Welcome to the website of the African Beekeeping Resource Centre (ABRC)
African Beekeeping Today
Honey production should provide incomes for more and more African smallholders, hunter- gatherers and pastoralists. Sadly, it doesn’t. African countries could be among the world’s largest honey producing nations. Unfortunately, they aren’t. Beekeeping and honey hunting can “use” African biodiversity sustainably. Regrettably this seldom succeeds.
Why the Need for the ABRC?
Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) tend to be either technical specialists working in one field in lots of different places, or geographic specialists working in lots of different fields in one or two discrete places. We are the former – specialists in beekeeping development.
Our experience indicates that most beekeeping projects implemented by generalists appear to fail, and many projects based on a Western beekeeping paradigm also fail. We think it’s important to document, develop and disseminate approaches tailored to Africa’s unique environmental, ecological, social/cultural and economic conditions. We can do this – we know Africa.
Furthermore, beekeeping is a niche field that needs a very distinct set of skills and knowledge, and is potentially dangerous. We are beekeepers – we have those beekeeping skills.
Problems and the solutions
- African bees are different from European bees so it’s important to understand how they behave to become a successful beekeeper. We work with beekeepers themselves to develop locally suitable management systems.
- Poor management skills result in low beehive occupation rates, and low yields. By building from indigenous knowledge and traditional skills we can develop husbandry systems that reflect local needs, opportunities and constraints.
- Honey traders control the market process and can influence producers and production. If traders are better informed about the management and hygiene of honey they can influence beekeepers, and provide the market with what it wants.
- There are two fundamental misconceptions: that African bees can be managed in the same way as European bees; and that the adoption of European beekeeping technologies is the best way to develop. We get back to basics and work with the experts, the local beekeepers themselves.
So this is what we do
- We focus on minimising the risk of theft, reducing infestation by pests, and other basic husbandry rather than on detailed management.
- We accept that African bees migrate according to the seasons, so we help local beekeepers understand these migration patterns and manage their hives accordingly.
- We believe that bee-suits and smokers are more important than ‘modern’ bee hives. African bees are defensive, so good protection makes working with these bees not only easier but safer.
- We believe that traditional beekeepers have a treasure of indigenous, locally appropriate knowledge on things as diverse as ‘which plants keep safari ants from attacking colonies’, and ‘what will make bees docile when harvesting’.
- We know that not all colonies of African bees are defensive, so we are working with beekeepers to select queens from more docile, productive colonies, to introduce their progeny to other hives.