Warriors become beekeepers
Janet Lowore from Bees for Development interviewed Dinah Nayor of Moroto, Karamoja during the 4th ApiTrade Africa Event that was held in October in Harare, Zimbabwe.
JL Tell me how you started working with beekeeping for development
DN Before my current job I worked as a Field Assistant for the community-based organisation MADEFO. My role was to help reformed warriors from among the Karamajong tribes to find alternative livelihoods and one of these was beekeeping.
JL Please explain what you mean by reformed warriors?
DN The Karamajong people are first and foremost cattle owners. They are accustomed also to carrying weapons – especially guns – and highway robbery and cattle raiding have formed part of their way of life. The Government of Uganda has worked hard in recent years to encourage them to give up their guns and find alternative sources of income.
JL How has this been achieved?
DN When I worked for MADEFO we introduced a slogan: Turn a cow into a hive, turn milk into honey! The objective was to strengthen the honey economy and help the communities to improve their honey sales and to add to their income by selling other bee products.
JL Is beekeeping new to these communities?
DN No it is not. Some tribes are famous as honey producers, for example the Tepeth and the Ike. They use honey as a bride price and for ceremonial purposes and value bees more than cattle. This is partly because they live in the mountains where there is less grazing land. Other tribes practise beekeeping but to a lesser extent and now we are working to increase it.
JL Please explain your current role.
DN I am working for ACDI/VOCA as a Honey Support Officer. My job is to identify existing beekeepers who have good knowledge but have not been trained in improved methods. We form them into groups of 20 and give each beekeeper a hive, a smoker, a pair of boots and some other basic beekeeping equipment. We provide training: firstly in apiary siting, basic knowledge and then hive inspection. November 2014 will be our first honey harvest within this project and we will train the groups in how to harvest honey to maintain quality. Our current target group is 650 men and women.
JL You mentioned these are existing beekeepers – what methods do they currently use?
DN They have local styles of hives which they place in trees. We are showing them that they can keep bees in apiaries down from the trees. The problem is that not everyone can climb trees and by demonstrating that bees can be kept in hives at ground level we can attract women to take up beekeeping.
JL What problems have you faced?
DN The honey badger raids hives. We tackled this problem by seeking advice from our technical mentor. We have been advised to hang the hives by wires in such a way that if a badger climbs on to the hive, the hive tips and the badger falls off. We deter ants by putting ash around the hive stands.
JL Do you have a marketing plan?
DN Yes. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the honey company Golden Bees. They are providing us with technical advice and they will buy our honey. Currently honey is sold in local markets by the individual spoonful, and is bought also by traders. Honey harvested in Karita sub-country tends to be sold across the border to Kenya.
JL What do you hope for in the future?
DN I hope the community members will increase their number of hives and consequently increase their sales. When I was working for MADEFO, I saw people able to pay school fees using money earned from selling honey. We want also to introduce saving schemes so that the income earned can be used wisely throughout the year.
JL Is Karamoja a dangerous place for visitors (as I have been told)?
DN Not any more. It is a peaceful place!