Beekeeper training is one of the main goals of Tree of Life Ltd. Tanzania. The heart of the organization is in helping local people get a broader picture of how to use renewable natural resources to increase their income at the same time improving their eco-system.
Beekeeping in Africa requires attracting swarms of bees to your baited hives, monitoring and providing a good environment for them to thrive, and learning how to harvest, utilize and market the beneficial products of the hive. There is a HUGE local market for good honey and raw bees wax.
November 25th-29th of 2015 found us training beekeepers again in the Rukwa valley of SW Tanzania. We had trainees come from Wildlife Connection in Ruaha National Park, Lima ltd. from Mbozi, and Kilimo Timilifu from Lindi district, a young man named Henrique from MANI a Senegalese NGO, as well as local attendees from Rukwa region.
The training was timed to coincide with our “smaller” honey harvest to the north in the village of Lyanza. This honey is darker in color than our May-June harvest and has a stronger flavor. However it is still an excellent time to train beekeepers because they are able to see raw honey coming from the hive. By far the best training we have ever done has been with a “hands on“ approach; actually harvesting honey so the attendees can participate and become properly inspired to attempt the things they have seen and touched! Training that is done with a “theory approach” only, somehow fails to instill confidence in the trainees.
The trainees were concerned with, helping farmers do business, sunflower production and beekeeping, why do bees move out of hives that were occupied? What is the forest’s holding capacity for hives…how many hives per acre? How can beehives be used to keep elephants out of farmer’s gardens? What applications does beekeeping have on organic farming? How can a beekeeper get good, strong occupations?
The attendees had great questions and worked well together. Bwana Eliamu Mulungu a member of the Tree of Life board is also a chef and cooked outstanding meals for the whole crew in spite of the remote location! As usual the first day was dedicated to
Theory (what is a colony of bees and how do they interact with each other and their environment), second day Practical (Smoke and its effect upon a colony, making wax starter strips at home, proper clothing for beekeeping and then actually harvesting honey together in the afternoon) and the third day Processing and Packing (quality honey in attractive containers so as to attract a local market).
Almost all of the attendees decided to order bee suits, smokers, and hives to take back where they came from to have local tailors, tin smiths and carpenters copy. The use of top bar hives was “focused on” during the training, due to the low cost of producing them and ease of harvesting.
Allowing for a natural progression of moving from the traditional “fixed comb” log hive to top bar hives and then if applicable finally to a type of Langstroth hive cannot be over emphasized. Trying to push African beekeepers too quickly along this progression can lead to frustration. All attendees received signed certificates with a raised seal from Tree of Life ltd. upon completion verifying that they have completed a short course in African Beekeeping.
Head Beekeeper Trainer for Tree of Life ltd.
Editor: Thanks to Ted for sharing his experience of training beekeepers in SW Tanzania. The practical hands-on approach to training used by Trees for Life is essential to building the confidence of new beekeepers.