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The specialist international beekeeping organisation
The birth of Itumbauzo Beekeepers’ Association Polly Eaton UKItumbauzo is a kingdom in a rural part of Abia State south east Nigeria. Villages are nestled in hilly vegetation one hour from the nearest town. Most people live in clay dwellings and sustain themselves through farming. There is also small-scale palm oil processing logging and some cocoa farms: the latter bring little income due to the low price of cocoa. The prospects for local youth are limited and most expect to continue with subsistence farming with little additional income. For three years I have lived at Amaudo a rehabilitation community. The nearby village Mbukwa was the donor of land for Amaudo. I attended one of their regular Youth Association meetings and presented my proposal to train a group in beekeeping.Tropical differences Although honey was a much desired product beekeeping was not practised in the area and it was a revelation for the people that they could ‘keep bees’. The suggestion was eagerly accepted and four trainees were nominated by the Association - another two joined from other villages. The first task was to find local expertise: my experience of beekeeping in London was not adequate preparation for tropical beekeeping. I turned to Bees for Development an organisation I had admired and supported for many years who put me in touch with Israel Onyemaechi an entrepreneurial beekeeper based in Umuahia. I realised that local management methods involved much less manipulation and handling of the colonies and bees than I was used to. Queen rearing and re-queening were not practised. Despite the reputation of the ‘defensive’ African bee I felt safe in my protective clothing.Training Israel explains: “Polly was given my email address by BfD and we arranged to meet at my home. The first meeting with Polly and her husband that day was quite thrilling and interesting and led to our collaboration to start up the beekeeping project in Itumbauzo. Weekly training sessions began in May 2005. Course content covered: beekeeping history catching swarms hive technology colony management and handling honey harvesting and processing beeswax rendering and value added products. The training involved practical sessions that took us to the apiaries of Davicon Honeybees and Apitherapy Ventures and included videos of other beekeeping activities”.