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

Hodges first colony…………………….

The hodges are getting into the swing of things. Just got an email with these photos attached. It is their first colony after the training. This young colony is doing well.

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December 26, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

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

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 – Bangi, KL (The feasibility study Part 5)…………………….

KL to Azman's farm in Bangi

I had an amazing time when I visited Azman, a bee farmer in Bangi, Kuala Lumpur. We started communicating some time last year this time and he knew I was heading to Malaysia this time of the year. He told me I must come visit his apiary and share with me his enthusiasm.

I was really impressed with his achievement and his apiary is the first that I came across that uses Africa beekeeping method, the Kenyan Top Bar hive system. I would not be surprised he is the first in this part of the world that applied top bar beekeeping.

This visit meant a lot to me because on this feasibility study, I wanted and needed to know how api cerana will react to top bar hive method of beekeeping. In Uganda, African honeybees do very well with KTB and I am very familiar with the method. I felt like I was back in Uganda when I approached Azman’s apiary. On top of that, I feel that top bar beekeeping is more economical for the local folks. They do not need to acquire expensive langstroth and to buy European bees to start this enterprise. By the way, the cost of 1 langstroth, comes with bees, cost RM1,800 (US$625). That package provides only the brood box, base board and cover. It does not include the queen-excluder and super. I don’t think many local villagers can afford that kind of money to start the business.

I was greeted by a large plantation of star fruit and I am confident that his bees would have no issues on nectar and pollen source. I saw the bees buzzing happily around the flowers only stopping for a moment when there were about to enter the flowers.

This was his first attempt in keeping bees and I can say that he was already doing it well although there were some pointers that he needed to look into. He had teamed up with his friend, Haniz and both are equally passionate about keeping bees.

Azman and Haniz with their favorite colony.

They started only with one colony. By the time I visited them two days ago, they already had colonized 6 hives. The development of their apiary had set a good example for all. For a start, they did not spend money on buying bees or expensive equipment. They collected used wooden crates and palettes. With no prior experience and based on their own judgment, recycled these planks and palettes into smaller version of the top bar hives. Everything was going through trails and errors. Somehow the bees still found their way to these hives.

When Azman did his first hive, he wanted to see the activities within. He created a glass window on the side of the hive. This had became his observation hive. Very often he would simply open up the side panel to see these lovely ladies working hard.

Api cerana somehow has a bit of her distant cousins (api mellifera scutellata) behaviour. They can be aggressive at times if not handled properly. Azman and Haniz would have to spend more time with them to learn more about their behaviour and to overcome them.

Azman had always wondered how do we handle African honeybees without protective gear. I told him it would be much easier because api cerana or asian bees are not as aggressive as the African cousins. He was pleased when he saw the real thing after having seen my blog during our training program where most of the participants were trained to handle the African honeybees bare hands.

Smaller version of KTB compared to the one I used in Uganda.

Hive with a side glass window panel for easy observation.

Gentle approach is the key to gentle bees.

The joy of handling different species from different part of the world.

The beauty of api cerana.

Azman working on another colony.

A larger version of the observation hive.

August 23, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, honey harvest, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | 23 Comments

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

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

Universiti Sains Malaysia, medical research department.

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

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

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

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

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

Trigona, Stingless bees.

Entrance to a stingless bee colony.

Docile Apis Mellifera Italiana.

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

Observing the more nasty cousin, apis ceranas.

Entrance to the stingless bees apiary.

Top view of a stingless bee colony.

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

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.

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[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

Get me to the church on time…………………….

Finally after one and half month of melting, molding and working round the clock, these candles are ready to leave home to attend a wedding banquet in Canada.

Not long ago, farmers were not aware of the by products from honey farming. They used to throw honey combs away after extracting the honey out of it. Today, not only they knew that beeswax are so useful in various aspect, it is also another form of income generating component. With proper education and guidance, they now understood the value of beeswax.

To top it all, burning beeswax candles are more environmental friendly than burning paraffin based candles. Petroleum based candle gives off toxic fumes.

The finished product looks good and the process looks simple but behind the scene, the hardship of one has to go through, many will not understand. Working with Ugandans are like producing these candles. You have to mold each and individual with time and patience, one at a time.

Beeswax candles going places.

Candles going Canada.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping bees with passion…………………….

Colin with his neighbor, Monique, inside his first set of bee colonies.

During my visit to Colin’s apiary over the weekend, I chanced upon a very passionate beekeeper. He has been keeping bees for more than 25 years. I was very impressed with his setup and he has a small workshop that produces all his hives. Colin had been passing his place a number of time but didn’t get a chance to stop. Since I was there, might as well make an effort to stop to see what is interesting.

Mr. Wumale wasn’t at his apiary when we drove up to his home. He was at church. He was a brilliant marketing person I should say. He had his phone number painted  on one of his wooden door and that was where we managed to contact him.

His enthusiasm was contagious. He sounded like a hugh man over the phone but when he arrived, my perception of him changed. What was in front of me was a bouncy, petite guy with a big voice. I am quite certain his heart is as big as his voice. I managed to obtain a short interview with him and about his passion.

Mr. Wamule and his apiary.

Mr. Wamule start beekeeping more than 25 years ago and his intention was to harvest honey and brood for his own family consumption. Brood mixed with porridge was a delicacy back then. His constant interaction with bees took him further than his homeland. He made an effort to wanting to learn more. During the earlier years, beekeeping in Kenya was more advance so he took off to Nairobi to understand more about beekeeping. He wanted to develop his passion into a business. He came back equipped with knowledge and vision of how to modernized his way of keeping bees.

I was impressed with his thirst for knowledge and the creativity of developing a system that suited him well.

Walking through his apiary, you could see that he had combined the beekeeping method of top bar hive and langstroth. Being curious, I asked him why? He told me that after he had returned from Kenya, he decided to capitalize on both system. What is suitable for him and what is not. He felt that both system has it advantages and disadvantages. Having the top bar horizontal management, he does not have to exert himself when comes to harvesting. A super filled with honey can be very heavy for someone his size to lift.

A combination of a langstroth and top bar hive.

He liked the idea of the framed langstroth and especially the separation of the brood chamber from the honey chamber. So in his workshop, he came up with his own prototype, a langstroth that looked like a top bar hive or should I say, a top bar hive that looked like a langstroth. 😛

His quest for modernization was due to his passion and love for bees. He admitted that previously, due to lack of knowledge, he used to hunt for the honey and brood. He felt that this wasn’t the way to go in terms of sustainability. On top of that the destruction bees made him felt guilty. Then the wonderful phrase came out from him, “I love bees and I do not want to harm them”.

You can see the twinkling in his eyes when he talks about how his system had reduced so much death within the hives during harvesting. You can sense his joy when he touched on his new way of harvesting his honey, with the introduction of the queen excluder and the bee escape. That was the best lesson he had learnt during his trip to Kenya. Many modern beekeepers might not find his discovery interesting, but for someone who had little or no resources, able to make an effort to progress is something highly commendable.

Mr. Wamule was so ever willing to share. He brought us to an empty hive and explained how it works. Although it seems there are still rooms for improvement but the creativity does deserved an applause.

Now that all his children had grown up and left to start their new life. He can enjoy his passion with a lighter burden on his shoulder. I guessed Mr. Wamule is one of the rare few in Uganda that will put honeybees first before money.

*If you love your job, you don’t have to work a single day in your life – Confucius.

The brood chamber of Mr. Wamule's hive.

Home made bee escape.

Mr. Wamule and his hive. The cover is hinged.

At his workshop.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , | 1 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

Show me an African Queen…………………….

Observing their daily activities.

Into the third day of the lessons, these future beekeepers got the opportunities to look deeper into what is happening in a hive. They were shown the different occupants and their job roles. As the days moved on, slowly they are getting more confident with their interaction with the African bees. Some of them had already taken off the veil so that they are able to see the bees and the interior of the hive more clearly.

A comb was selected and placed away from the hive. With that single comb, it told the daily activities in a colony. They managed to see the forager doing the “bee dance”, telling the rest of the foragers where the food source was. Some house bees were busy storing “bee bread” food for the young. They noticed that some of the bees were of bigger size. They were the drones. They knew now that drones do not have a stinger. All of them were so envious of the drone because their job role is simply to eat, procreate and dies.

They also managed to differentiate the cell size of the worker bee and a drone. Alas, there were no emerging queens because it was not the swarming season yet.

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

Everyone was eager to see the queen, but I told them we will have to be patient and locate when we bring that comb back first. She was not at that comb which we had brought out.

The training we provide enables a young beekeeper to have a calm environment to learn this trade. They were taught from the very beginning how to interact, to approach a colony without aggressive confrontation. We first create a paradigm shift with the way they view African honeybees. If they were to be treated with respect and gentleness, they will reciprocate.

The sad misconception of African bees being aggressive was eradicated from their minds. They being aggressive are because we made them so. We, human had treated them badly all these while whenever they go honey hunting.

Over the years, Organization embarked on food security programs, only emphasize on giving free bee hives to make good reports. No attention was given on how to manage African bees. Failing to manage them lead to projects abandoned after the project is over. Think of the process, not the outcome. Their aim is to fulfill their personal needs rather than making sure the funds were spent objectively and prudently.

They saw the African Queen…..

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

Bee sting and apitherapy…………………….

Ever wonder what actually happened when a honey bee stings you? The bee stinger is barbed. Just like a fishing hook, it will lodge its sting underneath your skin. When she tried to get away from you, the whole venom segment of the body will tear away from her body, causing her instant death. The venom sac muscles will continue to pump the venom into your body.

Many researcher and scientist are using bee venom as an alternative to cure arthritis and tendonitis. The venom is administered through injection or through bee sting. If the bee sting is used, the apitherapy practitioner will place bees on the skin, typically close to the joints, muscle or other body parts that are having problems.

Somehow I am not in favour of this practice. It is destroying and killing the bees for the benefit of mankind. In order to relieve human suffering, the bees became the victims.

Well this argument can be rebutted again in the name of science. Hopefully we can look into alternative cure.

I would like to thank the bee which had sacrificed for mankind in order to gain this knowledge. I would also like to thank The Department of Entomology of Virginia Tech for sharing this valuable insight of honeybees.

April 17, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee hive, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training | , , , | Leave a comment

B.E.S.T. – TCBP1006…………………….

The program is slowly attracting the expatriates community who wanted to play their part not only in embarking on honey farming, but also in keeping the eco-system balance. This class saw a group of interesting and bubbly participants whom I can considered them the most interactive and inquisitive lot so far. I was challenged a few times to demonstrate what I taught. That was good! This is the way to learn. It is no point having me talking and participant listening. Practical observation speaks for itself.

Although we had a full registration for this class, it was disappointing to learn that a group of 5 from the local community did not turn up for the training although they were fully sponsored by an Organization. This shows the seriousness of wanting to progress. Anyway, its their losses.

TCBP1006

Tania Lazib –  “Absolutely fantastic class; Lesster’s general insight /and understanding of bee behaviour is excellent.  I came from no beekeeping experience to a point, by the end of the class, where I am comfortable planning my apiary, baiting hives, doing maintenance on the hives, and finally, collecting the honey (in a sustainable /and non-intrusive manner).  Mostly practical training with the right amount theory to back it up. There was so much more to say!”

Tania holding a comb of African bees for the very first time.

Colin LeendersHi Lesster, I would like to say that I enjoyed your bee keeping course very much. The week spent with you has changed the way I work WITH bees not against them which is what I have been doing in the past. I was amazed at how you can work with African bees using bare hands and not wearing head gear without being attacked and as we all know these bees have a lot of attitude. In the past when I have been working AGAINST them it was full on war as soon as the hive was opened and after it was closed.

Also like the fact that the course was keep simple easy to understand and loads of information about bees and honey. When I say simple I mean that after reading loads about bee keeping it can sound complicated also there are plenty of incorrect information out there, which during the course has been explained and demonstrated.

It is good to have loads of hands on learning with the bees and not all class room teaching. The classes are a good size. We had a good group which made it fun as well.

Once again thank you. I also highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in learning or working with bees. The learning curve does not have to be painful. – Colin

Colin slowly lifting up brood comb for inspection.

Gentle interaction with African bees makes beekeeping exciting and enjoyable.

The class ended with a field trip on Friday. We visited an apiary where our former student had setup after the training. I was very proud of Fred and Madrine for the development.

The apiary was very well done and bees are already colonizing and had even started the honey collection process.

Traditional hives neatly placed in line for ease of management.

An impressive apiary with colonies busy with honey collections.

Bee-utiful results from all the hardwork. The art of African beekeeping.

March 18, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | 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

First group for 2011…………………….

17th Jan – 22nd Jan saw the first group of participants for the BEST program for 2011. It was a diversify group because all of them came from various district in Uganda. Even the participants attended were getting more challenging.

Some of them had never kept bees while there is one who is a beekeeper. He is 74 years old. He had been in Uganda for more than 25 years as a development worker introducing sustainable agriculture activities through education on basic accounting and book keeping.

They were prepare to go through the program to overcome the fear in order to embark on the business.

TC-BP1005

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

Fr. Stanislas

This training is a “MUST” for anyone who is willing to keep bees. In this training, I learned how to handle bees in a very gentle way. My fear for bees has reduced – Building a relationship between the beekeeper and the bees is very crucial.

Father Reverend Stanislas is from Togo and currently he is pastoring a church in Lira, Northern Uganda. They had embark on beekeeping for sometime now but he felt that the project has rooms for improvement. He came for the training so that he came equip himself with more knowledge so that he can share it with his fellow folks in Lira. Fr. Stanislas is very hands on himself.

Stan Burkey

The first of importance is how to handle the bees – keeping them calm, non aggressive, how to use smoke to calm and to move the bees. How to handle the bars – all in all, very practical and very hands on. Instructors was very open to discussion, patient, willing to evaluate new ideas. Excellent foundation for further bee management.

Stan Burkey is a private consultant providing a very important component in rural development enterprise – financial planning, book keeping. Many small scale farmers do not know how to manage their earnings, calculate profit and loss. Stan would assist them in getting their books right. 40 years of experience in a few African countries. His contribution had enlighten many such farmers, turning them into entrepreneurs.

Muyomba Wilberforce

I have realised that in order to benefit from beekeeping, one has got to know how to handle the bees and make them your friend instead of enemies. This program teaches how to use the bee tools in order to deal with the bees, not to mistreat them but use the tools to work with the bees.

I so much like the hands on training that we have had which expels out the fear and panic. I aslo like the interactive training whereby you ask and discuss all that you have seen in the apiary.

This training is introductory but really loves a lot of indepth information like how the bee behave and their program in the hive such that you know the time to work with them.

Wilber force is currently working with an NGO is agriculture sustainability. He is embarking on this enterprise so that he can develop his own bee farm at his home. He hopes in the not to far future, he can use his apiary as a model bee farm to help his community to start beekeeping as another source of income to supplement their current earnings.

William K Mugisha

I liked the creative aspect of the training..Practical, Participatory and Interactive. The training emphasized the establishment of a relationship with the Bees.. at the end of the training all of us the participants were confident enough to drop the veils and the gloves, to get Up-close and passionate with the bees. (theoria cum praxi)

Lesster confidently evaluated The beekeeping Industry (based on his 10 years experience in the industry in Uganda) and  gave us the challenges in the industry. The participants discuss the Bee-economics and individual prospective investment plan which he selflessly discusses.

William work as an Information Systems Consultant in his own company where he is the Director. He is also an Associate Consultant at Uganda Management Institute in the Department of Information Technology. He is looking forward to start his Commercial Bee keeping as well as promoting Api-Tourism back home in Kisoro District and to create his own Honey Brand.


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

Happy New Year!!!…………………….

Wishing all a very happy and prosperous 2011!

January 1, 2011 Posted by | beekeeping journal | | 2 Comments

Counting down to 2011…………………….

Another year is soon to pass. 2010 saw many exciting happenings in the development. Looking forward to see what’s in store for 2011. Ready……get set……….

December 31, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, honey, Honey Quality Control | | 1 Comment

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

One of our students had written about her experience when she attended our training on her blog. I would like to thank her for the feedback. You can get to see more pictures posted by her here.

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

Flying without wings…………………….

1st November 2010 – 6th November 2010.

An exciting week! We saw participants coming all the way from United States of America and our neighbor, Rwanda. The lesson plans were somehow adjusted to accommodate the inquisitive minds of this group. Everyday they discovered a new frontier about the life of these little insect. Different strokes for different folks.

I was glad that the feedback at the end of the training were very encouraging. Here are some testimonials from this class;

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

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

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

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

The lessons did not end when the classes end. We scheduled Friday evening for a get together to have early dinner followed by a casual session, tackling all those unanswered questions that were still lingering on everybody’s mind.

Bee-ain storming session.

Class TC-BP1004

This is the beginning of a new journey for these new beekeepers. Our program includes a comprehensive tracking system to monitor the performance of every individuals. All trainees were issued with an identification card to monitor their progress.

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

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

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

China has her Terracotta warriors, I have my beeswax candles. 🙂 There is something common between them. They are a gift from Mother Earth. Sharing with the farmers on the values of by-products from honey, they are able to have another source of income.

Previously, the methods the farmers used to extract honey were to squeeze it from the combs with their bare hands, or separating the honey from the wax by boiling the honey at a high temperature. This process will destroy the quality of the honey. After which, they throw the wax away.

With proper education and sensitization, their lives changed. They now know  the importance of proper handling of their harvest. Not only they can raise the quality for the honey, they found a new source of income and a ready market.

My beeswax candle warriors ready for market.

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

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

Past few days were spent running around town, getting all the documents prepared for the shipment. This morning finally saw the shipment ready for flight. The forwarder came on time to load the buckets up. Hopefully it will reach Switzerland safely and on time.

Logistic management in Uganda still has a long way to go. One of my previous shipment, one ton of my honey was left at Entebbe airport for 10 days and nobody notice all the buckets sitting there and going nowhere. Luckily honey is non perishable. If not I will be in deep trouble. My customers were very amazed that how come such things happened. How to compete with the rest of the World if Uganda is not going to look at these issues seriously.

Yesterday I was chatting with the Chief Veterinarian. He is the person that will approve and certify all agriculture export like coffee and in this case, honey. I was surprised when he mentioned that we were the only Company that is exporting honey to Switzerland. He told me that honey going into EU is very difficult because of the stringent quality test required. He was glad that ours are able to meet the EU standards and being exported out. How he wished there were more honey with the same quality in the market.

Uganda honey going places.

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

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

Christmas is round the corner. Creativity plays a major role in keeping on par with market demands. We had just increased our range of beeswax candles for sale. More choices, more sales. 🙂

Here are some history about beeswax candles;

Candles have been used as an artificial light source for an estimated five thousand years. The first candles were made of boiled animal fat (tallow), a substance that when burned gave off heavy smoke, an inconsistent flame, and an acidic odor. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that candle makers discovered the burning properties of beeswax, the substance secreted by bees to make their honeycombs. Beeswax candles quickly became preferred over tallow candles because when burned, the beeswax candles emitted very little smoke or odor; and beeswax candles burned with more consistency than tallow.

But bees weren’t cultivated. And this rare and prized substance could only be afforded by Europe’s nobility or by the Catholic Church. It later became canon law that candles burned inside a Catholic cathedral must be composed of at least 60 percent beeswax, a law still in effect today.

By the 9th century candle making had become so perfected that the nobility were using beeswax candles to tell the time. Candles were poured and shaped with enough beeswax to burn for exactly 24 hours. The candle maker then marked the candle with 24 lines. The candle’s owner could tell what time of night it was by the section of candle that was burning. In the 13th century, guilds of candle makers began springing up throughout Paris. The next notable innovation for beeswax candles came when guilds started using wicks made of twisted cotton instead of wicks made from rushes, linen, or flax.

The whaling industry provided the dominant fuel source for tallow candles in the 18th century. Sperm whale oil (spermaceti wax) was used more in North American and European candles than other animal fats. But compared to beeswax, the spermaceti candles still smoked more and emitted an unpleasant odor.

Cotton wicks improved next when candle makers began braiding their cotton wicks instead of just twisting them, allowing for a more consistent burn. Using braided cotton wicks is one of the only changes to beeswax candles since their original conception in the middle ages.

For nearly 1500 years, beeswax candles would be considered the cleanest and most pure form of artificial light until the popularization of electricity in the 1900s.

Original article from here.

All packed and ready for export.

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

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

Village folk without social responsibility…………………….

This is one issue we beekeepers have to face, the irresponsibility of farmers around the apiary. During dry season, some of the villagers will take this opportunity to start a fire in order to collect firewood (charcoal) after the forest had burnt out. They don’t care whose land it belongs to.

Yesterday afternoon, our land not far from the apiary was set aflame. Due to the dryness of the trees around, the fire spread quickly and by 6pm, it had moved towards the apiary and Timothy Centre’s guesthouse.

We can’t do much but pray that the wind would change direction and move the fire away from the apiary. The security guards did a fine job by containing the fire. Eventually the fire subsided before midnight and I thought the cool air would not get the glowing flame light up again. At 2am, I heard crackling sound and I went out to take a look. The fire had started once more. Luckily this time round the fire was not near although it was big. I did not capture the earlier fire because my camera was not with me. Below picture was taken at 2am.

The flame was about 10 meters tall.

October 2, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping training | , , , , , | 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

You never knew…………………….

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

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

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

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

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

THE HIGH RISKS OF HONEY FARMING IN NORTHERN UGANDA.

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

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

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

CATEGORY 1: Highest medical importance

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

CATEGORY 2: Secondary medical importance

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

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

Black-necked spitting cobra.

African bush viper.

Ashe's spitting cobra.

Black mamba.

Boomslang.

East African Gaboon viper.

Egyptian cobra.

Forest cobra.

Forest vine (or twig) snake.

Gold's tree cobra.

Jameson's mamba.

Puff adder.

Rhinoceros viper.

Variable burrowing asp.

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

Bee farmers is Bushenyi, Western Uganda.

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

A Winning Combination…………………….

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

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

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

Final product - 100% Certified Organic Shea Butter.

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

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

Eucalyptus Honey on sale at our boutique

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eucalyptus Grandis.

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

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

One small harvest before heading home…………………….

Fresh comb honey harvested the night before.

I am excited to make my trip back home tomorrow. I guess you can say it’s occupational hazard. I must visit at least a colony before I leave. Meanwhile, I harvested some comb honey to be brought back to Singapore for my family members and friends to see what is ‘REAL RAW HONEY”.

There are so many marketing hypes about raw honey and its health benefits in the market but actually, does one really knows what does that mean or are they simply buying the label? Well hopefully this time round my family and friends are able to gain more insight of what is real raw honey harvested fresh from the farm.

Yes, although I am keen to push my honey into the Asia market after having served the European market for the last 5 years, I would also like my consumer friends to fully understand the benefit of eating honey, and not turning it into some kind of miracle wonder medicine that can cure everything. If I were to do that, I am doing a disservice to my fellow Singaporeans.

Hopefully this small talk will enable more to appreciate the existence of the honey bees and how it contribute to mankind. At least you will know that the next spoonful of honey you take, no bees were sacrificed.

Honey combs prepared in chunks.

Two floral in production - Eucalyptus and Savannah Bush Honey.

February 2, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, raw honey | , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Year, New Ideas…………………….

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

Cantonese Shredded Beef

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

This recipe is meant for a serving of 4.

2½ tbsp sesame oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

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

1½ tbsp soy sauce

6 tbsp blossom honey

¾ tsp chilli powder or cayenne pepper

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

¼ tsp salt

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

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

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

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

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

Shoprite staff arranging honey shelf.

Shoprite staff arranging honey shelf.

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

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

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

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

Urban Beekeeping…………………….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asia……here we come!…………………….

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey (Front Literature).

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

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

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey back literature.

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey (back literature).

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

August 2, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal, honey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Where the honey flows…………………….

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

Honey beautifully harvested from traditional log hives.

Honey beautifully harvested from traditional african log bee hives.

Comb honey going to University of Hohenheim for test

Comb honey going to University of Hohenheim for test

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

The beauty of nature…………………….

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

The wonder of nature!

The wonder of nature!

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

Getting ready for harvesting. Final briefing from beemaster.

Getting ready for harvesting. Final briefing from beemaster.

Farmers group at one of the apiary at Paicho district.

Farmers group at one of the apiary at Paicho district.

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

Homeward bound, dinner at Violet’s place

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

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

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

Spending quality time at Violet's place.

Spending quality time at Violet's place.

Sekaran having a nice chat with Belinda.

Sekaran having a nice chat with Belinda.

Honey from Uganda

Honey from Uganda

Violet frying the pancakes.

Violet frying the pancakes.

Pancakes taste good with my honey

Pancakes taste good with my honey

Uganda honey being used for the pancakes

Uganda honey being used for the pancakes

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

Uganda Honey website launch

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new website www.UgandaHoney.com with the help from the Singapore web design firm eBizIntel.

With this new site, we hope to advocate the merits of the Uganda Honey industry and sustainable form of beekeeping. On this site, visitors would be able to better understand the mission and modus operandi of Uganda Honey and understand more about Honey, beekeeping and the various social projects we are undertaking.

Uganda Honey Home page     

Uganda Honey Home page

Uganda Honey - Location of Bee Colonies page     

Uganda Honey – Location of Bee Colonies page

February 23, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal | , , | 2 Comments

Air Flown Uganda Honey to Zurich

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

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

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

Mixed Blossom Honey from Gulu, Northern Uganda.

Golden Blossom Honey from Gulu, Northern Uganda.

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