March 2018

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Frank interviews Chrispin about beekeeping

Visit of the beekeepers

PUM is a Dutch organization that emits experienced business people, often pensioners, to support small and medium-sized businesses in countries with "an economy in development". This week I came as a PUM expert in Chipata, to support a group of five enthusiastic beekeepers at the request of Jacana.

To begin with, I naturally went to visit each of them, because my experience in (tropical) beekeeping has taught me that the possibilities for each beekeeper are determined by the situation in the flight area of his / her bees. That means that behind every hill and in every village another approach is needed. Experience, training of the beekeeper, available material, bee race, infrastructure, climate and ecology are factors of great importance.In order to provide useful support you will first need to understand the local situation.


It was a special experience to go into the field with Rik, Dinie and Pious from Jacana as experienced guides.To begin with, the entrepreneurs who Jacana supports are not always easy to reach.Now, in the rainy season, I look at the mudslides that are still called a road here.If even the robust Jacana-Hilux can not go any further, we go on foot, armed with umbrella and jump over stones in the water, to the beekeepers.

The warm-hearted people, three men and two women, who show us around and proudly talk about their (many!) activities, are different from age, background and experience but do have a few things in common.They are entrepreneurs in the first place.They have to generate income for the family with all their activities. And because they expect that bees can make money, they have started and want to expand energetically; more beehives must yield more honey, more money.

But the real work "with the hands in the bees" they generally prefer to be performed by others. Strange? No, because these bees are stinging! And, to my surprise, a bee-suit and a smoker are not really known tools for these entrepreneurs. "Those people from Malawi, they know how to deal with bees".

The bottom line is that these enterprising beekeepers are until now dependent on others, which makes it difficult to get a profitable product from the hives. They still have to learn how the bees are to be cared for and how they can "harvest" safely. Just like the chickens, pigs, fruit trees and other activities in their busy, versatile farms.


The training 

The presentation I have given at Jacana is aimed at discussing a first step that the beekeeping entrepreneurs have skipped in their enthusiasm.It is important that they first get to know the new farm animal. You also have to make sure that your material and tools (bee suit and smoker) are in order before you think about increasing the number of hives.

What next?

The enthusiastic participants gratefully accept the proposal to give "first a thorough attention to a first phase". They will meet each other every two months under the guidance of Jacana and work on the "homework assignments" that I have left behind. One of the tasks is to protect themselves against the bees, how to approach a beehive and how to open a beehive.The smoker and the bee suit can be made locally by small entrepreneurs and thus become affordable for the participants. In addition,Jacana will organize an excursion to a successful beekeeping company in the neighborhood.

I think I can come back next year for a successive workshop on bees and bee products. And probably by that time I can learn more from them than they from me.




With thanks to Frank Leenen, who shared his experiences with us.


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