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

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Beekeeping Off to a Buzzing Start

It's been a busy hive of activity around here! With Julian and Zoe Willford with us from the UK (Bees Abroad) we have launched the Beekeeping Project! If it's possible, Julian is even more excited about bees than me! And Zoe is for real all the things I try or want to be: a maker of candles and beeswax products, cheese and sausages; she knows all about aloe vera and gardening... and she kept pigs! They have been fantastic here!

Julian and Zoe had an incredibly wet introduction to Mwanza, caught in a torrential downpour in town on their first day while looking for innovative things to use for candle moulds and obscure items like Borax. They then had the off-road introduction to our life of getting to villages as the following day we headed out for four days in Malya and it was fun and games trying to pass the truck stuck in the mud on the terrible road! Julian, with all his years of farming on Exmoor, told Tim exactly what to do and we successfully made the off-road diversion!

Looking for a way out!

Oh dear!


We were warmly welcomed to Malya by Pastor Kayuli and Mama Shukuru who settled us in a basic guesthouse and kept us well supplied with good food! We had 17 beekeeper attendees (about three of whom already had bees in local hives). Tim began by introducing the project in the context of God's promised land: God's desire to take his people to a land flowing with milk and honey. The names of both villages we are working in suggested great abundance but something has been lost and Malya in particular has become a centre of witchcraft. We hope that God will use this bee project as a means of bringing His transformation to these communities! Tim also used the life of bees to talk about the importance of teamwork as we begin to work together and used the bee as an analogy for the way that Jesus laid down his life for the sake of His people ("colony") and how we are called to do the same.  And then while Julian taught the group "An Introduction to Beekeeping," inside (with Peter and Tim translating), Zoe and I went outside to find a spot in the shade with the ten women from the village Mamas' Group. Outside with our three-stone fire melting wax, we learned how to make value-added products using beeswax. But I'll blog more about this in Part 2 tomorrow!
Mama Shukuru arrives at the seminar with the first group hive
We visited one member of our group who keeps bees in a tire in his tree!
While we were in Malya, we were able to visit the Seed Research Centre, a brilliant location for hives with the wonderful variety of trees planted there. On the final day of the seminar, we baited our first group hive with wax and placed it up on the church land which will also be the site of the future tree planting project. And we enjoyed our time with the church there on Sunday morning, as Julian preached and gave Bibles to the small group who had just been baptised the previous day.
The first hive hung in Malya!

The Malya Beekeepers and Mamas Groups


The following weekend, with Amisadai and Louisa joining us, we were in Kayenze to train a group of 22 new beekeepers. We were less confident about this project site! With no beekeepers in the area, and no hives colonised and even no bees spotted as we took Julian for a walk around the area, I confess I was starting to doubt the plan! And unfortunately when we arrived, we saw that the carpenter had for a second time ignored instructions about the measurements of the top bars for the hive. The hive, which we had hoped to bait at the beginning of the seminar and place at an apiary site, was unusable. But thankfully, the carpenter made amends and was able to fix the hive in the nick of time in order for us to hang it in Alfonse's shamba at the end of the final day!
Amisadai and Louisa help to teach about protective gear
Louisa leads some singing at the seminar
The group takes the hive to the new apiary
To our great delight, when we went to visit the hive we placed in the mango tree in Samson's shamba back in November (see "Through Hives and High Water"), we saw that bees had colonised it! Although Julian despaired at the ridiculous mess made tying the hive in the tree at such a height, it was relief and delight to see the bees buzzing in and out!
So in both Malya and Kayenze, groups have now been officially formed, with chairpersons, secretaries and treasurers elected! It was fantastic having Julian and Zoe to do the training, and it was all a lot of fun enjoyed by all ... right down to the Waggle Dancing! We will be having monthly meetings with both Beekeeper Groups in which we will study God's Word, discuss a chapter of our Beekeeping Manual, discuss progress and any problems and look forward together to harvesting a lot of honey! The Malya Group will be able to sell wax to the Mamas Group and the Kayenze group will be able to sell their wax to the Upendo wa Mama Group in town. And pooling resources, we are looking forward to the potential in honey sales for both groups! Watch this space for when we hit the market!
Kayenze Beekeepers Group


In between seminars, we had a few days to meet with a few beekeepers, do a mamas group beeswax workshop and in between that and keeping home and school life ticking along, we also made a trip to the church planting school and demonstration farm in Kisesa. We had placed a poorly made hive there months ago without any real confidence in bees colonising it yet. It fell out of the tree twice in the high wind and rains... which did nothing to raise our hopes! We arrived, just two weeks after putting the thing back in the tree again (Joseph this time secured it tightly and high up with knots of tangled rope, which again caused rather great distress to Julian!). To our amazement, bees had colonised the hive and already done an incredible amount of work! We could be harvesting honey there in three or four months!
Amazing progress in the Kisesa hive!


I have to say that I am rather gutted that the bee story at home is not so exciting! We were confidently fully expecting a great harvest and with Julian prepared a "bottling zone" in the house and bucket extractor and lots of jars. We (Julian, Peter, Joseph and I) donned our gear and trekked excitedly down to the hives. But all the honey was gone. With all the heavy rains, the bees have been unable to go out and so had made themselves comfortable inside and scoffed the lot. Big shame. But on the bright side, if they hadn't had all that honey, they likely would not have survived. So we are thankful that the hives are still strong and hopeful that with rains ending, they will be building up their stores and we might harvest in May.
Starting work on cutting the legs off the hive and rehanging at a better height
So now, we have eight hives up in four apiary locations! Four of these are already colonised! Two more hives will be going up in Kayenze and Malya in a couple of weeks. And within a couple of months we should have all 31 hives up and are praying for them all to be colonised! Let's get Waggle Dancing!

Click here to go to Part 2 on Mamas and Beeswax!

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