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The specialist international beekeeping organisation
ONLY THE PRIVILEGED FEW could afford to pass their driving test and immediately declare that they will take to the roads in nothing less than a Rolls Royce.
It is an analogy brought to mind by a prolonged series of articles which appeared in the Ghana press debating the relevance of the low-cost top-bar hive to the development of beekeeping.Some of the writers argued for the introduction of hives such as the Langstroth and Dadant. claiming that top-bar hives are not the best choice.Although Langstroth hives are recommended by GRATIS for experienced beekeepers who want to optimise honey production the top-bar hive has proved most suitable because of its low cost and the fact that it can easily be replicated by local carpenters. Some of the views condemning the top-bar hive suggest a lack of understanding of the socio-economic problems in countries like Ghana where effective promotion of beekeeping can make a significant impact on standards of living GRATIS emphasis shifted this year to the district and village level. Over the past two years beekeeping activities had centred around regional capitals. While these were useful first steps in introducing the industry to the regions it was soon realised that not only were these urban bee schools expensive but also inconvenient for participants who sometimes had to travel long distances from their villages.Some participants from government organisations were not especially interested in passing on the new skills and once the bee schools were over nothing more was heard about their involvement in beekeeping.The first of the bee schools directed at the grass roots level were held in June at four rural communities in the Greater Accra Region. Subsequently officers from the Rural and Women's Industries Division of GRATIS were able to persuade the Rotary Club to present 10 sets of beekeeping equipment for a village self-help project.Video When the team moved to the village of Aiumako Esikado the role of video in promoting rural industries was convincingly demonstrated as the GRATIS Mobile Video Unit arrived in support and stirred up tremendous interest in the area.
The GRATIS Video Land Rover toured the area early in the day making loudspeaker announcements. Despite being the height of the farming season with people working until dark many trekked miles from surrounding villages to see the beekeeping video show on the eve of the workshop.Prior contact had also been made with local organisations such as the 31st December Women's Movement and by 8 pm about 2000 people had packed the compound at the house of the Esikado Chief.At Adaklu. the thriving beekeeping industry is second only to farming with bees colonising hollow logs made from the trunks of royal palm trees. However these are difficult to inspect and the beekeepers are now keen to introduce Kenya top-bar hives which can be made by local carpenters.Besides increasing the honey yield top-bar hives will prevent honey being contaminated by smoke and ash from fire used to drive away the bees and will also greatly reduce the risk of attack from bees.Costs Production overheads mean that even top-bar hives made from high quality hardwood like odum are now beyond the pockets of many rural people. For example a hard working farmer at a village like Ajumako Esikado if the rains are good can expect a total annual income of about 90 000 Cedis $325 from a harvest of 20 bags of corn and 10 bags of cassava. With a monthly income of about 60% of the cost of a hive it is clear that alternatives must be sought if such a farmer is to be drawn into beekeeping.This situation has led to plans for a 10-hive apiary where experiments can be made with hives made from a variety of low-cost materials while harvests of honey and beeswax will raise money for the promotion of beekeeping. It is with such initiatives and the encouragement of local carpenters to make hives and other modern equipment that GRATIS aims to prove you do not need a Rolls Royce to start travelling on the road to developing beekeeping as a major and lucrative industry.Nelson Akukumah is Rural Industries Officer for GRATIS Ghana Regional Appropriate Technology Industrial Service[Bees for Development Journal #21]