Urban beekeeping isn’t always an easy task, and even further so when your a women living in a dust filled male dominated rural Ethiopian city of 10,000 plus people.
But the women who turned up for our Sunday beekeeper review and healthy honey harvest workshop are slowly changing that. Just like in any other highly populated space, keeping bees requires attention to certain rules and regulations. One of which requires a three meter fence separating bees from inhabited spaces, that of which requires materials that not all community members have access to. When brought to their attention, the Medula women enthusiastically created a list of resourceful solutions.
We once again gathered their list of flowering plants and trees, created a nectar flow calendar and came to a mutual agreement of the best best times to work, feed, and harvest from the hives.
In the afternoon we regrouped and collectively made our way to one of the beekeepers homes.
The women proudly pulled their protective gear out of it´s original packaging,
and we made our way back to the hives.
Smoking calmed the bees and as all the women gathered,
we excitedly began to identify all the combs.
With all the challenges aside, it´s safe to say that the Medula women beekeepers are on the right track!
Both classroom time and field time were spent this past Saturday and Sunday with community beekeepers in order to better answer what might seam like a simple question. Though some beekeepers have already harvested honey twice since establishing their newly constructed transitional hives 8 months ago, questions of their products quality is a big concern.
We started Saturday morning in Kololo by identifying the area’s nectar flow calender. By compiling a list of bee forage trees and plants and the months in which they flower, beekeepers can better prepare for their hives to be in full force as well as harvest the honey to make room for the next round. However, not just any honey can be taken.
After making hundreds of foraging trips to fill just one wax cell with nectar. bees must provide enough ventilation within their honeycomb for the nectars’ humidity level to drop below 20%. Once this is achieved, bees finish the preservation process by covering it with a thin layer of wax. By acquiring this low humidity level, not only will the nectar keep without spoiling but the honeys’ micro septic properties make it impossible for bacteria to grow thus preserving it’s quality Only at this point is the honey ready to keep until needed by the bees and therefor ready for the beekeeper to harvest.
Upon completion of our theoretical review beekeepers gathered at Worku Ochemo’s home and we put our newly acquired knowledge to the test.
We prepared our smoker, put on our protective gears and as the sun went down we began our practical session with the transitional beehive.
We opened the hive and were happy to see that the bees had so positively taken to their new homes.
Bees don’t work for nothing, and their wax production and extension of the honey comb not only shows the quality of the hive design but of the bees ability and desire to fill it with food.
As the bees gently buzzed acknowledging our presence and under the light of a simple headlamp and torch beekeepers looked on as we identified and explained each of the combs. The above panel filled with pollen was excitedly distinguished,
from this one, of ripe honey.
We began our time in Kembata-Tembaro Ethiopia touring as many of our recently trained beekeepers homes as one day allows.
Friday morning was spent in Medula,
where beekeepers proudly demonstrated their established transitional beehives, recently acquired swarms awaiting transferring, and their newly constructed coverings protecting their hives against rain and sun.
Beekeepers took the time to explain how beneficial the hives were in comparison to the old and not only were the bees able to produce more honey but the beekeepers noticed that they were happier in their cleaner home.
We spent time asking questions about bee forage and harvest times, and no beekeeper hesitated in identifying the plethora off nectar and pollen plants surrounding their homes.
The afternoon took us back to Kololo,
where beekeepers once again, welcomed us into their homes.
They were excited to show us their growing apiary and all the new transitional hives they’ve built since our last workshop only 8 months ago.
Following our February 2014 workshop, beekeepers had already harvested honey twice,
and were very eager for us to sample.
Not only was it a joy to visit the homes of more than 10 new and old beekeepers but there commitment and enthusiasm showed through their generosity,
and it was all just a taste of the beautiful experiences to come.
As I gaze out my balcony window here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, my view of the empty concrete tower foregrounded by the shimmering blue swimming pool reflecting the hazy November sky offers me the opportunity to think about the “Development Work” I too have engaged myself in.
Far too often and more and more common, development work, or the concept of providing forward progress relies on copying buildings, systems or markets which seam to be successful in their birthplace and copy and paste them every where else around the world. Materials are gathered, machinery is sourced, and people are given labor. Yet, this one size fits all scope doesn’t work; though shinny and pretty, no one’s swimming in the pool and I wander how many even know how to swim.
Though the tourism and urban planning sectors are distinct from that of beekeeping development, many lessons can be learned and mistakes associated with hopes for fast growth can be avoided.
8 months following the active formation of 70 Kembata Tembaro community members in our WEEMA Honey beekeeping development program last February, as of 1 AM this morning I am back in Ethiopia and am excited as ever to begin the next phase of our program.
In partnership with the local agriculture office our program and the WEEMA Honey team will begin this Friday and commence with apiary site visits at the homes of our phase one beneficiaries. Saturday and Sunday we will hold a pair of full day advanced beekeeper workshops for the most committed beneficiaries in each group and in the evening hold a practical honey harvest workshop with the entirety of both. Monday and Tuesday will be spent introducing the new honey press and assisting trainees in the healthy and hygienic harvest of honey goods. Throughout the 5 days visit a large focus will be spent surveying program participants in order to to better understand the short term impact, benefits and areas for improvement of our program.
As the swimming pool construction lot view reminds me, slow growth and consistency based in education which allow time for adaptation and incorporation will offer our program the sustainability it can later be based and expanded on.
So thank you everyone for your support and to WEEMA International for making this all happen!