Beekeeper Training, South West Tanzania, May 2017

Greetings from the Rukwa Valley in SW Tanzania!

From May 24th through 28th 2017 we ran beekeeper training at our Nsanga, Agriculture Training Center. What a great time we had together with our trainees Omari, Bushiri, Ray, Daudi, Celestine, Mbwana, Jafedi, Boaz, Frenki and Pius from Dar es Salaam, Mtwara and Sumbawanga!

Students with a top bar hive and beeswax starter strips that they had just made
Trainees in their beesuits also displaying cakes of beeswax

The first day of training was focused on the Theory aspects of African beekeeping.  Where does honey and wax come from? What is the brood chamber? Utilizing something called a queen excluder and how does a beekeeper keep the queen from laying eggs in the honey chamber? How does a beekeeper get 100 percent occupation in his hives? How does a beekeeper attract primary swarms into his hives so that they start producing honey in the shortest amount of time possible?

The second day of our training was focused on Practical aspects of African beekeeping. What effect does smoke have on bees; and how much should you use? What are the exact measurements for allowing  “bee space” between the combs when working with African bees? How do you make beeswax starter strips utilizing common African household materials? After learning these things we suited everyone up in the bee suits that they purchased and took them to our apiaries where we harvested honey together.

Ready for the practical work
Bees on combs in a hive
Trainee beekeepers with honeycomb taken from a top bar hive

This year we had two days of harvesting with our students. Afterwards, everyone remarked how much they enjoyed that aspect of the training.  African bees can be very intimidating. Harvesting together with a team of experienced beekeepers can do much towards instilling courage in beginners!  This was an exceptional year for honey and we were fortunate to get 1.3 tons of honeycomb. When pressed this raw comb produced just under a ton of raw liquid honey.

The last day of training was centered upon Processing and Packaging.   This is an easily overlooked aspect of beekeeping. The general idea being that if you produce honey you have succeeded. That notion is not true, if you plan on selling the honey you have gathered. A beekeeper must decide how he or she will sell their honey. If you sell honey in bulk (by the bucket) you will almost always fail to get a good profit. Honey should be sold retail by beekeepers whenever possible. African beekeepers should form a co-op and work together when they can, so that they have more financial ability to purchase containers, boxes and labeling materials.   Note:  If you represent an organization and are working with African beekeepers find a way to help them get a good source of quality jars. They can pay you back for these plastic or glass jars through the sale of their honey. 

The product – beautiful natural honey

There needs to be a good procedure for processing raw, unheated honey, so that it will retain its volatile compounds. These are the flavors and smells that raw honey possesses. Once heated past 104 F (40 degrees C). many of these smells and flavors are lost. That is why one of the first questions asked of many African beekeepers is, “Is your honey raw?” To produce raw honey you must observe strict standards of hygiene.  Arms must be scrubbed with soap and latex gloves worn for the pressing/crushing of comb that is done by hand or while using an extractor of any sort. During this last day of training we looked at different jars used to sell honey, talked about the registering of their honey with Tanzania Bureau of Standards as well as discussed the need for quality labels to identify your honey.

We will look forward to communicating more with these men as they move forward with their perspective projects.

Thank you for your interest in African beekeeping.


Ted Rabenold,

Editor’s Note:  

Thanks to Ted for sharing his approach to beekeeping training from SW Tanzania.  We learned from ABRC’s Lessons from the Field project that beekeeping training is sometimes held in hotels and is theory only!  That type of theoretical only training is useless in beekeeping.  A strong practical component in beekeeping training is essential.   In the training above students they spent a day of theory, two days working with the bees harvesting honey and a final day processing and packing the products.  The last day processing and packing honey is also essential because marketing is such an important part of beekeeping. 

5 thoughts on “Beekeeper Training, South West Tanzania, May 2017

  1. I have enjoyed this page very much and hope that one of this day days I will be in Kenya and I will be one of invited people to enjoy the training.

    I am starting to produce honey in Kenya at Makuweini/ sultan hulmud
    be blessed and keep up the good work

    1. Congratulations! I am so happy to hear that you are starting to produce honey at Makuweini. East Africa is an amazing area with incredibly different ecosystems. Most are suitable to have hives in.

      Best wishes. Keep us posted on your project!

      Sincerely, Ted Rabenold

  2. What a comprehensive training so well arranged to impact skills to participants.
    I long to have such opportunity.
    May your programs develop like the bees so that we can also host a swarm of your programs with us in West Africa.

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