close this book

Honey Hunters and Beekeepers: A Study of Traditional Beekeeping in Babati District, Tanzania

 
Author(s):G M Ntenga,B T Mugongo
Publication date:1991
Number of pages:84
Publisher:Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences,International Rural Development Centre
ISBN:1100-8679

Contents:
5. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
View this section of the text5.1 Rationale
View this section of the text5.2 The honeybee
View this section of the text5.3 Bee forage
View this section of the text5.4 The beehive
View this section of the text5.5 Colony management and hazards
View this section of the text5.6 Honey containers
View this section of the text5.7 Market development

5. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

 Top

5.1 Rationale

 Top

The importance of district studies on traditional bee-keeping was remarked upon by Ntenga in 1976:

"Chandler (1975) has set a good example by studying in detail the traditional methods of beekeeping among Wameru in Arusha Region. Such studies are needed in other areas, for they throw light on problems hitherto unnoticed, and make it easier to decide on the best line of approach in developing beekeeping in a given area."


The lack of such studies in many beekeeping areas in Tanzania has made it difficult to develop the industry in those districts.

In the case of Babati District, the virtual absence of official records of beekeeping information may be attributed to two major administrative changes which took place in the last two decades. Babati District was in Mbulu District until the early 1970's, when it was detached to form what came to be known as Hanang District. In 1986, a further split created Babati and Hanang Districts. Under such circumstances, official records are bound to be misplaced or lost.

An interview with the Ward Secretary in Babati, Mr. Y. Emay, however, revealed that when he was a beekeeping extension officer for Babati, 1967-71, he was concerned with beekeeping in Gidas, Boay, Babati and Bonga areas. During that period he sited frame hives at Bonga, started apiaries for the primary schools at Gidas and Boay, and set up others near the Roman Catholic Church at Boay and Mrara in Babati area.

From these hives, Mr. Emay obtained honey and bees-wax which he sold to earn revenue for the District Council. He identified good beekeeping areas in the Haraa forest around Bonga, the foot of Mt. Qaraa, Qash, Tsamasi, Kiru, Mamire and Gidas in the present Babati and Gorowa Divisions.

Further evidence of beekeeping development activities in Babati District is found in the Mbulu beekeeping office. In 1973 and 1975 Mr. M. Lucas, then Beekeeping Officer for Arusha Region became personally involved in encouraging the farmers in the Kiru Valley to keep bees for bean pollination.

This information is too scanty to give a complete picture of earlier beekeeping efforts. This study, however, focuses on existing forms of traditional beekeeping in Babati district and may be seen as the first of its kind. It is of particular importance because it concerns a district which is practically representative of the whole country in terms of its diverse climates, topography, vegetation and soils, as well as human activities.

Previous studies by Drescher (1974) on Handeni District and Chandler (1975) on Ameru District, have concerned areas with singular characteristics. These were preceded by a superficial study of beekeeping in Kondoa District by forestry experts in 1970, leading to the establishment of the Dodoma Soil Conservation Project (HADO), along with the present Dryland Beekeeping Project. Again, Kondoa district has characteristics unique to itself.

Areas where traditional beekeeping has been best documented are the western miombo zone, comprising the present Tabora Region, Kahama District of Shinyanga Region, Kasulu and Kibondo Districts in Kigoma Region, Mpanda District of Rukwa region, Chunya District of Mbeya Region and Manyoni District of Singida Region; followed by the southern Miombo zone comprising Ruvuma and Lindi Regions. Beekeeping development activities sponsored by the government were centred at Tabora and Songea for several years, and the beekeepers there strongly depend on honey and bees-wax for their cash earnings. Due to the similarity of beekeeping methods in these areas, as well as the readiness with which information could reach the beekeeping officials, in-depth knowledge of traditional beekeeping has been easily documented.


Figure 15. Traditional beekeeping in the miombo forest.

It should be mentioned, however, they such studies need to be supported by a clear organisational strategy for implementing the recommendations aimed at instituting commercial development of beekeeping.

In Babati District beekeeping is widely practised by villagers who inherited the tradition from their forefathers and maintain it to this day. Many beekeepers who are not native to the district have brought the tradition from their places of origin, such as the Irangi, Waassi and the Sandawe from Kondoa District, and the Nyaturu and Nyiramba from Singida Region Beekeeping is also an age-old traditional occupation of indigenous Iraqw and Gorowa tribesmen. It has been perpetuated by the two indigenous tribes because honey is valued for certain traditional ceremonies and for the Barbaigs' gesuda. Beekeeping supplements the incomes of immigrant tribesman through sales and honey is used on occasions similar to those for which gesuda is prepared.

The foregoing observations can now be summarised as follows:

1. The potential for beekeeping and its development in Babati District is very high.

2. Traditional beekeeping is widely practised by the rural population, particularly the Gorowa, Iraqw and Nyaturu.

3. The demand for honey is nearly insatiable within the district and in the neighbouring districts. Surplus honey can also easily be sold to urban centres in Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Singida Kegions.

4. Improved extension services can greatly improve and increase beekeeping, as practising beekeepers are eager to receive advice geared towards making beekeeping a more lucrative enterprise.


The existing forested areas, excluding those occupied by the national parks, give Babati District the potential for about 75,000 productive bee colonies. This represents an annual production capacity of approximately 1,250,000 kg of honey, worth 250 million TSh, and about 75,000 kg of bees-wax, worth 21,5 million TSh, based on the 1988 domestic market prices.

It is estimated that there are currently about 6,000 productive bee colonies in traditional bee hives. Annual production from these colonies ranges from 60,000 to 90,000 kg of honey mixed with comb. The value of this honey ranges from 6 to 9 million TSh.

Bees-wax is not separated from the honey, but is just thrown away, at a loss of 1.8 and 2.7 million TSh.

Today's production of honey in Babati District is only 8% of the potential. Production can be raised through a well-organised extension and education programme. Honey hunting is practised widely by the people living near the national parks, particularly the Tarangire National Park, where it was reported that the honey hunters carry out their operations during the night and return to their homes with their harvest the same night. The honey hunters are sometimes beekeepers. In villages like Kiongozxi and Sigino, trees suitable for hives are no longer available and expansion of beekeeping is virtually impossible. This is why Sella of Kiongozi makes extra large hives, and why honey hunting is performed in the national parks.

One conclusion of this study is that beekeeping in Babati District is highly capable of development, as long as the resources available can be mobilised under a well-planned and carefully supervised beekeeping development project. The beekeepers in the district are fully aware of the benefits that are and could be derived from keeping bees, especially benefits occurring from profitable sales of honey and beeswax. Beekeepers are also aware of the problems which beset their work and are prepared to accept any measures designed to improve it.

The development of beekeeping in Babati District lags far behind that of other districts in Tanzania. The district is made up of the most fertile as well as the poorest lands, the wettest as well as the driest areas, highlands as well as lowlands and, what is more, the vegetation cover varies considerably. These conditions are excellent for a beekeeping industry. Modern frame hive beekeeping is possible, particularly in the highland zones, if the threats to bee colonies could be brought under control. Migratory beekeeping is also possible and can be practised inexpensively, the district being small and flowers easily accessible.

Beekeeping in Babati District has not been developed due to three main factors: the development and administrative authorities' previous lack of interest; the presence of a thriving crude honey market within and in the neighbourhood, and the clandestine style of beekeeping done by the beekeepers.

The information now available on Babati District should facilitate the drawing up of workable plans for the development of the beekeeping industry. An impressive start has been made, development of the beekeeping industry. An impressive start has been made, but "kutangulia si kufika" - going ahead is not arriving.


5.2 The honeybee

 Top

The honeybees found in most parts of Tanzania are the popular Apis mellifera scutellata (Lepeletier 1836) which are small, slender and yellow-banded. Their tongues are shorter (5.9 mm) than most other African honeybees, such as the Apis mellifera intermissa of Libya and Morocco, Apis mellifera monticola of the mountainous region of Eastern Africa and Apis mellifera adansonii of West Africa south of the Sahara. They exhibit marked variations in behavioural patterns, but generally possess a highly developed defensive instinct or aggressiveness. They migrate readily at the first sign of shortage of nectar and if disturbed, they may desert their nest, even leaving the brood behind. (Ruttner 1975).

Apis mellifera monticola is another species of bees distinct from A.m. scutellata. This species is found mainly in the mountainous regions of Eastern Africa, particularly on Mounts Kilimanjaro and Kenya. (Smith 1961). It has also ben observed in Ethiopia at altitudes of 2300 -3100 meters in the cold forests. The bees are long and broad with tongues averaging 6.2 mm long. A.m. monticola is larger than A.m. scutellata but slightly smaller than A.m. intermissa. The bees are good honey gatherers in their environment and have shown this ability under miombo conditions.


Figure 16. Honey hunter in action.


Figure 17. A fire is used to calm the bees.


Figure 18. The honey and wax are harvested.

The consultant maintained three stocks of pure monticola at Tabora in the mid 1960's under bee house conditions. They produced surplus honey in the first season. Later they were crossed with scutellata to produce hybrids.

Crosses between A.m. monticola and A.m. scutellata are a beautiful gold colour and quite docile. Second hybrids (F2) from a beekeeping point of view are a poor generation, aggressive and restless, and highly susceptible to EFB (European Foul Brood) (Ntenga 1968). Apis mellifera monticola can swarm even if there is room in a hive and at times they may panic during inspections, crawling over the frames and spreading all over the hive. But generally they are the best bees in Tanzania, as far as their behaviour is concerned.

Apis mellifera littorea is a third species known in Tanzania. They are smaller than A.m. scutellata but very similar in colouration. They are slightly slender with tongue lengths averaging 5.7 mm. The queen is very productive, probably because the worker bees have shorter lives and their coastal environment offers practically no periods of dearth, except during attacks by the pirate wasps, Polaris latifrons. When attacked, the bees abscond, leaving the brood and some stores behind. Their value for commercial honey production has not been assessed. Production statistics for the island of Zanzibar, its typical habitat, are not yet available.

The honeybees indigenous to Babati District are the same as those found elsewhere in Tanzania. They are productive and numerous and are adapted to the special conditions of the district. Minor variations may be caused by variations in climatic and vegetation conditions, and skills for handling them may be adapted to special environmental conditions. Modern management techniques are almost impossible, but it is possible to manage them in traditional ways, which should be examined seriously to see if they can be adapted or improved.


Figure 19. Swarming bees.

Modern apiarists are often inclined to simplify beekeeping by importing exotic species. The consultant witnessed the failure and total demise of imported Caucasian be species at both Arusha and Tabora in the 1960's, caused by the local strains of bees. One of the characteristics of the Tanzanian bees, which often is not documented, is that they rob other hives. The scutellata bees will rob weak colonies as soon as the nectar stops flowing from the flowers. When this occurred, and fighting ensued, the imported bees were killed by the acutellata bees. Imported bees cannot survive under Tanzanian conditions and it is unwise to contemplate any further importations.

Tanzania has apparently not been seriously affected by the bee diseases reported in other countries, particularly from the cold regions of the world. This may be because experts are absorbed into the administrative machinery, leaving inadequately trained workers in the field who cannot make the necessary observations. It may also be that traditional beekeepers do not detect diseases because they work with their bees only once or twice a year at night, and their hives do not permit any form of close inspection. It is, nevertheless, known from earlier observations (Smith, 1960), that the European Foul Brood Disease exists in Tanzania, and that it causes colonies to dwindle during the build-up and dearth periods.

Importing bees carries the risk of importing other bee diseases, which would increase operating costs which traditional beekeepers cannot meet. This would have serious consequences for the bee industry. Babati District's bees are thus the best for the district. Concentrating on methods to control swarming, and on breeding from among the local species is the surest way to successful beekeeping in the district and Tanzania.


5.3 Bee forage

 Top

The main vegetation types of the major ecological areas of Tanzania are represented prominently by the forests and deciduous woodlands, which form the most reliable beekeeping areas, where honey hunting and beekeeping have flourished for many centuries. The forests appear mainly in the lower zones of the mountains, particularly in the Kilimanjaro, Meru, Usambara and the highland areas, such as Ngorongoro, Oldeani and much of the southern highland areas. Upland wooded grasslands, bushlands and thickets appear mainly in the central parts of the country with a high beekeeping potential. The coastal lowlands which combine cultivated areas and tropical forest can support a large population of productive bee stocks. This area is the least exploited in terms of beekeeping.

In areas where there are beekeepers or honey hunters, there is general appreciation that bees will flourish better in some places than others, with a knowledge of the main sources of surplus honey. In the woodlands of the west, for example, the beekeepers know the origin of the two honey flows.

According to Greenway (1940) there are five important families of honey plants in the Miombo woodlands areas. The Caesalpiniaceae family comprises the leguminous trees found abundantly in the savanna areas: Julbernardia globiflora, Julbernardia paniculata, Julbernardia unijugata are the principal honey sources in those areas. They start flowering as early as March, with the honey flow commencing in April, reaching the peak in the beginning of June. In some years the honey flow may fail due to damages to the flowers by a caterpillar, Gabrucella sp, of the Coleptera family. Honey from these sources is extra light amber in colour and of pleasant slightly strong flavour. The other genus is the Brachystegia with the following species.

Brachystegia spiciformis, Brachystegia longifolia, Brachystegia bohoemu, Brachystegia stipulata, Brachystegia microphylla, Brachystegia bussei.

These trees may produce flowers between August and December, their ability to flower being dependent on good rainfall during the preceding rainy season.

Honey from B. spiciformis is nearly white, but because it flowers in conjunction with several other plant species, dark honey of strong flavour is usually obtained at the end of the honey flows. The Combretaceae family comprises predominantly: Combretum colloum, Combretum apiculatum, Combretum molle, Combretum flagrans, Combretum longispicatum, Combretum zeyheri, Combretum ternifolium, Terminalia sericea and Terminalia grandis which flower at the same time as the Brachystegia spp., producing light amber honey of mild flavour.

The Mimosaceae family is of mainly: Acacia joachimii. Acacia benthamii. Acacia rovumae, Acacia albida, Acacia tripanollobiu, Acacia seyal Albizzia antunesiana and Albizzia paterisana.

They flower variously from September to November, producing white honey with a pleasant flavour.

The Compositae family comprises numerous herbs and shrubs, especially in cultivated areas. They produce both pollen and nectar. Flowering may take place from February through to December depending on the geographical area. The following are a few of these plants: Aspilia-wedelia spp., Bidens pilosa, Veronia aemulans, Veronia colorata, Tridax procubens.

In some miombo areas there are still many plant families which contribute significantly to honey production and colony development. Plants of the Papilionaceae, Rubiaceae, Tiliaceae, Anarcardiaceae, Verbanaceae, Ancathaceae, and Sterculiaceae families may be found in certain localized areas in such abundance as to produce crop of honey and bees-wax.

The Euphorbiaceae family is notorious for comprising plant species which are responsible for bitter or unpalatable honey according to many traditional beekeepers. But since they flower alongside other plant species, from which bees collect nectar, the final product is mostly pleasant honey of good flavour and extra light amber in colour. The major species are: Euphorbia candelabrium, Euphorbia tirucali, Hymenocordia acida, Clutia mollis, Ricinus communis, Pseudolachnostylis glauca.

In the highland forests, flowering occurs from November through to February and then July and August. The major honey sources have been identified among several of the following species:

Phytolacaceae

Phytolacca dodecandra

Boraginaceae

Cordia holstii

Euphorbiaceae

Croton microstachys

Euphorbiaceae

Ricinus communis

Hypericaceae

Hypericum sp.

Proteaceae

Grevillea robusta

Mimosaceae

Albizzia spp.

From the highland wooded grasslands, honey of very high quality between extra light amber and white may be produced from the following plants:

Compositae

Aspilia-wedelia spp.

 

Bidens pilosa

 

Veronia aemulans

 

Veronia lasiopusa/colorata

   

Acanthaceae

Dyscoriste albiflora

 

Hypoestes sp.

   

Mimosaceae

Acacia albida

 

Acacia seyal

 

Acacia mollissima

 

Albizzia spp.

   

Sterculiaceae

Dombeya rotundifolia

Plants of the Labiatae, Papilionaceae, Rubiaceae and Boraginaceae families are sources of nectar. Honey from these areas will granulate or crystalise with some fine texture.

Bushlands and thickets are areas which appear extensively as the famous Itigi thicket in Manyoni district, as well as in areas of central and north eastern Tanzania. Honey flows occur between December and April. Important species from a beekeeping point of view:

Combretaceae

Combretum trothae

   

Sterculiaceae

Dombeya schupangae

 

Dombeya rotundifolia

   

Tiliaceae

Grewia spp.

 

Triumphetta rhomboidea

   

Euphorbiaceae

Euphorbia spp.

They are normally supported by plants of the Labiatae, Acanthaceae, Compositae, and Convolulaceae families. Honey from these areas varies from extra light amber to white, depending on the locality of the source.

The coastal lowland areas abound with cultivated crops, supported by wild trees, shrubs and herbs. The honey flows take place between January and March, but may go on to April or even May, producing amber honey of very strong flavour, characterised by the presence of large quantities of pollen. Samples of honey have shown the presence of the following sources:

The coastal lowland areas abound with cultivated crops, supported by wild trees, shrubs and herbs. The honey flows take place between January and March, but may go on to April or even May, producing amber honey of very strong flavour, characterised by the presence of large quantities of pollen. Samples of honey have shown the presence of the following sources:

Acanthaceae

Blepharis sp.

 

Asteracantha sp.

 

Hypoestes sp.

 

Justicia sp.

   

Compositae

Veronia aemulans

 

Veronia colorate

 

Bidens - Aspilia-wedelia spp.

   

Malvaceae

Abutilon mauretanium

   

Sterculiaceae

Dombeya cincinata

   

Mimosaceae

Albizzia versicolor

   

Tiliaceae

Grewia bicolor

   

Agavaceae

Agave sisalana

   

Cesalpinaceae

Brachystegia microphylla

According to Crane and Walker (1983) farmlands can be important sources of honey, particularly from plants of Agavaceae, Rubiaceae, Proteaceae, Malvaceae, Leguminosae, Rutaceae, Compositae and Myrtaceae families, respectively represented by sisal, coffee, Grevillea, cotton, beans, oranges, sunflowers and eucalyptus plants.

Objectionable honeys are usually reported from areas where red palm oil plants (Elaeis guineainsis) are extensively grown in Kigoma Region. They are also reported from Newala in Mtwara region where ciera rubber plantations, Manihot glazivii, of the Euphorbiae family are found, as well as from Tengeru in Arusha region, where crops of castor oil, (Ricinus communis) are grown. In sisal areas, in Morogoro and Tanga Regions, similar reports have been received. Some plants of the Graminae families, such as sugar cane, produce nectar from extra floral nectaries, whose honey may be very unpalatable.

The vegetation map of Babati District (Figure 3.) shows a characteristic representation of what is discussed above, and it is clear from the honey plants named by the various traditional beekeepers that the district is rich in bee forage and can support a viable beekeeping industry.


5.4 The beehive

 Top

The beehive in Babati District must conform to the beekeepers' traditional norms, and attempts to improve beekeeping in the district should be based on improvement of the traditional log hive. Most of the beekeepers in the district use the type of log hive with a harvesting gate on one of its sides, provided by notching the edges of the two parts of the hive.

The harvesting gate is definitely the most important property of the log hive. The main purpose of this opening is to enable the beekeeper to harvest his honey without disturbing the rest of the hive and the bee nest. The size of the opening, however, leaves much to be desired. The beekeeper measures the opening with his extended hand. The distance between the tip of the middle finger and that of the thumb is the length of the opening. Half this distance is the width.


Figure 20. A traditional beehive with a harvesting gate. Observe that the hive is sited so the beekeeper can work with his bees.

Unfortunately the opening was observed to be too small for the beekeepers to work freely. It needs a little enlargement to allow the beekeeper freer movement of his arm and a better view of the contents of the hive. The cover to the opening should also be enlarged and provided with a more secure latch, which could be made from waste metal or rubber.

The next improvement should be in the size of the hives. The beekeepers should be encouraged to make them bigger. The maximum size would probably be 135 cm long by 45 cm diameter. It is not possible to standardize the traditional hives because the tree trunks from which they are made vary considerably in size. It should, however, be a long-term policy to do so, particularly when the beekeepers resort to sawn timber or other manufactured materials.

Beekeepers should be introduced to plank and transitional hives. Should a beekeeper wish to try them, he should be encouraged to do so, with specific instructions on their use. By no means should commercial frame hives be advocated. These require expert management, and should be confined to trial apiaries.

The hives should be baited as they now are, using materials like the soriangw or moigangw (Gorowa), thamfi (Iraqw for propolis), honey or bees-wax. The hives must be located where flowering plants are abundant and water is available for most of the year. If these sources are far from the villages the beekeepers should be encouraged to start beekeeping camps in groups of five to a camp. Since beekeeping is a seasonal occupation, it is likely that this move will meet with their approval.

The beekeepers in many areas have also learnt that big hives are conducive to larger crops of honey. Even those who use log hives are now making them big enough to accommodate large bee colonies. This change of attitude is a welcome phenomenon, suggesting that, with time, the traditional beekeepers will accept new ideas related to improved bee hives. For this reason, the consultant previously designed the hive shown in Fig. 21. It is said to be a good hive for forest beekeeping.

The hive is a modification of those used by many tribes in the country. It permits beekeepers to collect honey from both ends, because bees may place honey at both ends with the brood in the centre. If this happens, the beekeeper can collect honey from both ends, leaving the brood intact in the centre. If the brood is at one end, then he can collect honey from the other end. Since it is unnatural for the bees to separate brood by combs of honey, they will not place honey in the centre with brood at both ends.

The plank hive shown is a new design, derived from the consultant's experience of plank hives. It also incorporates the idea of having an opening in the side. The Nguu in Handeni District, the Gogo in Dodoma and Mpwapwa Districts, and the Nyaturu in Singida District use log hives with openings in the sides for collecting honey. The consultant has successfully used plank hives with an entire side as an opening. The new design of plank hives should open a new stage towards the use of the traditional hive which is also shown.

The standard size of the plank hive is 89 cm long, 48 cm long, 48 cm wide and 24 cm deep with a boo entrance 16 cm by 1.3 cm. The door in the centre is 43 cm by 24 cm, and hinged to the bottom board, if necessary, to open downwards. There are no frames or movable parts. The bees will attach their combs to the upper board and the combs can be cut out as in other traditional hives. It is not a perfect improvement of the traditional log hives described above, but allows pre-harvest inspections and is a viable alternative when hive-making materials are unavailable.

The transitional hive was designed and described by Ntenga (1972) as an intermediate step towards the use of frame hives. It has so far proved its worth under Tanzanian conditions and is widely used in government apiaries notable success.


Figure 21. Log and plank hive.


Figure 22.

This hive uses comb bars (top bars) instead of frames. The hive box which is 89 cm long, 44.18 cm wide and 22.86 cm deep permits 28 comb bars. The exact measurements of its various parts are given below:

The Hive Box

(Internal dimensions)

The Comb Bar

Length

88.90 cm

   

Length

45.18 cm

Width

44.18 cm

   

Width

3.18 cm

Depth

22.86 cm

   

Thickness

2.54 cm

       
   

Central Groove

 
       
   

(If the bar is not levelled or V-shaped)

 
   

Length

44.18 cm

 
   

Width

0.32 cm

 
       
   

Comb Bar Lug

 
         
   

Length

2.54 cm

 
   

Width

3.18 cm

 
   

Thickness

1.27 cm

 
       
   

The Roof (2 pieces)

 
         
   

Length

52 cm

 
   

Width

49 cm

 
   

Depth (at ends)

5.08 cm

 

As with other movable comb hives, the dimensions of this hive must be perfectly accurate. A small error in its construction will defeat the whole purpose of the design.

The Tanzanian commercial frame hive is not detailed here, because its use requires special skills in bee management under Tanzanian conditions. It also requires extra investments to make the enterprise economically viable. It is, however, the best of all movable comb hives known in Tanzania.

The beekeepers should be aware that successful beekeeping doesn't depend on having many hives, but comes from the experience derived from handling smaller units, expanding when possible and maintaining the production level of the bee colonies. Figure. 22.


5.5 Colony management and hazards

 Top

Bee colonies in traditional hives can be managed to some extent. Once the hives have been occupied, the beekeeper can identify weak and strong colonies by observing the flight of the bees. Small or weak colonies can be detected by erratic in-and-out flight movements. The opposite indicates strong colonies. Weak colonies cannot defend themselves efficiently against intruders or large hives effectively. Pests like ants, wax moth, wasp or rats, garangw (Iraqw), may be found in the hives. These can be removed to keep the hives clean for the colonies to develop. The hives may have been blown from their positions or pushed down by ratels. They should be mended and replaced or relocated.

The traditional beekeepers should consolidate their habit of observing bees to judge the presence of ripe honey in their hives.

Some beekeepers shave their hair or remove some feathers from a chicken after the hives have been occupied by bees. When new hair or feathers have grown out, the honey is ready for harvesting. Even the use of watsi, a small stick which some of the traditional beekeepers use to pierce the combs to check if there is honey in the hive, should not be condemned. Lifting hives to feel their weight should be encouraged if it can help reveal the presence of ripe honey.

But the above actions are best done during the day, when the bees are active. The use of protective clothing should therefore be recommended. Protective clothes give confidence to the beekeeper and facilitate efficient performance. Overalls and bee veils are sufficient protection against excessive stings.


Figure 23. A low-cost bee smoker made from an old tin.

The type of smoker used in Botswana could be promoted while an inexpensive smoker is being designed. Cooking oil tins are obtainable at low cost even in the villages. The perforations should be confined to the bottom third of the tin and should be large enough to allow a lot of air to pass and to discard ashes from the smoker. The materials used by the traditional beekeepers, such as pieces of castor oil stems, the spongy flesh from sisal poles, cow dung and dororo a parasitic plant which grows on Brachystegia spp appearing like long greenish threads, can be used in this type of smoker. A wire handle fitted into the top of the tin should be hooked at the end so the smoker can be hung. But the use of this kind of smoker should be carefully monitored to determine its efficiency in handling established colonies.

Meanwhile, large engineering workshops and technical colleges should be recruited to make more efficient smokers from simple metal cans. It is nevertheless acknowledged that the bee smoker used by beekeepers in industrialised countries, which has been replicated in Tanzania, is most efficient and the traditional beekeeper would appreciate it if its cost could be reduced.

As previously mentioned, the honey badger is a serious threat to beekeeping. The beekeepers in Babati District should be advised to hang their hives from hooked sticks or wires, or to take other measures such as piling thorns round the boles of the trees in which the hives are sited. Insect pests which include several species of ants, wasps and moths can be controlled by destroying their nests, relocating hives and keeping the hives and surroundings clean.


5.6 Honey containers

 Top

The traditional beekeepers use simple containers made from inexpensive, local materials. The wooden trough or wide-brimmed calabash which they use for carrying honey comb during harvesting is satisfactory, but could be improved.

Covers for the troughs and calabashes should be used to keep out bees and dust. The beekeepers also use special calabashes for storing the honey after the combs have been broken down. These could be provided with suitable airtight stoppers which could be made of wood. Using cow dung and ashes to seal the calabashes should be discouraged. It was also reported that after long use, the calabashes become worn through corrosion caused by honey. Determining the appropriate duration for their use and, if possible, the treatment required to prolong their use, are subjects for investigation.


5.7 Market development

 Top

Based on the regular export returns from the Customs and Excise Departments between 1906 and 1985, a ten-year average production of honey in Tanzania was estimated to fluctuate between 4,000 and 8,000 tons per year. However, a lot of honey is consumed by the producers and some is sold to other consumers in the village. Honey that escapes the market in this way may be estimated at 2 000 tons. The methods employed in collecting honey and distributing it to consumers make it difficult to obtain accurate production statistics. Efforts to obtain information from the producers have not yet been successful for several reasons:

- Beekeeping is done in the forests in scattered locations.

- Many beekeepers are men with little formal education, who do not keep records of their harvests and are often suspicious of questionnaires, fearing levy or taxation.

- Not all honey reaches the market.

- Beekeeping is not yet attractive to young, educated persons because it is labour intensive and stinging is feared.


Smith (1961) observed that the development of systematic honey marketing in some areas dates back to the 1950's, little having been done previously in the way of processing and packing it for the high-grade market.

After studying the problems of harvesting and preparation of honey for the market, it became clear that if trade in high-grade honey was to be developed, it was necessary to win the cooperation of the beekeepers and teach them how to harvest and prepare it without spoiling it. As the beekeepers who operate near settled areas can easily sell low-grade honey to the wealthy honey beer brewers, it was considered appropriate to elicit the co-operation of beekeepers operating in remote areas of the forest.

In Tabora Region for example, transporting honey to the village areas where it could be sold was a major problem. Buying crude honey from the beekeepers was not considered because the honey contains brood combs and large quantities of pollen. Attention was therefore directed towards teaching beekeepers the following.

- Honey must be collected only immediately after the main honey flow, when the hives contain ripe honey.

- Upon removal from the hive, the honey must be placed in an airtight container. The honey must be strained as soon as possible before crystalization starts.

- The honey must be checked for flavour, colour, density and cleanliness; any honey failing to meet standards must be rejected.

- Heat must be avoided and the honey stored as cool as possible.


After the necessary answers to the technical problems had been obtained, the operations were handed over to the beekeepers' co-operatives.

Similar efforts were made in Handeni District in the early 1960's, this time with a farmer's co-operative society. Honey presses were distributed to beekeepers in order to produce pressed honey which was filtered through coarse cloth. As the activities of the co-operative were diversified, concentration on honey soon lapsed and the venture was abandoned. Ten years later, in 1974, the government of the Federal Republic of Germany dispatched Professor W. Drescher to carry out a feasibility study for a beekeeping project to be developed in Tanga Region, under the Tanga Integrated Rural Development Programme. Information was compiled on the number of hives in the region and the demand for honey in the major urban centres in the northern and eastern zone.

Following these observation, the following recommendations for improving beekeeping in Tanga Region were made.

- Better training of beekeepers in improvement of the quality of their honey.

- Stimulation and training of interested people, especially in Ujamaa villages, to get involved in beekeeping.

- Supplying more advanced beekeeping equipment to interested beekeepers.

- Improvement of the market situation by collecting immediate payment for honey and wax.

- Improvement of the products through adequate storage and processing facilities of honey.

- Creation of contacts to inland and foreign markets.(Drescher 1974)


Implementation of the above recommendations included three demonstration centres and a filtering plant in Handeni, with a woodworking shop for the manufacture of beekeeping equipment.

The above experiences suggest that it is extremely important to win the cooperation of the producers if success in developing a honey market is to be achieved.

Harris (1932) made the following observations about bees-wax.

"... the work of improving the beekeeping industry and quality of bees-wax requires a knowledge of the most important bees-wax producing areas in the country:

(a) The area that lies to the west of Tabora - Mwanza railway line up to the Belgian Congo (Zaire) boundary. This area produces high quality bees-wax that commands a higher price than that from other areas, because it is uniform in colour and contains little dirt.

(b) The hinterland of Lindi and Kilwa. This area produces bees-wax which is not uniform in colour, ranging from pale yellow to deep chocolate.

(c) The rest of the country produces negligible quantities of bees-wax, but surprisingly, the areas of Kilimanjaro and Usambara mountains despite the fact that they are heavily stocked with bee hives, produce very little bees-wax.

(d) The areas around Rufiji and Iringa also produce some bees-wax.


It is not surprising that much government effort has been directed towards those areas where the production of bees-wax has been substantiated. However, efforts have also been made in several other areas to bring the market value of bees-wax to the attention of beekeepers. But because of the strong traditions and myths about separating honey from bees-wax, success in putting this product onto the market has been limited.

Ntenga (1976) observed that methods employed for the protection of bees-wax, its recovery and marketing make it difficult to determine the amount produced in a given year. Nowhere in beekeeping literature can statistics be found on actual production of this product. Since the value of bees-wax is not yet known to all, export statistics must still be consulted to determine years of good or poor production.

In the areas of Meru, Kilimanjaro, Pare and Usambara, the normal practice of the beekeepers is to include the wax comb in their honey, which they sell to the flourishing beer market. The beer market requires wax in the honey to ensure its authenticity and the fortification of the final brew. In the Sonjo areas of Monduli District it is prohibited to separate and render bees-wax because the bees are thought to migrate from the area for good if bees-wax is separated.

The subject of bees-wax is of special interest, and is taken up in Appendix II. Meanwhile it is well to bear in mind the Nyamwezi adage: "You spit wealth and swallow wealth."

This means that when you chew honey comb, the wax discarded after chewing is as valuable as the honey you swallow. The Nyamwezi people have known the value of bees-wax for more than a century.


Figure 24. Production and export of honey and bees-wax, Tanzania 1906 - 1985.

The development of an organised market for honey should be viewed as a long-term programme in Babati District. Through extension the beekeepers should be taught how to separate honey from wax and the existing local market should be made aware of clear honey. The beekeepers should be taught how to clean bees-wax using the method described in Appendix IV.

Honey can initially be separated from wax by the settling method using domestic utensils. The broken combs can also be placed in a container with a perforated bottom, allowing the honey to drip into another container. The wax which remains behind should be squeezed in a coarse cloth or rush bag to remove the remaining honey.

There is a big demand for honey both in the villages and urban centres. Any honey which is surplus to the needs in the village can be easily sold to urban centres through auctions which take place regularly at designated places in the village areas. The beekeepers at Mrumba and Liloda in Hanang District use these auctions effectively.

It appears that the beekeepers who sell honey to the Barabaigs or other villagers feel they are doing wrong; hence the clandestine nature of their business. This attitude should be fought vigorously through an education campaign.

After the quantities of honey and bees-wax have been ascertained, special buying posts and collection centres can be developed with a view to setting up a centre for filtering and packing in wholesale and retail containers.


to previous section to next section