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

Monday, 17 November 2014

Bee-ginning on a Bus Before Buzzing about Bees

Buzzing about bees, I have returned from Arusha, from the first bee symposium in Tanzania! It was fantastic! But really I should start at the bee-ginning...

I was left in the dark at the Nyegezi bus stand on Sunday at 5:30am and with my bags, I pushed through the throngs of people shouting and selling, pushing and pulling. "Come here, my friend! This bus, rafiki! Buy this, my friend..." Horns honking, buses noisily plowing forward as people desperate run and jump to get on. One lady trying to get her whole bed on the bus. A heavily veiled Muslim lady trying to keep her two chickens inside a ripped plastic bag and get them on the bus (throughout the journey, there were constant squawks as they continued to attempt escape). Large loads on heads, goods on hand-held boards, selling bread, sunglasses, sandals, hair combs ...

It was crowded and hot on the bus. Temperatures were rising into the mid thirties and with a broken seat in front of me, my knees were up against it (and you know how short I am!) and the head of the man in front was almost in my lap as I barely had room to hold my book against my chest! The benefits of being short ... I can't imagine how anyone over 5ft2 would have managed! But thirteen hours later (with a quick 10-15 minute squat break in Singida after 6 hours) we arrived safely in Arusha, almost 750km away!

Bus stand chaos

The chickens that kept trying to escape on our bus

"My friend, my friend .... you buy, buy"
The Apimondia Symposium on African Bees and Beekeeping was a huge event, the first Apimondia event in all Africa, with almost 600 participants, and over 200 from all over the world. We had a wide spectrum of people in attendance (keeping the translators busy!) with rural traditional beekeepers from Tanzania, local entrepreneurs, foreign professional commercial beekeepers, researchers and NGO's. It was a full three days from 8:30am-6:00pm of paper presentations, beekeeping seminars, roundtable discussions and a commercial exhibition. The objective of the conference was to improve the beekeeping industry in Africa and developing countries for the welfare of rural people. The Prime Minister of Tanzania (himself an avid beekeeper) was there to encourage beekeeping, he clearly presented the need of the nation for bees for development, for business and commerce, for forestry and agriculture and he assured Tanzanians in particular of his support. We were honoured by his presence at the welcome Reception at the Mt Meru Hotel on the first evening.
The Prime Minister (second from left) seated next to Gilles Ratia, the President of Apimondia
A toast to the Prime Minister (centre right in red tie) at the Reception Evening
It was fascinating to learn so much about beekeeping in Africa, to meet so many interesting people in the field and just exciting to see how beekeeping ties in so neatly with the other things we are doing here in Mwanza. I attended several seminars and paper presentations on the importance and methods of beekeeping for pollination and the role of beekeeping in conservation agriculture and forestry. Seeing the dots join together for our agricultural and tree-planting work here was inspiring and encouraging as well as practically informative! Amazingly, it was reported that for a beekeeper offering pollination services to a farmer, what is 500Tsh benefit for the beekeeper is 10 000Tsh for the farmer! There is a huge potential in Tanzania for entrepreneurs in this area!

Conference Hall

Bee-keeping Seminar
I also attended sessions on the business side of processing and marketing honey, and on getting started with small scale projects in rural areas while factoring in value addition with other bee products for further income generating. The potential opportunities for our farmers groups and also the Upendo wa Mama group are great. And we also already have a group in Malya, keen to start beekeeping training and get started. I learned a lot about stingless bees which are apparently remarkably prevalent here in Tanzania! In addition to other benefits (particularly the fact that they don't sting!), the profit from their honey is double that of stinging bees. A great project for children, I'm thinking! Another lecture on honey for wound healing was fascinating and the material will be a great addition to community health work, particularly when working with rural beekeepers groups! And the benefits of honey for skin problems is inspiring me with ideas for the mamas of children with albinism group ... making honey creams would be greatly beneficial for the skin problems of those with albinism. See how all the dots connect?!

So buzzing excitedly with ideas, I am now keenly looking for bee swarms! I think we may have found some at the girls' school, but how to get them without disturbing them or, more particularly, all the students is the problem! But hopes are high and we are excited to start the process of how we might invest somehow in beekeeping training and projects. There is a great need for education and training, for investment in technology and equipment and an opening up of market channels and networking. But as a rural income generating venture, as a sustainable livelihood, the potential of beekeeping is ripe in Tanzania! Are you buzzing too, yet?

Honey Exhibition (see the traditional log hives)
And I must finish by saying that when I arrived home on Friday night, I was so thankful for my amazing husband who made it possible for me to go ... and did an amazing job taking care of the girls and so many things at home on top of everything else he does!

1 comment:

  1. I never knew that Arusha was the main place for bees! Thanks for taking us on your little trip!


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