Beekeeping in Africa

  • Africa has a tremendous potential for honey production. The fact that most honeybees there are the aggressive races does not deter the people there from doing what they can to obtain harvests. In my work there with various peoples in various countries I have been impressed and actually humbled by the determination and courage of these people. I will build this page as time allows with descriptions and pics of what I have been doing there. In most cases the projects have been funded by organizations such as Winrock International and Farmer-to-Farmer. My sincere thanks to them and the American people for funding. I can testify that the money is well spent, and used to benefit people who make our most poverty-stricken citizens look like wealthy Lords.

Beekeeping in The Republic of Guinea

Guinea for several decades was virtually cut off from the Western world, because of the “cold war”….because Guinea chose to side with Russia, the Western powers were not welcome. The leader for all those years chose to pursue a path of agrarian reform, to make Guinea self-sufficient agriculturally. It seemed to work pretty well. Even businessmen were obliged to go and work in agriculture for a few weeks of the year. Then, with new leadership, came the advent of “Democracy”. All the businesses that had been developed were deemed unprofitable, and sold in a free-market manner. Apparently, they were sold for pennies on the dollar to those with influence, and after that were often dismantled and sold off as scrap. The new “Democracy” was apparently a Kleptocracy. This is the story that I heard several times during my stay in Guinea. One thing for sure: Guinea in the countryside is extremely undeveloped. It looks much the same as Sierra Leone looked to me back in 1970, when I served there. The only difference I really noticed was the presence of cell phones even in many villages. For those looking for an “authentic” African experience, Guinea is the place….very traditional. Here is a link to a video of one village I worked in:     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSb0w1e0U2M       There are several more, which can be viewed by going to:    http://www.youtube.com/user/moigboi/videos

Some of the videos in the above link are of work done in Uganda and Nigeria. Both these countries have tremendous potential as well for the development of beekeeping. It is ridiculous that Africa imports any honey at all; the continent has IMHO the potential to be the world’s biggest EXPORTER of honey, much of it Organic! Over and over I was struck with the incredible potential for honey production, which could not be realized because the beekeepers lacked even basic protective gear, to say nothing of access to even the most rudimentary beekeeping supplies. For example, in the whole nation of Guinea, it was impossible to find bottles to put honey in! Used water bottles were all that was available. I know it sounds unbelievable but it’s really true . Bee suits were unheard of in most places. Smokers? What’s a smoker? These people would go out at night with a smoking wad of grass, climb a tree (the hives were located in trees) wearing only a pair of shorts, and lower the hive down to the ground…..then tear it part to get the honey. These are African bees, the true “killer bees”, extremely vicious…..how in the world they are able to do it, and take the innumerable stings, I can’t imagine. But they do. The problem is not laziness, or fear. It is lack of any infrastructure to build a business upon, coupled with a lack of knowledge of modern beekeeping. Together, these make progress very difficult. And finally, add into that the total corruption of those in charge, and you get No Progress.   That being said, I have to say that the people of Nialeya village, in Guinea, were the most progressive and hard-working beekeepers I have ever met. In only two visits, they went from producing only dirty, low-grade honey to producing Export-grade honey, and making their own bee suits as well! I can only hope that Winrock or another NGO will continue working there. Seriously, if I were younger, I would consider going there to start an education center and a honey packing/distribution center. The potential is huge, as watching some of the videos will confirm. All that is needed is someone to get things started.

Beekeeping in Nigeria

There is so much I could say about this, but let me first state that Nigeria is a prime example of why the extremely poor remain so in many places in Africa, while a chosen few get rich. In a nutshell, corruption. Nigeria was the only place where I was confronted with gross corruption even within the aid organization I worked with! This self-serving, destructive behavior really messed up part of the project I was working on. Now I’m not saying that they are more corrupt than in the United States .  But we are far more discreet how about such things here than they are there. It reinforces more than ever my belief that it is the morality of a nation more than any other thing that causes it to rise or fall. More on this (perhaps) when I get more time….

Ghana.    the project in Ghana was really pleasant to work on. People in Ghana were extremely friendly and of all the countries I have been in Ghana is the most progressive so far. The beekeepers who I worked with were in a somewhat remote Village, but they did have electricity! The project was different because nobody in the village actually kept bees beforehand, so everybody needed a good education in basic beekeeping. Ghana is really big on natural products and natural healing with herbs, and so forth, so because of that there was a tremendous demand for local honey. The pharmacies were buying it for its medicinal qualities! The beekeeping group seem to be doing well as of last report.

Uganda.    LIDEFO, the group we worked with in Uganda, seems to be working quite well and has expanded from year to year. It seems to be a really going concern now. They are producing quite a lot of honey (over15,000kg) and selling at the retail level in Kasese and other places. Unfortunately there was a lot of political trouble in Kasese last year and apparently a terrible massacre took place, with possibly hundreds of people being killed by the army. Some of the beekeepers were caught up in this but I don’t think LIDEFO suffered very much because of it. It was pretty terrible though and give you some insight into what kind of government actually exists in Uganda. Since they are friendly to us we call them a democracy. I forget how many decades the president has been in power. But on balance LIDEFO is doing quite well, and has expanded greatly since we were there.

Sierra Leone.   Sierra Leone borders the Republic of Guinea. I have a special love for this country because I spent three years there in the Peace Corps years ago. I suspect the honey potential is just as incredible as Republic of Guinea. This is a country I haven’t been to on a beekeeping mission, but I really want to return and see what I can do to expand their beekeeping industry. One of these days I hope to get the money to do it. I really look forward to it because I do speak Sierra Leonean Krio and can get by in Mende, which is widely spoken. This eliminates the need for an interpreter in most cases, which is a tremendous benefit; having to use an interpreter is a real barrier. I’ll keep you posted as to any developments here. Any local philanthropists out there?

 

 

An African Story

One night, after many years of peace, and endless nights each is beautiful as the last, Adami felt the horizon speaking. It told him that the time had come for discovery. Accordingly he went to the place of discussions to speak with the elders, who had been gathered for some hours speaking of various matters. He stood silent for some minutes as they spoke of old companions, and passed feats of forgotten ancestors. The time came when his presence was acknowledged.

“So, the young come again to speak with the past?” they said.
Adami began. “I come to speak to you about this night. Over there the horizon seems darker and more limitless that it has ever before. It calls me, and although I know my future steps, I have come to ask you about this thing. Surely in our past there have been other nights, even darker horizons, and other men who were dragged by them as I. Before I answer the darkness is there anything you can tell me?”
Many were silent, having never heard of such things. Others, although silent, seemed very sad–as if once the call had reached them, and it’s strength was not great enough.
One grizzled old man spoke through a face of worn leather. His eyes were small and sunken but glistened like diamonds.
“This thing of which you speak is stronger than you know. I can remember one man, yes, he heard the horizon. It spoke to him so loudly that he too had to leave. He was just a boy when he left here but his eyes possessed a fire that was brighter than most. I knew him well; he was my brother. This thing is strong…he spoke to me one night, a few nights before he walked away; he cried and only said his life was my life. One night later he left without goodbyes. He is an elder now, I think, although I am not sure where. I have never seen him again”.
The old man looked at him for some minutes then, in silence, as the red embers of fire in the meeting place turned colder. Like the webs of giant spiders, the hammocks moved imperceptibly back-and-forth, in silence. Outside, the moon spilled in white sheeting onto the village.
Once again the old man coughed slightly and spoke. “I told him many things, hoping to ease the fever in his eyes. None of them were able. But still I told him over and over, ‘you are one of us,never forget you are, never forget who your mother and father were’. That is all I fear,that he no longer remembers.”
The still, silent air of the meeting place was alive with the past. Many more people were present, although invisible. His mind straining, Adami bowed and left, amidst the roaring silence.
His leaving the next night, silently as a breeze, was painted clearly in the single tear that rolled down that leathery cheek. The horizon said nothing either; but one week later it roared and flashed all night long.


Leave a Reply