We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Our Life as Beekeepers

Bees in tires, bees on containers, bees in trees. Cow dung experiments, bucket adapting and red torch night lights. Ant invasions, honey badger demolitions and water shortages. It is impossible to sum up and adequately describe the ups and downs, the excitement, the despair, along with sweet taste of honey in one blog post. It's been a full-on few weeks!

With our expert beekeepers, Julian Willford (from Bees Abroad UK) and his mate, David Colley, we have been as busy as the bees. They arrived on Sunday, September 14 and we were straight in at our hives on Monday. All looking good there which was a huge relief after my saga of disaster a few months ago... But patience needed now to wait a little longer for our honey.

Louisa the Beekeeper

Julian, David and Joseph drying the cow dung
Making a honey filter

Julian again in his "supervisory" role!
We went to Kayenze last Wednesday to do a two-day training seminar with the Beekeeping Group. It was a great time of training (theory and practical) and although there wasn't much honey ready yet, we were able to harvest a little for teaching purposes ... ok, and tasting purposes! So delicious! Fresh honey dripping from the honey comb! Driving out into villages and up into the rocks until we had to continue on foot, we were quite the beekeeping entourage.

We were gutted to find one of the good hives demolished with all honey scoffed, by a honey badger. That was a first for us. But we worked quickly to rectify the situation out there in the middle of nowhere, getting swinging hives hanging higher. We were also gutted to lose another hive to the ants. But again, worked on rectifying the situation by greasing all the wires the hives hang on. A constant learning game.

After Kayenze, we were in Kisesa ... and this was pure excited delight. Our first honey was finally harvested! Julian, David, Amisadai and I (in the heat of the afternoon sun!) climbed precariously up on the top of a container where the hives were placed. It was such a thrill to find the beautiful capped honey lined up straight on the top bars! We collected a bucketful which we took home to process in our awesomely adapted buckets. The next morning, the honey had filtered through and we filled our first jars! As Tim said, we were beginning to think we were doing a "honey-less bee" project! Words cannot describe how encouraging it was to see this honey pouring out! This is just the beginning!
Honey harvesting on containers

Julian busy filtering the first honey in the living room
The first honey in the jar!
Get a taste of the action (sorry, not the honey!) here with some photos from Kayenze. And I'll update again soon with more stories of Malya bee adventures with wild swarms and stories from the Dancing Rocks, of Rachel the "strong, fierce woman" who can kick...
Preparing to go to the hives
Out to the hives in Kayenze
A good comb of brood, nectar and capped honey

Preparing for the women to go out to the hives in Rangi (near Kayenze)
Quite an audience from the local school children!
The Mama Beekeepers!
Disaster of the ants
Disaster of the honey badger

Our Funeral Procession carrying the coffin (demolished hive) of the lost bees.
A Sombre Affair

The hive brought back

The hive loaded to return for re-baiting

Admiring the honeycomb as we learn to process

Fresh honey on the comb to share!

A bit more honey to taste when we go to process the wax

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Crazy Eights

We had some crazy fun in our first week of this eighth month! (Yes, sorry, I am getting a bit behind as things are rather busy with bees at the moment!) We arrived back from our holiday in Kigoma just in time to meet our friends, Arron and Kathryn Townsend at the airport! It was wonderful to have them here! With them we celebrated "eight-eight" or "Nane-Nane" as it called in Swahili here. Every year, the eighth day of the eighth month is a National Agricultural Holiday in Tanzania.
Fun with friends!

Nane Nane

Lots to see at the Agricultural Fair! Coffee tasters from local coffee growers, milking goats (yes... we're looking for one!), all kinds of plants and crops, techniques and tools. We came away with passion plants, grape vines, marigolds, rosella, coffee, khangas .... !

Then, stocked up with some chapatis and maadaazi, we carried on to the Kisesa Farm. All is looking good there in preparation for planting and the hives are looking good (from the outside)! And then we were on our way again to Kayenze to check things out there. Amos has started up the tree seedling nursery and has over 80 now, with plans to get to 5000 soon. We went to see how his farm was doing and were well impressed with all his mulching!

Tree seedling nursery off to a good start!

Moringa, lucena and other tree seedlings

Lovely mulching here!


In keeping with the "nane" theme, on Wednesday, we went to Saanane Island. "saa nane" is Swahili for the eighth hour (which we would know in English as 2 o'clock, given that the first hour is at 7 o'clock). But this island is actually named after its former owener, Saanane Chawandi, a farmer and fisherman.
On our way!
It is the smallest gamepark in Tanzania, only 2.18sq km and is home to Impala, Rock Hyrax, Velvet Monkeys and Wild Cats.  Roaming reptiles are crocodiles, Monitor Lizards, Agama Lizards,  Leopard Tortoises, and snakes. And the birds are amazing; such a wonderful variety! We were just so glad to see some zebras again ... and had a picnic with them.

Wildlife spotting
Jumping Rock at Saanane Island

Other early nane fun with Arron and Kathryn included sodas at Tunza to watch the sun set over the lake.


 And on Sunday, it was an early morning ferry ride to get to church in Nyamililio village. This is where we are about to start a new agricultural group and it was good for us all to be with the church for our first service together. We had rather a lot of languages going on simultaneously for the sermon! Tim was preaching in Swahili, the pastor was translating into Kisukuma (the local tribal language) and I translated to the left side in English while Amisadai translated to right side!

Nyamililio Church

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Lake Tanganyika Hols

We're back! We had a wonderful time on our much-needed, long-awaited holiday! We went to Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika, just the four of us, for a whole week and it was fantastic! I think the last time just the four of us together had more than two nights away on holiday was camping in Scotland when Louisa was only 18 months old! We are so incredibly grateful to the kind friends in Basingstoke Community Churches who made it possible! Thank you!

Three girls enjoying the sunset and a lovely meal out!

Lake Tanganyika
It was a dusty, bumpy journey to get there. We spent a night in Tabora on the way, staying with Esther's (our agricultural trainer) family. We continued on to Kigoma the following day, and were delighted to make it all the way with NO punctures! We just had one dodgey moment when we came across a truck and a bus stuck together in the sandy road and we weren't sure we were going to be able to pass... or avoid falling down the sandy bank! But our trusty landcruiser got us through!
Looking for a way through!
Made it!
So we chilled out with the resident zebras. We swam in the lake. We sat on the sand. We played Pit and Monopoly Deal. We kept guard from the thieving monkeys. But did not a lot else! We had a one-bedroom "cottage" with a washroom and a fridge and a double ring burner and lots of granola bars and popcorn (thanks to the amazing North American team who came for the Albinism Camp!). We had our own little private beach and very relaxed schedule! 
Swimming with the zebra
Snorkelling with the zebra
Coffee with the zebra

Louisa relaxing

Fishing with a khanga

Our private beach
The only moment of slight over-excitement was the monkey incident. We were playing a game we received from Laurena for Christmas , the "jelly-bean game" in which you have to spin to see which colour jelly bean you should take and eat. The only thing is that every colour has two flavours, one delicious and the other foul (like smelly socks or rotten egg).
Ewww! Dog food!!
We had enjoyed a first round one evening. However the following evening, waiting for the rest of us to come outside, Tim momentarily left his post by the jelly beans. He went only a few steps away, and in that flash of a second the monkeys stormed the area. They shook the box and devoured the jelly beans. They didn't even seem to mind the foul ones. There was a rather a lot of shouting.

But we got our own back on the thieving monkeys. They happened to find us with a water gun at the lake. Attack was launched! They didn't disturb our picnic after that!

not-so-innocent monkey
Bulls eye!
So if you ever fancy a relaxing holiday by a beautiful lake with zebras (and thieving monkeys), we can highly recommend Jakobsen's in Kigoma!