4 minute read

Practical beekeeping: Acacia hives and cornstalk hives

Yahya Musa, Dukku-Zego Beekeepers Cooperative Society, Dukku, Gombe State, Nigeria

How we began

Beekeeping is one of the key enterprises for employment creation and poverty reduction in rural areas. It is an agricultural activity with no damaging effects on the environment. We began learning and to develop an interest in beekeeping from the radio programmes of National Radio Kaduna.

We use honey as a sweetener and as a medicine. People commonly say that honey sold at local markets is adulterated. Our beekeepers need to work to increase interest in the quality and quantity of local honey.

Hive making

The support from various stakeholders in promoting natural resource conservation through beekeeping, forestation and other activities is hopeful. Beekeeping is a low-technology activity - hives and equipment can be constructed from local materials and hive management is easy.

Here we introduce a step-by-step guide to hive construction from the shrub Acacia ataxacantha, and another local hive made from corn stalks - the procedure is the same for both types of hive.

Hive making involves cutting down the thin stalk of the shrub and peeling off the thorns leaving a smooth stem that is cut through before being woven into a cylindrical hive. Though many trees can be used to make a hive in this way, Acacia ataxacantha is preferred as its stems are more flexible (the procedure is used in many parts of the guinea savannah of north-eastern Nigeria). The two outer covers of the hive are woven from fibres of the sisal plant (calabash can be used but it is easily damaged). A plastic sheet is wound around the hive to make it waterproof. Some beekeepers will use cow dung for this rather than plastic. Grass is the final outer material to cover the hive and is attached with jute fibres or ropes.

Group work

We realised that working as a group offers more advantages than working individually. We registered as a society with the appropriate authorities. Our organisation Dukku-Zego Beekeepers Cooperative is aimed at the agri-economy, focusing on the development of beekeeping becoming an industry. In the past beekeeping projects were encouraged in

our area, like the World Bank’s fadama project, but they lacked sincerity of purpose. Trainers, with no or little beekeeping experience were engaged and consequently the projects came to a dead end. Common experience made us aware that a problem that reduces the possibility of beekeeping projects supporting people in rural areas to get out of poverty, is that trainees are mostly after how much money is allocated to buy hives, and how much money is available for training allowances and refreshments.

Our organisation limits its activities to working with individuals with zeal and determination or those already beekeeping by inheritance or adoption. Also [honey] hunters are often the best colleagues to join hands with apiculture and engage in beekeeping training – these are people already accustomed to bees in their natural environment, on what plants they feed, the best time to harvest honey; and when it comes to hive-making are good to work with.

Positive outcomes

Beekeeping is an activity that can go together with farming schemes and provide a platform for supplementary income generation among rural families. The practice is simple and relatively easy to start, it enhances the environment and biodiversity through pollination and requires low levels of inputs (capital, labour and land). It is an ideal activity for resource-poor farmers in rural areas. We hope our apiculture project contributes immensely to the society in terms of poverty reduction and increased income generation.

Acacia ataxacantha - the stems are used to make hives

In Gombe North District there is a rich flora of nectar and pollen resources. The diverse flora honey harvested is a multi-blend, with a unique colour and aroma and desired in domestic and international markets; yet it maybe lacks the quality to be exported. This lack of quality results from the lack of adoption of appropriate beekeeping production and processing equipment. Our project aims to improve this.

Image right: The stems of the Acacia ataxacantha are bound together to form this cyclindrical hive, complete with woven lid
Yahya Musa