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PROJECTS UNDERWAY AT BfD
Janet Lowore, Elizabeth McLeod and Nicola Bradbear
In BfDJ 97 we reported a successful new approach to honey filtering in Cameroon that relies predominantly on cheap and locally available materials. The honey filtering table uses fine stainless steel mesh to separate honey from the beeswax comb and other residues.
The challenge of efficient, organic wax extraction
After extracting top quality, cold filtered honey, the next challenge is to separate the beautiful, bright yellow beeswax from the comb residue left on the table This separation needs to avoid direct contact between smoke and wax because the Cameroon wax is certified as being organic by the UK's Soil Association. If smoke gets into the wax this cannot be removed using organic methods and so destroys the valuable status of the wax.
Current methods wash the comb with water, however this wastes the honey left in the residue. Therefore in Cameroon we tested a miniature version of a steam method to melt and separate the honey and beeswax.
How does it work?
A tank with water is heated from underneath the separator to avoid contact of smoke and wax. Inside the separator, the comb residue is held in a mesh container. As it melts, the liquid honey and beeswax drip through the mesh and leave the residues in the mesh. The liquid is channelled out of the separator into a bucket where the molten wax sits on top of the honey. This allows the wax to be siphoned off from the top of the bucket and the honey from the bottom.
The steam method took about six hours to work - this is slower than the manual method currently in use. Although it separated both honey and beeswax from the residues, the honey had higher water content because it absorbed water during the steaming - therefore it would not be useful as table honey. Both the existing and steam methods produce this mixture of honey and water which can be used for fermentation into honey beer or wine, so the steam method represented no improvement on the existing method.
Preferred method for organic wax extraction
For now, the existing manual method of organic wax extraction is preferred over the steam method because it is quicker and employs more labour. The manual method involves boiling the filter table residues with water in a heated tank and straining them through a sack applying pressure manually.
Bees for Development are pleased to announce the establishment of a BfD Apiculture Centre of Excellence in Amhara State: this is the first of its kind in Africa. This development is the outcome of a unique partnership between Bernie and Yemi Thomas of Trade Advance Ltd, UK the social entrepreneurs committing the funds, Mr Tilahun Gebey, Ethiopian apiculture specialist, and Bees for Development Trust.
The new Apiculture Centre of Excellence will be an information, education and research hub offering advice on apiculture best practice, resource management and beekeeping as a business. Mr Gebey said "I will be proud to work on this initiative. Together we can make a change - helping farmers develop their beekeeping up to business level and reduce hardship in rural areas."
Trade Advance Ltd is a 'More Than for Profit' company that aims to grow and generate a profit but also seeks to make positive contributions socially and environmentally too. Trade Advance Ltd is the holding company for UK companies DM Hay Church Supplies and Hay's Candles.
Selling bee products for income is an essential livelihood activity for millions of farmers in Ethiopia. The prevalence of beekeeping ranges from 20% of households in some communities, up to 90% in others(1). Some beekeepers use honey for ceremonies and medicine, while the majority of honey is sold for tej (honey wine) making. The beeswax trade is significant, with an export of 300 tonnes per year over the past decades(2). The pollination services of honey bees are vital: for example one investigation of Niger (Guizotia abyssinica) revealed that honey bee pollination increased the seed yield by 43%(3).
Despite the superlative statistics of 4,601,806 colonies in the country(4), largest honey producing country in Africa, 4th largest beeswax exporter in the world, up to 90% of households keeping bees, 30,000 tonnes of honey produced per year(5), 7,000 species of indigenous flowering plants the apiculture sector in Ethiopia faces challenges. In a survey undertaken in Amhara in 2006, beekeepers ranked their two priority problems as shortage of bee forage and pesticide poisoning(6). Another study describes market difficulties: "Farmers .... face barriers to understanding and meeting requirements for quality, quantity and consistency of supply"(1).
Recognition of the importance of beekeeping for development in Ethiopia has led to this initiative. Bernie and Yemi Thomas say: "When we set up Trade Advance Ltd in 2003 we always had a vision of using the business for more than just making a profit and more specifically to help address poverty in Ethiopia, Yemi's country of origin. Our primary aim was to restore dignity back to as many of its people as possible by using 'trade as aid' by equipping people with the tools to produce more and sell more of what they produced".
The Centre will be set up in Amhara State because it is one of the main beekeeping regions in the country and where the needs of farmers are acute and urgent. An IDS study reported that 70% of households in Amhara are vulnerable or destitute.
BfD Ethiopia was registered as an Ethiopian charity on 30 May 2012. The coming year will see the organisation establish its structures and processes, and begin to offer effective and relevant support to the beekeeping community in Amhara.
1. IDE (2007). Ensuring small-scale producers in Ethiopia to achieve sustainable and fair access to honey markets. Paper prepared for International Development Enterprises (IDE) and Ethiopian Society for Appropriate Technology by B Tadesse and D Phillips.
2. ETHIOPIAN EXPORT PROMOTION DEPARTMENT (2006). Exports of honey and beeswax draft report. Ministry of Trade and Industry, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
3. ADMASSU,A.; NURU,A. (2000). Effect of honey bee pollination on seed yield and oil content of Niger Guizotia abyssinica. Proceedings of the 1st National Conference of Ethiopian Beekeepers Association. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 7-8 June 1999.
4. CSA 2002. Statistical Abstract. Central Statistical Agency. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
5. MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE & RURAL DEVELOPMENT. (2006). Series of Annual Reports 2005, 2006. 5. Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
6. EJIGU,T.; GEBEY,T.; PRESTON,T.R. (2008). Constraints and prospects for apiculture research and development in Amhara Region, Ethiopia. Andassa Livestock Research Centre, Ethiopia.
Working with local partner, Rural Development Fund (RDF), Bees for Development has successfully secured funding from the UK Darwin Initiative for the Project Equitable Access to Pasture Use for Beekeepers in Kyrgyz Republic.
Kyrgyz honey is produced in the herb rich mountain pastures which bloom from May to mid-August - following sub-zero winters. Yet beekeeping is declining as conflict with livestock herders over access to the pastures is exacerbated by population growth and pressure on these unique ecosystems. With support from The Darwin Initiative, BfD and partners RDF and the Kyrgyz Association of Beekeepers, are working to improve public understanding of the value of honey bees and their pollination services, to promote beekeeping as a sustainable and environmentally beneficial livelihood for young herders in the northern pastures of Chon-Kemin, and to ensure that beekeepers' rights to access and use pastures are recognised.
Umut Zholdoshova from RDF says: "It is encouraging that the project is supported by the Darwin Initiative. The project is very timely in the light of the Pasture Legislation Reform in the Republic. Pastures are important not only for the herders, but also for the secondary users including beekeepers and collectors of herbs and berries. By promoting the interests of beekeepers we hope to achieve equitable access to, and sustainable use of pasture resources, and contribute to poverty reduction in rural communities of Chon-Kemin Valley. RDF will train beekeepers in GIS mapping to record their migratory routes through the summer pastures, and young herders will be trained in beekeeping and supported in start-up through a small grants programme. Focus groups with herders and beekeepers will feed into discussion of pasture management at the local pasture users' union. And at national level, we will lobby for an amendment recognising beekeepers as secondary pasture users through reform to the Pasture Law".