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Beekeeping in the Enclave of Cabinda, Angola
Cabinda Province in the north-west of Angola is a separate enclave from the rest of Angola, located above the Congo River. It has three main agro-climatic regions: a dense tropical forest at high altitudes, the central region - savanna interspersed with small forested areas, and the southern region and coast, which is savanna with scrub cover and sandy soils. Both the north and the centre have occasional problems with security as a result of activity by rebels seeking independence for Cabinda.
The Portuguese colonised Cabinda in 1885, more than 300 years after the rest of Angola. The Treaty of Simulambaco in 1885 recognised Cabinda's special status as a semi-autonomous state. It was not until 1956 that the two Portuguese colonies were joined together, but without negotiating with Cabinda. Rebellions began immediately and in 1974 the collapse of the Portuguese Fascist Government necessitated the release of colonial holdings. In 1977 the Liberation Front of the Cabinda Enclave (FLEC) announced a provisional government of the Republic of Cabinda. At the heart of the matter is oil, for Cabindan oil provides Angola with about half of its foreign exchange earnings. Although greatly decreased in recent years, sporadic guerrilla warfare still takes place in the far north of the country, however recent peace negotiations are lessening this.
I was invited to by the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company (CABGOC) through ACDI/VOCA’s Cabinda Agribusiness Development Alliance (CADA) in January-February 2006, and returned in July to follow-up. The purpose of the CADA Project is to leverage private-sector and US donor funds, together with ACDI/VOCA’s agribusiness development expertise, to increase household wealth for a large number of families in Cabinda Province.
Beekeeping had not been known in Cabinda prior to the project although honey hunting is prevalent. I spent time with the honey hunters and documented their craft as they are the main beneficiaries of the beekeeping initiative. The project was the brainchild of David Benafel, the Chief of Party for the CADA Project, and Paulino Poba, the CADA Training and Extension Officer. We worked particularly with honey hunter, Eduardo Ngoma, who has plied his craft for 30 years in Congo, Brazzaville, Cabinda and DR Congo. Mr Ngoma was eager to become a beekeeper and received two hives.
A market survey in Cabinda city found that most honey in shops is imported from Greece and Portugal. Local honey is sold on the streets and is comparable in price to the professionally-packaged, imported products in the shops, selling for approximately US$15/kg. The local product is poorly processed and bottled in recycled wine bottles. Consumption in Cabinda city alone is 3-4 tonnes a year, leaving great scope for building a small beekeeping industry.
Local consumers indicated that they prefer local honey to that imported informally from Congo Brazzaville and DR Congo, as this honey is said to be watered down and impure. One of the interesting reasons why honey is consumed in Cabinda is the folkloric belief that it protects the consumer against poisoning.
The CADA Project had imported expensive frame hives, beekeeping tools and protective clothing from Brazil, in anticipation of my arrival. The sustainability of this equipment did not factor into the equation and was a great problem, and we began to make equipment from local resources at a fraction of the cost.
I introduced straight-sided top-bar hives, as these have worked well for me in trials in Ghana and Lesotho. Cabinda lies within the greater Congo Tropical Forest area and consequently there are many choices for good hardwoods from which to make hives. We used Clorophora excelsa (Kambala) and Terminalia superba (Limba) for the top-bars and hive bodies respectively. The majority of the project beneficiaries were good carpenters and the first 25 hives were made in two days.
I have noticed the lack of any kind of treatment to the wood used for hive bodies in various projects in Africa. This is probably due to the high cost of paint. I advocate a very simple method of dipping in hot, used motor oil, which is effective and cheap, without any refusal by the bees. This is a well known method for treating commercial hives in South Africa.
CABGOC has a seemingly infinite supply of good pine and ply-wood crating that is given to the local oil workers to re-sell in the market. A request has been made to obtain this material to make hive bodies and sturdy trap boxes, which will further bring the cost of the project down, making it more replicable and sustainable. A smoker was made by a local tin-smith, in conjunction with an upholsterer, at a fraction of the cost of the Brazilian smoker. Veils were made from straw hats with mosquito netting. Catcher boxes were constructed from throw-away cartons and plastic sheeting, baited with wax from our honey hunting excursions, as well as locally grown lemon grass.
Originally hive stands were made with the hive hanging from the local vines, smeared with grease. This proved to be ineffective against the highly organised species of ant, Tetraponera aethiops. Between February and July all the hives were inhabited at one time or another, but each swarm absconded due to lack of defence against the ants. We have now modified the stands to have large, powdered milk can bases into which we pour used motor oil.
The project plans are to make a further 300 hives and harvest at least two tonnes of honey within the next 18 months. The Department of Forestry (IDF) has shown interest in the project. An IDF extension worker, with some training in beekeeping is working with Manuel Nguimiti, one of the local honey hunters who has shown interest and leadership in this start-up operation. Mr Nguimiti is a former FLEC rebel turned carpenter and honey hunter.
The main honey flow is June-August with minor flows in September-October and December-January. Some of the major floral sources are Albizia ferruginea, Canarium schweinfurthii, Chromoleana odorata, Coffea robusta, Dacryodes pubescens, Peterinthus macrocarpus, Piptadeniatrum africanum, Swatzia fistuloides, and Terminalia superba, amongst many others.
IDF had also instituted recently a Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) mitigation scheme in the savanna areas of Cabinda using IUCN sanctioned methods of chilli pepper deterrents. The method was proving highly fallible and I explained a project I set up in 2004 around Mole National Park in Ghana, using hive barriers for HEC mitigation. This intervention worked very successfully and it was a wholly indigenous concept as the local people were well aware of the elephants’ aversion to bees: there is even a Builsa proverb stating the case. We are now in the process of instituting this programme in Cabinda.
[see Bees for Development Journal 65 for more about HEC – Ed]
We produced an area-specific 165 page manual full of pictographs showing how to make and place hives and trap boxes, management, pest control, honey harvesting and processing, a section on traditional honey hunting practices and a nectar survey of over 70 species. We hope to translate the manual into Portuguese. The English edition is for sale - contact BfD for information