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A Practical Approach to Beekeeping Extension in Tanzania

by G. NTENGA, Principal Beekeeping Officer, Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Tourism, Tanzania.


The presence of honey hunters and simple beekeepers in many areas, particularly in the settled areas bordering the forests and woodlands, is an indication that beekeeping is one of the occupations which contribute substantially to the welfare of rural populations. The collection of honey and beeswax using simple methods has been practised by rural people for several centuries. Over the years since the German occupation of Tanganyika in 1885, beekeeping has been encouraged in many parts of the country, with emphasis on increased production and improved quality of beeswax for export. In the 1950s emphasis was laid on the production of good quality honey. It is in the areas of increased production and improved quality of bee products that some progress has been made through the extension service. Methods of obtaining honey and beeswax from bees have not changed much despite all types of instruction aimed to improve the design of hives and methods of managing the bee colonies. It has been observed that beekeepers are reluctant to change their methods, because they are used to them, and the absence of successful practical examples of improved methods makes the beekeepers suspicious of any change. Modern or improved methods involve expenditure of money which the traditional beekeepers are not prepared to part with for something which they do not know how to use or have not seen in use. It is most probable that extension methods have not been sufficiently penetrating, failing to reach the beekeepers at the right time and right place. It is also probable that extension officials do not know how to approach the beekeepers. This paper seeks to establish some practical methods of approach to beekeeping extension.

Extension Methods

Beekeeping extension work consists of providing instructions and demonstrations on the best methods of carrying out beekeeping. It is necessary that a workable approach to extension work is evolved, showing clearly the tasks involved in every aspect. The following are some of the well known methods of extension which are applicable to beekeeping.

1. Articles in the local and national papers

Prepare concise articles describing precisely what is required of beekeepers, and submit them to editors of popular newspapers. Arrangements can be made with the publishers to set aside a space in newspapers for regular publications. Articles should describe how to make good hives, how to bait and site them, the importance of carrying out regular inspections of apiaries and bee colonies, the use of bee protectives and smokers, how to harvest honeycomb and how to prepare honey and beeswax for sale. Emphasis should be laid on selection of good apiary sites and provision of water for the bees.

2. Lectures and film shows to the public

These can be very effective as large crowds of people are often attracted to film shows. The films should be complemented by lectures on the subjects shown, as well as on related subjects. Films should, as far as possible, include local characters and background.

3. Radio reports and features

In Tanzania reports are regularly broadcast under the Maliasili radio programme; any such reports must be easy to understand and related to practical beekeeping.

4, Stands at trade fairs and agricultural shows

Displays can be very useful, especially if accompanied by film shows and live bees in observation hives. In Tanzania the annual Saba Saba shows which feature actively in regions and districts should be fully utilized by extension staff.

5. Lectures and demonstrations in schools

Officers should be assigned the work of visiting schools for lectures and demonstrations. It should be made a routine to visit schools.

6. Beekeeping projects in folk development colleges

Officers should be permanently posted to the colleges to teach and demonstrate beekeeping to the farmers who attend courses at the colleges.

7. Beekeepers’ brigades

These should be organised in schools, folk colleges, prisons, national service camps and in villages, to look after the beekeeping projects in these institutions.

8. Beekeepers’ associations

Regional and area beekeepers’ associations should be formed, to be affiliated to the central Beekeepers Association.

9. Personal contacts with beekeepers

Extension officers should form a habit of visiting individual beekeepers to encourage and give them advice as required.

10. The focal point approach

Districts are the unit areas of extension services in the regions. Most beekeeping officers are posted to the districts. The districts are made up of divisions, wards and villages. In these areas the inhabitants take to beekeeping readily once they realize its importance. The focal point approach is a method whereby extension officers are posted to selected areas where:

(a) The vegetation is suitable for beekeeping and the beekeepers are keen to improve their beekeeping;

(b) The local authorities acknowledge beekeeping as an economic venture;

(c) It is possible for the senior staff to give close and constant supervision to the junior staff.

Focal points are selected from the various divisions in a district, to which most of the extension staff are posted for three years. After this period an evaluation of the work should be carried out to determine the extent of development.

Extension Targets

The main activities which require extension services are: beekeeping development, market development and the distribution of beekeeping equipment.

1. Beekeeping development:

(a) Beekeeping in schools

Extension officers assigned the work of promoting beekeeping in schools should organise beekeeping clubs or brigades, conduct regular lectures on beekeeping and establish small apiaries using both traditional and transitional hives. Each primary school should maintain about 50 bee colonies. Apiaries at secondary schools should be stocked with transitional and frame hives. The extension officers should actively take part in the management of the colonies, keeping proper records of the development of each colony, and they should also maintain records of pupils who show aptitude for beekeeping.

(b) Beekeeping in folk development colleges

Extension officers posted to these colleges should conduct lectures according to the college curricula in which beekeeping should be included. The extension officers should establish demonstration apiaries using traditional and transitional hives and maintain records of farmers with an aptitude for beekeeping and assist them as necessary.

(c) Beekeeping in prisons

Extension officers should organise beekeeping, conduct lectures on beekeeping and assist in establishing production apiaries of up to 250 colonies in both transitional and frame hives. They should assist in the management of the apiaries, maintain records on colony development and prisoners with special aptitude for beekeeping.

(d) Beekeeping in villages

Extension officers should be posted to villages, each one to look after beekeeping in three carefully selected villages. They should organise beekeepers’ brigades and assist in establishing village production apiaries of up to 250 colonies in both traditional and transitional hives. Where beekeeping is done in forests, these apiaries should be established there and suitable camps constructed. Extension officers should engage themselves actively in relocating and improving the present beekeepers’ camps. They should be conveniently spaced at about 8 km distance from one camp to another, with at least 5 beekeepers to each camp. The camps should be provided with suitable honey houses and well shaded storage facilities. All demonstrations should be done using the village apiaries.

2. Market development

It is important that the bee products can be easily marketed. It is also important that the beekeepers receive good payment for their products so that they can develop an interest in continued production. Market development therefore is an activity which seeks to establish means of marketing the bee products to the satisfaction of the beekeepers.

(a) Improvement of bee products Honey is a food item and it must be prepared in such a way that it reaches the consumer in its best condition. Extension officers must ensure that the beekeepers understand the following actions when collecting honey and preparing it for the consumer market:

1. Honey must be harvested only immediately after the main honey flow, when the hives contain a crop of ripe honey of high quality;

2. On removal from the hive, honey must be placed into an airtight container;

3. Honey must be separated from the wax while it is still warm;

4. Honey must be checked for flavour, colour, density and cleanliness, and any honey failing to meet the required standards must be rejected;

5. The use of heat must be avoided and the honey must be stored in as cool conditions as possible;

6. Honey must be kept in hygienic conditions, in clean, well shaded buildings;

7. Honey must be delivered for filtering as soon as possible, before granulation starts.

Beeswax is traditionally an export commodity and it must be prepared in such a manner that will make it acceptable on the export market. Extension officers must teach beekeepers how to prepare beeswax properly. Until a more efficient method is developed, the Tanganyika method of rendering beeswax should be taught with improvements where necessary.

(b) Buying posts

The next stage in market development is the setting up of buying posts. These are places where honey and wax can be brought for sale. These may be at beekeepers’ camps or selected villages.

(c) Collection centres

These are centres at which bee products are stored by buying agencies before delivery to the processing units. Their establishment is justified by the fact that buying posts cannot 9 supply enough crops for full truck loads. Buying agencies will find it economical to use small vehicles to reach the buying posts and delivering the crops to collection centres, from where large trucks can pick full crop loads for delivering to processing units.

(d) Filtering centres

Extension officers should participate fully in checking the honey and assist in selecting dark honeys for the domestic market and light honeys for the export market. Beeswax should be sorted out according to colour and cleanliness and different colours packed and sold separately. Dirty beeswax should be recleaned and the dark wax set aside for the domestic market.

3. Distribution of beekeeping equipment

It is a well known fact that beekeepers are badly in need of equipment, especially bee protectives and smokers. Extension officers must explore the requirements of the beekeepers. Arrangements should be made with local manufacturers who can produce sufficient pieces for sale to beekeepers. Where such equipment cannot be made locally, the Regional or Ministry’s headquarters should be contacted for advice.

General points which beekeeping extension officers must follow:

1. They should stimulate people in the villages to become involved in beekeeping.

2. They must involve themselves in the training of beekeepers, to help improve their beekeeping and the quality of bee products.

3. They should supply advanced equipment to interested beekeepers and teach them how to use the equipment properly.

4. They should create contacts with local markets to acquaint themselves with the market situation.

5. They should ensure improved quality of the products through adequate storage and preparation facilities.

6. They should improve the market situation in their respective areas.