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

Sunday, 1 February 2015

How One Thing Leads to Another ...

I love how one thing always leads to another ... We were keen to get into farming and we have learnt such an incredible lot about agriculture this year and now my excitement is moving ahead to places I never dreamt or imagined it could! Livestock! Crop and livestock integration. Pigs and rabbits, goats and cows. Bees. Who'd have thought it?! Making the most of all that manure. Making the most of all that pollination. Making the most of all that crop residue. Making the most of everything. As we are learning, one thing just leads to another! And it makes one want to make the most of everything!

This week we were able to visit the TALIRI National Livestock Research Institute which is about 65km outside Mwanza. Our intentions for going were unrelated to livestock; it was purely a jackbean hunt. Yes, we went to pick up some seeds of a variety of jackbean called Canavalia Brasiliensis which I had heard about in a lecture at the Bee Symposium. This variety is said to provide 85% fertility improvement to the soil, thereby able to effectively rehabilitate degraded land and is also incredibly attractive to bees ... and therefore me! After talking with the lecturer in Arusha, I was able to get contact details of a scientist at this institute who had the seeds.

We arranged to visit and were so warmly welcomed by the great team there at the institute. After a long chat around the table about our work and theirs, we were given a guided tour. Thoroughly inspiring! After seeing the reality of the continual conflict between arable farmers and pastoralists here, it would be wonderful to work with our farmers in a peace-making role; demonstrating true community, showing that working together is not only possible but mutually beneficial! And I seriously never thought I would get so interested in types of grasses! Thus all the photos of fields. Sorry ... but there you go... they are beautiful!
Checking out the grass crops

With a jackbean variety interspersed
Sorgham Crop
Thanks to the great help of Joseph, all the maize in our shamba is now harvested. It has all been dried in the sun for a few days, taken off the cob and dried again. Comparing our hybrid and OPV (open-pollinated variety) seeds, we discovered that we harvested 46% more hybrid. Next step is milling and then it's ready for making ugali ... karibu chakula ("you are welcome to come for food!")
Comparing the two different varieties
Maize drying
As for the bees, I wish I had a more exciting update, but progress continues to be slow, but there is definitely progress so we live in hope! We finally got two more of the hives that we had asked a carpenter to make. One is another Kenyan top-bar hive and the other a Tanzanian top-bar, so we are interested to see if there will be a difference! I melted all the wax from our last bees in Iringa (a good use of an old but previously treasured baked bean tin) and coated the bars with it.
Melting the wax
And so we continue to wait! I had a second failed attempt last week at getting bees. I went out late at night again, a little nervously, with all my gear. But this time, we were outnumbered by the bees who had taken over residence in a roof. So Plan B with this lot is set for Sunday night. The nightguard will venture near with a smoker and remove a handful of honeycomb which I will put in my hives.
The most exciting bee progress though was meeting a great guy, Innocent, at the church we went to last week. We went to the church that one of my friends in the Mamas' Group attends. In chatting to Innocent, we discovered he is an experienced beekeeper who keeps bees in Kigoma (which is miles away!) but he knows a lot and has already been over to our house this week to have a look at what we are doing. Again we are reassured that we are doing everything right and he can't understand why we don't have bees! He is confident that the bees will come and he is coming again this week to help with adding some more beeswax. We are looking forward to more conversations and hope we will be able to work together somehow!

The Tanzanian Top-Bar Hive (L) and Kenyan Top-Bar (R)
And so we end how we started ... as one thing leads to another. All the while making the most of it.

UPDATE!!!! (Monday evening!)

Yes, these are real bees! And they are all buzzing around my hives! Hurrah! But calm down! The trick with bees is slow and calm ... so excitement was contained as Amisadai, Louisa and I lured the bees to the hives. The comb has certainly been an awesome attraction. But it's still all rather critical as I have no idea where a queen is or how one goes about finding her. I do have, in one of the combs I scavenged from Holly's roof, what looks to me like a queen cell and we do have lots of larvae. But I have no idea what will survive (how long do they have?) and whether new bees will stay. Could little bee grubs be nursed by other new bees and a new queen chosen? I'm hoping so. But my other concern is how they start working on the intended top bar instead of carrying on in the comb that I've put there. I guess I should remove old comb when things are established but when??? Innocent is coming back to help me, but any advice is welcome here!

And would I recognise the Waggle Dance if I saw it? That's what we need now! Go bees!

Louisa and Amisadai helped!


  1. Have you tried putting lemongrass in as a swarm lure? If you have any old combs a couple of those would be attractive, particularly brood combs. Hope you find some occupants soon!

  2. Thanks Emily! I did try the lemongrass, but now you mention it, I will add some to the new hives! And I am picking up the old combs in a few hours now! Hopefully it works! Thanks :)


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