Beyond My Expectations

Beyond My Expectations

 

In collaboration with WEEMA international, It’s been 2 years since we led 2, week long beekeepers training programs in Kembata-Tembaro Ethiopia, 350 km southwest of the East African capital Addis Ababa.

In each of the introductory training programs, 35 community members were introduced to the basics of bee biology, health, and beehive management. As part of the workshop community members participated in the construction of their own locally resourced transitional style top bar hive and were actively trained in how to transfer bees from the transitional type as well as how to catch swarms in order to grow their apiary site. 8 months later we returned to the communities, introduced a honey press machine, and spoke and demonstrated proper honey harvesting techniques, which enabled beekeepers to increase the value of their product by separating it from the wax.

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At that point, in November of 2014, beekeepers had already begun to see an increase in honey product, from harvesting 4 kilos of honey singlehandedly from the traditional basket hive; they were now harvesting 12+ kgs, increasing their production 3 fold in only one harvest. Before our departure beekeepers were encouraged to increase their hive number which they enthusiastically agreed.

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Soon following WEEMA followed our suggestions and contracted Tameskin Alemu, our beekeeping assistant, translator and carpenter, to work directly with the beekeepers in order to increase hive numbers and address challenges as they surface.

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With WEEMA’s additional support, bamboo and rope, 2 necessary materials for hive construction were sourced from neighboring towns and sourced to the beneficiaries as they continued constructing more beehives.

12 months later, I’ve returned with a group of Columbia University Graduate student who through their semester long course have partnered with WEEMA International to better understand the honey value chain in Ethiopia therefore making suggestions on the best way for our beekeepers to market their more readily available honey and wax product.

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With all this instruction behind, I wasn’t quite prepared to find such great success upon our visit with beneficiaries this past week. Not only have hive numbers increased, but livelihoods have noticeably been altered for the better. In one of our apiary site visits Bakalesh proudly showed us 10 active hives behind her Medula home. 

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Considering she hadn’t kept bees before our training session, this is considered quite the accomplishment regardless of her circumstances. Through the sale of her honey she is now sending her children to school as well as training her son in beekeeping with hopes to continue increasing her hive numbers.

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Motivated Medula Women Beekeepers

Motivated Medula Women Beekeepers

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.

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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.

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The women proudly pulled their protective gear out of it´s original packaging, 

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and we made our way back to the hives. 

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Smoking calmed the bees and as all the women gathered, 

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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!

Ambakuna Hive Tours

Ambakuna Hive Tours

We began our time in Kembata-Tembaro Ethiopia touring as many of our recently trained beekeepers homes as one day allows.

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Friday morning was spent in Medula,

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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.

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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.

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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.

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                                 The afternoon took us back to Kololo, 

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where beekeepers once again, welcomed us into their homes.

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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.

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Following our February 2014 workshop, beekeepers had already harvested honey twice,

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and were very eager for us to sample.

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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, 

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and it was all just a taste of the beautiful experiences to come.

 

Beehive Building in Medula

Beehive Building in Medula

After working out the kinks of the top bar hive frame construction in week one, our team of builders including myself, my brother Cien Keilty-Lucas, our long time friend Madeleine Ruegg, Tolera Kumsa, and our two local hired hands Tameskin Alemu and Mengestu, we started off the week with a mass production line Ethiopia has only seen far and few between. 

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When the Medula women’s group began to collaborate on the construction of their hives on Wednesday, it also didn’t take them long to get the bamboo weaving underway.

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The work could easily be seen as tedious, yet the women found a way to drown out the monotony with a fair bit of chatter, song and laughing.

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It was another informative and empowering week of class and a busy one of building, but in the end all participants were satisfied in the construction of their very own Top Bar beehive.

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