This is an ongoing project to study and document the practices of master beekeepers in Africa – people who produce excellent yields of honey in a sustainable, environmentally appropriate manner using traditional or modern methods, or a combination of both. We want to capture the innovations and creativity of African beekeepers. Indeed under local conditions our experience tells us that low-cost tools, indigenous knowledge and local materials are often superior to those “improved systems” based on modern hives and European-based methods.
The project is financed by contributions from individual benefactors, and is implemented by the ABRC team.
This 18-month project is identifying and working with exemplary Kenyan beekeepers and honey hunters (men and women) by focussing on which particular husbandry practices make them successful – describing the techniques, technologies, values and business skills that set them apart from the rest. (We will continue collecting and publishing these stories and lessons beyond the life of this project.)
Our findings (credited to the individuals themselves) are being written-up/filmed/recorded to provide lessons for improving beekeeping practice, focusing research needs and guiding development support to benefit others. The outputs will be in the form of audience-targeted materials: a book; Journal contributions; a series of films for use in trainings; a series of concepts for development and research projects; a series of off-prints; mass media (newspaper) articles (for the general public); and material for the ABRC website.
These knowledge products will also provide case-studies for influencing development practitioners and donors. They will generate basic principles for improving African bee husbandry – redressing the many misguided technology-transfer approaches that have failed to date.
Furthermore, locally appropriate bee husbandry systems are needed across the continent – with other races of bees, in different ecological zones and in other socio-cultural and economic environments. “Bee muses” will not only refine ideas on which beekeeping systems are best for Eastern Africa, but will also demonstrate how local knowledge can be collected, assessed and used elsewhere. Both the outputs of the project, and processes we are using to identify these skills, will be valuable.
If you would like know more about this project, or would like to support this research, please get in touch with us.
Somalia is in the Horn of Africa in North East Africa, the cradle of the craft of beekeeping.
This beekeeping study was commissioned by Horn Relief (HR) an African-led international development and humanitarian organisation which has worked to improve the conditions of those living in marginalised areas in the Horn of Africa since 1991. (Horn Relief has since been rebranded to ADESO – http://adesoafrica.org/.) The study, conducted in late 2007/early 2008, was undertaken by the African Beekeeping Resource Centre (ABRC).
This assignment was to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the honey sub-sector in Sanaag region in Somalia, particularly to identify gaps that exist in technical training, relevant infrastructure, human capacity and business development, and to produce recommendations for increasing capacity, overcoming market production challenges and increasing communities’ market linkages with inland, rural and international markets.
This assignment was conducted by ABRC consultants William Keyah and Tom Carroll through a detailed field study of the beekeeping sector in Sanaag region (from production to marketing), supported by desk research. A comprehensive report was submitted to the client.
In total 27 women and 38 men were interviewed. 70% practiced beekeeping (in terms of production, consumption and trading), and 6% were honey traders. The remaining 24% consisted of key informants, administrators and potential beekeepers. The study appears to provide the first documented information on the beekeeping sub-sector in the Sanaag region.
The study’s key findings indicate:
There are excellent opportunities for improving the local beekeeping sub-sector, and enhancing the livelihoods of local people and creating employment for both men and women in Sanaag.
Production of honey in Sanaag is through a combination of honey hunting and beekeeping using simple hives such as a fixed comb box hives and top-bar hives. Beekeeping is still relatively new to the area.
Women are actively involved in beekeeping in the area.
Absconding bees and low hive occupation rates are major problems. This is likely to be caused by hot dry conditions and inadequate shade and water for bees.
Demand for honey is greater than supply. Local market prices are very high (compared to other African countries) with beekeepers earning between 5-10 US dollars per kilogram. (Typical Kenyan honey prices are ???.)
Honey is used for medicinal purposes and also has religious significance. (The use of honey is mentioned in the holy Koran.)
Export market opportunities exist for honey in the Middle East, particularly Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
The key recommendations of the study are:
Build a locally appropriate style of beekeeping based on local knowledge and the need for addressing local constraints. This requires a learning-approach.
Strengthen the capacity of honey sector stakeholders including existing beekeepers, beginning beekeepers, honey hunters, traders, honey processors and artisans making beekeeping equipment.
Develop a cadre of beekeeping trainers.
Provide capacity building support for value-adding, product development and marketing.
Emphasise the importance of bees as an entry point to environmental conservation.