbook 2010

3.3   Money in Honey:  Investing for Quality Gives Best Returns in a

         High Prospect Sub-sector[1]

 Section 1 The Markets for Ugandan Honey

All honey, in the hive, is at its purest possible quality. The vegetation around where bees forage determine the flavour, colour and viscosity of the honey. Quality deteriorates because of poor harvesting and processing methods. Normally it is the human factor that plays the biggest role in compromising the quality of honey. This will be further elaborated in Section 2 below.

Honey producers can target local, regional and global markets. The local market can be sub-divided into two segments. The first such segment is almost purely price-driven. Quality here is not an issue. Honey catering for this market is promoted by street vendors, selling it in all sorts of reused packaging, ranging from soda bottles to used cooking oil containers. Some foreigners or tourists are actually enticed by these vendors in the villages, as they believe honey sold in rural areas is natural and unadulterated. To prove that the honey is pure, the vendors have a practice of dropping a dead bee inside the bottle!

The other local segment caters to the retail market such as supermarkets and sundry shops in and around all major districts. In this segment, there is a small group of consumers that go for higher quality honey that has fewer impurities. However, the bigger local demand is still for low priced honey, as most consumers are not particular or have little knowledge about honey standards.

For the higher-priced retail market, presentation and packaging are important. Usually the honey is packed in new plastic jars with a net weight of 500g. Of late, with an increase in choice of packaging materials, honey is also packed in smaller quantities of 100g and 250g. Retail prices, locally and regionally, hover around UGX 3,800 to UGX 5,000 per 500gm.

Regarding export market, honey from Uganda is said to be exported to the European Union and the Middle East. However there are no official statistics for this market. It is believed Ugandan honey is exported by a couple of companies in small quantities, directly to niche retailers, instead of being exported in bulk.

The quality of honey for the export market must be very high. For exporting to European Union countries, the honey has to meet the European Union Honey Legislation requirements (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/ ). The important aspects buyers look into are the country of origin, pollen spectrum, flavour, enzyme activity, moisture and sediment content. Packaging for such niche markets varies according to the buyers’ requirements. It can be in airtight buckets of 25kg or in individual jars, as specified by the buyers.

Bulk export is usually packed in food-grade drums of 300kg. Currently the price for bulk honey is between US$1.20 – 1.30 per kg (CIF). The minimum required quantity for bulk export is a full container load of at least 20 tons. At present, Uganda’s honey industry is still at the infant stage. Nobody yet has the capacity to tap into the bulk export market.

Section 2  Quality Issues in the Honey Value Chain

For the basic local market, honey is mainly sourced from honey hunters and traditional bee farmers. Honey hunters get their honey from wild bee colonies in anthills and hollow tree trunks, while the traditional beekeepers own a few beehives made out of local materials such as rattan and logs.

There are also a good number of modern beehives given by donors and funded projects. Both the honey hunters and traditional bee farmers got their knowledge of beekeeping from their forefathers and practise destructive methods of honey harvesting. They do not tend to the bees regularly and will only approach the colonies during harvesting season. They force the bees out of the hives with lots of smoke and fire before collecting whatever remains in the hive. The honeycombs with brood, beebread, ripe and unripe honey are then squeezed with bare hands or unhygienic equipment. Some will even boil the honey to separate honey from the wax. Investment for players in this sector is minimal. Both the producers and sellers make use of whatever they can get hold of and no expensive equipment and training are required.

For the local and regional retail market there are also more commercially-minded producers. Some are traditional bee farmers and some are members of beekeeping associations, who have gone through a form of training. They usually sell their honey to traders or packers who add value by packaging before selling to retailers. There are a significant number of players involved in this segment.

Packers are normally not beekeepers themselves. Middlemen will travel to villages to buy from various sources and resell at some centralized market in town. Most packers purchase from these middlemen, filter some of the impurities from the honey, pack and label for retail sales. Little or no testing and minimal quality control of the honey is involved. The packers only need to invest in simple filtering equipment, plastic jars and labels. Investment in improving the presentation of the end product is important, as many different brands compete for attention on the same retail shelves.

Although the packaging has improved, the quality of the honey varies greatly amongst different brands. Though some of the producers have undergone training and have acquired modern beehives such as Kenyan Top Bar hives or Langstroth hives, most of the training is done in classrooms without any actual interaction with the bees. The lack of hands-on experience in handling the bees catches most beekeepers off-guard when they encounter the aggressive behaviour of the African bees face to face during their first harvest. This has led to the development of fear of the bees and subsequently these apiarists revert back to the destructive mode of harvesting. This will result in dead bees, burnt grass ashes and melted wax being mixed together with the honey. As such, the quality of the honey will still be compromised, despite the investments  in training and the use of more expensive hives.

Often the emphasis is on short term profitability of the business, without any education on the importance of proper handling of the bees for longer term productivity and profit. This is just like putting the cart in front of the horse. Bee farmers should recognize the bees as an important asset in their honey business. They have to understand how to work harmoniously with the bees in their natural environment, rather than fighting against the bees. It is only when they can calmly work on the bees that they will abandon the hit-and-run approach of harvesting. They can then harvest correctly, maintaining the quality of the honey. When the process is right, the outcome will be right. Profitability will follow when the honey quality and yield improve.

For bee farmers and beekeeping associations that pack their own honey for retail sales, improved training will equip them to do quality control and produce higher quality honey. However,  non-beekeeper packers who buy their honey from middlemen have absolutely no control over the quality of the honey. They buy whatever is available during that period. Even if some good quality honey is produced at the source (i.e. by the bee farmers in rural areas) there is no way to prevent adulteration, mixing with other lower quality honey or improper handling by the many hands through which the honey passes.

For the export market the investment is much higher both in training and equipment. In order to maintain best quality, all involved have to be acutely aware of the consequence of not doing the right thing. Any mistake along the way, starting from the very source inside the hive, through the harvesting, processing and packaging, will lead to the honey failing to meet the stringent requirements for the export market. As such, even after the initial training, beekeepers and refinery staff have to be constantly reminded, monitored and re-trained to ensure they follow the proper procedures.

Bee farmers must harvest only ripe honey, using the proper harvesting method to ensure the honey is not laden with excessive smoke and ashes. At the refinery, the honey extraction, filtering and packing has to be carefully controlled. Throughout the chain of activities, the honey has to be handled with clean equipment and stored under proper conditions. Although the investment in honey processing equipment is also higher for exporters, the bulk of the investment actually needs to be set aside for training and follow-ups as people are always the deciding factor in maintaining the quality of the honey.

Most of the beekeeping training courses which are currently available in Uganda are only acceptable for producing for the local and regional markets. In order to fulfill the more stringent requirements for the export market, exporters will have to work closely with their outgrowers, to the extent of developing a monitoring system or database to keep track of the farmers and of their performance. Close supervision of all departments involved will ensure that the required level of competence is achieved.

Section 3  Typical Investment and Returns for a Small Apiary

There is no magic figure in starting beekeeping. The numbers of hives one can maintain depends on the competency of the beekeeper, the land available to him or her and the vegetation surrounding the land. For discussion purpose, we look at a typical smallholder beekeeper with 20 hives that are colonized.

Before comparing the different kinds of hives from which a beekeeper can choose, the other standard accessories they should be equipped with are:

A smoker @ UGX 25,000

A protective bee suit @ UGX 120,000

A hive tool @ UGX 10,000

A bee brush @ UGX 7,000

A pair of protective gloves @ UGX 18,000

20 airtight buckets for honey harvesting @ UGX 7,500 each = UGX 150,000

Basic beekeeping training @ UGX 300,000

Total standard cost                                                                    UGX 630,000

Now we shall compare the costs and income achievable using different kinds of hives. It usually takes about 18 months for a new colony to fully build up its strength and produce to capacity. Small harvests are possible in the first year, but this will be excluded in the calculation below, as it is not certain that production in the first year will be achieved.

a)For traditional beehive investment

Cost of 20 traditional beehive @ UGX 10,000 = UGX 200,000

Plus standard cost, as above  = UGX 630,000

Total investment = UGX 830,000

Honey harvest in a year = 15kg / hive

Total honey harvest in the 2nd & 3rd year = 600 kg

Selling price of honey = UGX 3,000 per kilo

Gross income = UGX 1,800,000

Net income = UGX 970,000

b) For Kenyan Top Bar (KTB) beehive investment…

Cost of 20 KTB beehive @ UGX 60,000 = UGX 1,200,000

Standard cost = UGX 630,000

Total investment = UGX 1,830,000

Honey harvest in a year = 20kg / hive

Total honey harvest in the 2nd & 3rd year = 800 kg

Selling price of honey = UGX 3,000 per kilo

Gross income = UGX 2,400,000

Net income = UGX 570,000

c) For Langstroth beehive investment…

Cost of 20 Langstroth beehive @ UGX 140,000 = UGX 2,800,000

Standard cost = UGX 630,000

Total investment = UGX 3,430,000

Honey harvest in a year = 30kg / hive

Total honey harvest in the 2nd & 3rd year = 1200 kg

Selling price of honey = UGX 3,000 per kilo

Gross income = UGX 3,600,000

Net income = UGX 170,000

To use the Langstroth beehive effectively, a much higher beekeeping skill level and precision hive construction are needed. This is to ensure productivity over a number of years, to realize the benefits of the considerable investment involved, upfront. With the current conditions in Uganda, traditional and Kenyan Top Bar hives are still the more recommended methods of beekeeping.

With improved knowledge, skills and close monitoring of the activities of the bees, harvesting can be done on a more regular basis and thus yield will increase. Also, in the rural areas where properly dried timber is not available, KTB and Langstroth hives will warp after a short while and create problems for the beekeepers when handling the bees. They will also be difficult to maintain and repair. Using local materials available in hive construction is more appropriate.

Section 4 A Honey Export Operation

To start an export honey operation, one can choose to be involved in the upstream activity of beekeeping, or to concentrate on trading. In the discussion below, we are looking at the operations of an exporter who does not engage in beekeeping itself. The company will buy directly from the outgrowers, process the honey and pack it for export. The main field of operation will be sourcing, processing and marketing.

There are two kinds of export in which one could be engaged, small scale and bulk export, respectively.

For small-scale export, the basic equipment required would be:

Honey extracting equipment, stainless steel settling tanks, filtering equipment, airtight buckets, clean refinery & storage building, pickup. The cost can range from UGX 50,000,000 to UGX 150,000,000, excluding the building.

For bulk export, the basic equipment required would be:

Forklift truck, food grade drums, palettes, honey extracting equipment, stainless steel settling tanks, filtering equipment, airtight buckets, clean refinery & storage building, truck. The cost can range from UGX 300,000,000 onwards, again excluding the building.

Expansion of a refinery can be progressive. One can invest in the minimum initially and add on more of the same equipment as production increases. Usually, companies will start with small-scale export. Once they secure more honey and orders, they can easily switch over to bulk export operations by adding on some other equipment. Whatever they have already invested in will not be wasted, as the assets are still applicable in the new operation.

At the moment, the local and regional demand for honey far exceeds the supply. In fact, local and regional prices are more attractive than those achievable for bulk export, at world honey wholesale prices. At the same time, the investment for a bulk export operation is quite substantial. Thus bulk export is not the most profitable option at the time of writing. Small-scale export to niche markets that command higher product prices is a more attractive choice to start with.

As written in Section 2 above, the investment in training and education will be much higher than the investment in hardware. It is difficult to quantify this software investment as it varies with the level of professionalism of the staff and  moreover is an on-going investment.

It is only during the last ten years that the beekeeping industry is slowly gaining attention as an additional income generating activity for the growing number of farmers who have small land plots. The local land inheritance culture of dividing land among one’s sons is causing plots to be split into smaller portions. Beekeeping becomes a viable enterprise for such small landowners, as it takes up less space compared to agriculture or animal husbandry. This newly-noticed industry is not well understood by banks in Uganda and they have not developed any special schemes to cater for beekeeping activities. They will assess any loan request using standard policies and procedures.  The following is a summary, from the point of view of a honey producer.

a) Financing Equipment: For companies engaging in honey production and processing, asset-financing arrangements are possible with some general equipment such as generators and vehicles. However, banks would be more reluctant to provide loans for equipment that is specific to the beekeeping industry, such as refinery equipment and beehives. They will only consider loans for such specific equipment if there are other assets to secure it. Risk is much higher due to the limited resale market for such items. Also, for production equipment like beehives, it will be almost impossible to repossess once the bees colonize the hives.

b) Working Capital: Unlike equipment loans where the equipment itself is an asset with some value as collateral,  banks are more stringent in facilitating loans for working capital. The usual procedure would require the borrower to use assets such as land, buildings or fixed deposit as collateral to secure the loan. They will also look into the past years’ cash flows and performance of the company in deciding the payment terms. Interest rate is in the high 20% – 30% range.

An alternative for companies without suitable assets as collateral would be contract financing, whereby, with a firm order secured from a buyer, the exporter could negotiate for a temporary loan using that as security. Unlike businesses such as manufacturing where business activities are more evenly spread out through the year, honey production is seasonal. The huge amount of money needed to buy the honey during the one or two seasons a year poses a great strain on most companies’ cash flows.

With contract financing, once the exporter ascertains the amount of honey their out-growers can harvest for the season, they can liaise with their buyer and bank for such a financing arrangement[2]. The money released in advance by the bank makes it possible for them to pay the outgrowers for the honey, process and ship it to their customer. The exporter will incur less interest expense with contract financing, compared to the case with unsecured finance, which in any case is extremely difficult to obtain in Uganda.

c) Financing for Smallholder Producers:  Local banks are receptive to opportunities to provide financial services to out-growers supported by a processor / exporter. Many banks are coming up with low cost savings accounts and are opening branches upcountry to tap into this market. However, the monthly bank charges may still be too taxing on beekeepers who may receive income only once or twice a year. Also, any loan packages come with the unaffordable interest of more than 20% and a short repayment period. Beekeeping is unlike most other agriculture or animal husbandry activities when it comes to the investment and return schedule. Almost all the investment is made in the initial period and the returns only start to be generated 18 months later. However, the beekeeper can reap returns for many years thereafter with minimal maintenance investment. If this situation is understood by the banking sector, and they develop special loan packages that take all these unique characteristics of beekeeping activity into account, then it would be viable for the outgrowers to tap into financing by the banks.

Section 5  Support by Government

The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries has been making efforts to support the honey industry by assisting commercial beekeepers and stakeholders with permits for bee transfers and veterinary certification for honey exports.

The Ministry of Trade and Tourism and The Uganda Export Promotion Board also issue different certificates essential to any export of honey, while the Ministry of Finance allows tax exemption on imports of honey processing equipment and packaging.

All these greatly help in advancing and developing this industry. It would be an added boost to the development if all the necessary permits and certificates could be processed in a one-stop location. Not only is it more efficient for the exporter, it will be easier for Uganda to compile statistics regarding this industry. With more information and feedback, the Government can then formulate policies that will enhance the growth of this industry.

The National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) Program provided some farmers with beehives and training. There is room for improvement in the quality of the provisions though.

With the setting up of ApiTrade Uganda, an organization dedicated to supporting the beekeeping industry, Uganda is trying to provide a regional link for producers, buyers and equipment suppliers[3]. They organized ‘Apitrade’, a honey conference / exhibition that acts as a platform for interested players in the industry to meet. It is held once every two years in different African countries; the first was in Uganda in 2008. This year, 2010, Apitrade is hosted by Zambia and in 2012 it will be in Ghana.

_________________

[1] Author:  Lesster Leow, EastWest Innovations Uganda Ltd.

[2] See also Article 4.2 in this Yearbook for a more complete discussion of bank financing linked to forward sales contracts.

[3] Apitrade Africa is a private Organization set up in Uganda to facilitate the honey industry, (www.apitradeafrica.org). Anybody who wants information about the honey industry must join as a member in order to get assistance.

July 9, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Development for B.E.S.T. Program (second course)……………………

B.E.S.T. program is developing its second course. This course includes value adding such as candles making and propolis production.

We are also in the process of developing another training centre nearer to Kampala City. It will be at Kajjansi, Entebbe Road. Once the model farm is established, this training centre will serve those who prefer to have their training done closer to Kampala. In fact the first batch of trainees had already started yesterday.

Production of propolis is underway. For those who had not heard of “Propolis”, I had link the Wikipedia site here.

Production of propolis tinture and propolis paste under FAO guidelines.

May 30, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, Honey Processing, propolis | , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

10 Valuable Life & Business Lessons You Can Learn from Bees…………………….

Bees are more smart than scary, and instead of wasting time running away from them, we should start studying them. Their life and business lessons rival the strategies taught at some of the best colleges out there, so check out this list of 10 skills you can learn from bees.

  1. They’re expert communicators: Bees triangulate distances and direction, and are in continuous contact with their hives as they search for food sources. They’re not off “hunting” for themselves; instead, bees never seem to break contact with the group and keep each other informed to stay alive and recruit other bees to help them collect pollen where it’s most plentiful. Can you imagine if there were no secret stashes or ulterior motives in business?
  2. Bees are associative learners: Bees never stop learning and use natural forces to direct their actions in terms of finding food and monitoring the environment. They continue to visit the types of flowers that consistently offer them rewards, noting color and odor, and then effectively ditch them if weather patterns or other elements make the reward harder to obtain in search of other flowers. If we could learn as quickly, and then let go of past processes in order to move forward, we’d be profit-making machines, no exceptions.
  3. The more, the merrier. And the more productive: Swarms of bees result in a very social insect, promoting flexibility and adaptability, robustness, and self-organization, according to AskNature.org. Scientists have found that when surrounded by a pack, bees that “fail,” don’t cause major problems because all the others pick up the slack. Innovation, optimization and streamlined processes result from self-organization, which seems to naturally occur in swarms.
  4. They have different jobs and stick to them: It’s a controversial lesson in efficiency, and one that’s often rejected in the United States, where cross-mobility is appreciated. But bee colonies have a strict hierarchy and class system, and the hive works so well because worker bees sting and forage, male drones mate, house bees build the honeycomb and tend to the queen, and so on.
  5. Their product is attractive to many industries: Bees don’t just make the honey you put on your ice cream. Their wax is used for cosmetics, religious products and lots of food products, and they also pollinate plants and even whole orchards. Furthermore, their honeycombs and hives are still inspiring architects today because of their complexity and relative durability. What’s the business lesson here? Always aim to create a product and/or service that’s attractive and even necessary for lots of industries and customers, making your company indispensable and practically invulnerable.
  6. They’re highly adaptable to even drastic changes: Bees that have been relocated thousands of miles — from Hawaii to Louisiana in this case — are still able to locate and collect pollen in just an hour. New locations, temperatures and environments don’t sway their end goal or bottom line.
  7. They continue to evolve: Scientists believe that honeybees first spawned 130 million years ago, during the landmass of Gondwana. After the breakup of the landmass, some honeybees became extinct, but most have evolved and sub-speciated according to their new environments. Even after continent break-ups and climate changes, bees are still around and working just as furiously.
  8. Age levels are directly related to work habits: Bees delegate different jobs according to age level, showing an understanding for natural ability, stamina and practice. Young bees, for instance, aren’t allowed out into the field unless there has been a serious blow to the population. Would you want your brand new intern making independent sales calls on his first day? Take a cue from the bees and associate new workers with “housekeeping” for the first few weeks.
  9. Bees depend on their queen: Every colony or company needs a strong leader. When queen bees are absent or have died, bees start squabbling and are less organized. During the interim between queens, colony morale is down, and honey production is lower. Even the mere presence of a strong leader (hint: you don’t have to micromanage) is vital to directing workers.
  10. Bees have an innate sense of responsibility and a desire to work: While you can’t force an instinct upon someone else, you can train employees to almost instinctively notice when work needs to be done, minimizing wasted time and micro-mangement. Bees start working a few hours after they’re born, noticing the dirty cells that need to be cleaned around them and eventually moving on to clean the queen, guard the hive, and forage for pollen and nectar, and contribute in any way that’s needed.

You can see the original article here.

September 10, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

BEST Program on 30/08/10 to 04/09/10…………………….

Photos by Lesster Leow, Aug 29, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

BestProgram300810_040910, posted with vodpod

Class TC-BP1003

Simon Peter The training has been fantastic. I had learnt a lot from the apiary. Before I came for the workshop, I had it in mind that bees were the greatest enemies of human being in life, but after I came to learn that once when you attend to them carefully and tenderly, they can give you whatever you want from them. They can know that you are their master and cannot be aggressive to you. I have learnt how to make money from bees and how to sustain myself by getting money from bee-products like honey, beeswax. I am now very much conversant with making bee hives and this will help me to make money from it. This is all I have learnt from this workshop. Thanks Timothy Centre and thanks Lesster and Karl.

Doreen Semucho – This training has improved our understanding on how to handle bees so carefully for the better harvest of honey. We have also learnt other uses of bees like pollination. The training has been practical which has enriched the trainees interest on how to keep bees as an economic activity. We’ve really learnt so many other things and we are committed to put this to practice and to teach our community the goodness of protecting and keeping bees.



September 9, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Letter To The Beekeepers In The Video Clip – from a frightened little honeybee…………………….

Dear Mr. Beekeeper Sir,

By the time you read this letter, probably I would have already left this World. You see, my life on this earth is only about 45 days. And it is only the last few days I was able to fly out to collect half a teaspoon of honey for everyone to share.

I was very sad and frightened when I saw this video clip of you and your method of taking honey away from us. I think I should say more of sad than frighten. For so many years, we had to be placed under lots of tests and experiment and cross breeding to develop a mutated species of honeybees that do not know how to protect ourselves the way God had wanted us.

When I was born, I heard from my sisters that our mother was not given the opportunity to find her own mates but instead sent to you, forced against her will to be inseminated according to your desire. And when you found out that our mother is no longer producing, you terminate her life prematurely.

You could not handle our natural aggressive behavior given by God’s to protect ourselves, you took nature into your own hands and made generations and generations of our siblings defenseless. You made us felt that as if the honey is rightly belonging to you and we are hindering your progress when you sell our honey.

You had made us so stressful that we had lost all our own defense system in order for you to take advantage of our docile behavior. Initially I thought it was for the best for both parties, but I was wrong. I thought being docile was a good thing so that we can work harmoniously but instead, you took our kindness as weakness. You abused our gentle friendship and treated us like slaves, without sparing a thought on how we feel. We are also living creatures like you and we do feel pain.

Look at the video clip. How did you mistreat our fellow sisters? My heart bled when I saw so many being crushed in between the box. They had done you no wrong except bringing honey for you to enjoy the fruit of their labor. When you had taken whatever you wanted from us, you simply trashed all of us on the ground, lost, confuse and stressed.

Now all of us are sick and many of us are slowly disappearing with no apparent reasons at all. Have you ever thought about the cause and effect? What is happening now is a vicious circle. Treating us with anti-biotic to prolong our lives is not the solution. Soon the anti biotic will be spilled over into the honey and end of the day, you will be eating contaminated honey from your own doing. In fact I knew this had already happened. But you chose to keep silent so that you can sell the honey.  A piece of paper can never wrap a burning flame. That’s why some time back, honey from some Countries were banned because traces of anti-biotic were found in them.

Things had come full circle. If you were to see what is happening around, it will not last long. We used to be very resilient to all kinds of diseases and viruses but for the last decade, many of our siblings were succumbed to diseases and viruses that had always been living together, without interfering with our daily lives.

Look at my fellow sisters in Africa, with little or no human intervention. They had retained their natural aggressive instinct and till now, they are still resilient to viruses and diseases. They are still producing beautiful, natural honey, which is what it should be.

Dear Mr. Beekeeper Sir, I hope this letter will make you rethink how you should treat us and what will be the effect in the long run.

To you, it is just in a day’s work. To us, it matters life and death.

From a frightened little honeybee

August 9, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, honey harvest, 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

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

Up close and personal……………………

Really appreciate Jonathan for taking time to come from Singapore to capture moments of my work in still life. He had also shared a lot on the art of photography. Its all about inspiration and being able to capture the feeling and moment there and then. The final challenge is to capture the African bees closeup at 5pm. The timing for opening up beehives during the day is crucial. The weather must be cool in order for the bees to stay calm.

Come next week, when Jonathan leaves for Singapore, we will resume the transfer of bee from Kampala to Timothy Centre at Masaka.

Sending a little bit of smoke signal telling the bees we are coming in peace.

Waiting for the bees to calm down before signalling Jonathan to come forward for the shoot.

First time for Jonathan to come so close to a colony of African bees.

Another magical moment for Jonathan's profile. Up close and personal.

December 9, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, propolis | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True to their mission slogan, “WE ARE FAMILY”

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

www.kidsofafrica.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cost of langstroth hive – Ush120,000

Honey harvested in a year as claimed –  25kg

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

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

Here is the cost of a traditional beehive investment….

Cost of traditional beehive – Ush5,000

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

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

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

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

1 traditonal hive gives the farmer 15kg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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