Saturday, February 16, 2013


Kirembe with the Renzori mountains behind
Yesterday we finished up our second training in in Kirembe.  The group wasn’t as organized as the beekeepers in Bwera, but there are always a few good examples in every group, and this one was no different.
The first day we ended up waiting for the farmers for about 3 hours.  The first person to arrive was a woman dressed in a nice Ugandan dress like she was going to church.  Simon told me that she had walked about three hours to come.  He said “she lives behind these mountains somewhere thereeeee,” as he raised the pitch of his voice to indicate the distance he reached up and over an imaginary mountain to point to a far off place.  I looked at her and said, “oh wow,” to show her I was impressed.  But she just looked forward and pursed her lips and nodded to show that it was no big deal.   I used the little Lukongho that Simon and Jockus had taught me and said “Wasinja Kutsibu,”  which means thank you very much as I dug out the protein bar that I packed for lunch and gave it to her.  She was definitely confused by it, but ate it one little piece at a time, I could tell because every time she took another piece I could hear the wrapper rattling.  When two more people showed up, I heard the wrapper rattle again as she shared pieces with them.

THe talking begins again
Eventually when we had five people or so I said to Simon we better start or we will be here until dark.  I could tell some of the people had come straight from their fields; it wasn’t long before people started nodding off in the hot and dark church.  I used the same program that we used in Bwera, but I tried to make it more interactive to keep people from nodding off too much. 

As soon as we got to talking about different types of hives, I asked everybody that was already keeping bees to tell us about the types of hives they kept.  This turned into a lively discussion, and an old man that has close to 100 hives took over the class describing the different types of local hives he has built, and described how he builds top bar hives.  This gave Simon and I a nice break, as he just whispered to me the occasional translation.  I could mostly tell what the man was describing by his animated hand motions.  It was a good discussion of how to use cheap local materials to make hives.

By the time I started talking about the advantages of different types of hives there were closer to 12 participants.  I was glad more people were there for that discussion; it’s good for new beekeepers to hear that local hives are just as valuable as the “modern” hives, they just have different purposes.  One is good for intensive beekeeping, while the other is good for extensive beekeeping.  Every group should have a mix of the two.

KTB hives in the old man's apiary
Finally I wrapped up the first day talking about colony management.  I spent more time this go around talking about how to approach a hive, and how to work it calmly, efficiently, and safely.  Last time I left that topic for after our practical visit to an apiary, which made for a bit of chaos at the beginning. This time I made sure people knew what my expectations were for working in the apiary ahead of time.  I also made sure to say that people should be there at 9 am so we could get to the apiary before it gets too hot!  I was really happy to see the chairperson for this group was a woman.  She thanked me for the day, and urged me to come again and again.

The next morning of course folks weren’t there at 9, but the church we were teaching in was full because it was Ash Wednesday.  Simon passed the time chatting with some of the old men waiting outside of the church.  The first farmer that came carried a Kenyan top bar (KTB) hive that he built, to get our advice.  This drew the attention of the old men, and soon we had a crowd of people standing around the hive asking questions.  I could see Simon's excitement as he answered all of their questions with my occasional help....He's a true extension man!

showing the group capped brood.
When everybody showed up we headed over to the apiary of the old man who had described the local hives the day before.  It was really impressive!!! the apiary was in the middle of a huge Moringa Olefera grove (A fantastic agroforestry tree that has tremendous medicinal qualities, and is good bee forage).  The apiary itself had a tall dense living fence around it.  Inside there was close to 100 hives, a long line of KTB, then again long lines of the local hives he had described side by side, with about a meter in between them.

This time we went to the KTB hive first.  It was a strong colony and people once again had the chance to see eggs, capped brood, larva, nectar, capped honey, and pollen.  Still having a hard time finding queens here in Africa, but I'm still holding out hope.  I always tell people if you see the eggs you know a queen was there at least three days ago.  We straightened out a few small gaps, and closed up the KTB.
Locally made, fixed comb hive
drawn out comb in a fixed comb hive hive

Next we went to one of his local fixed comb hives that was made of thatch, unfortunately it was a rare case where the comb was running the wrong direction, so it shot the idea that the bees keep the brood next to the entrance, and the honey to the back.....Dang bees never read the books.  We did manage to see some well capped honey to harvest though, and took one comb to demonstrate filtering honey.  But too many people had to take a bit of comb when we got back so there was hardly anything to demonstrate with.
Parading the suit through town.
Recruiting new beekeepers.

Despite it being mid-day and wicked hot the ladies insisted on wearing their full suits and gloves as we walked back through town.  It made for a fun bee parade.  When we got back to the church we decided to do the last few sessions outside because it was so hot.  When we got done talking about harvesting and processing both honey and beeswax Jockus demonstrated how he checks the honey water content at the LIDEFO with the refractometer.  Then we took another picture to say thanks to another donor of equipment and the refractometer Better-bee LTD.
Separating honey from the comb.

The Kirembe Beekeepers,  Chairperson is the woman holding the suit.


Ruby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruby said...

Wow, funny narrative, this is awesome Dan!