Written by Diamonds for Peace Liberia staff
The beekeepers in Weasua are new and inexperienced. They are domesticating bees for the first time, and so they need to be nurtured through the process. These beekeepers went through 5 days of training in basic beekeeping, which was just an introduction. In order to master beekeeping, they require guidance through all the practical training activities up until their first harvest. Beekeeping is largely practical, and as such the beekeeper needs regular, hands-on experience with managing the hives.
Practical training activities
During the practical training activities, the technician/field extension worker led the beekeepers into the field where they had previously installed several beehives. The technician provided practical training on hive management and techniques to attract bees into the hives. During the basic beekeeping training, the trainees had installed about 60 beehives at different locations in the forest. Now, at this stage of the practical training, the primary focus was on attracting bees to the already installed beehives and properly managing those hives. One lesson the trainees learned is that bees have enemies, and that it is part of a beekeeper’s job to prevent and protect the bees against these enemies’ attacks. For example, they saw that an entire bee colony had escaped one of the beehives.
They learned that the reason for the escape was an ant invasion. Since the new beekeepers had not been regularly visiting the hive, they hadn’t realized what was happening. Had they checked up on the hive regularly, they would have discovered the ant invasion and prevented them from chasing away the bees. This is what the hive management is all about. Another lesson the trainees learned is that the hives need sunlight. The trainer guided them to relocate many of the hives, because they had been placed in the shade with not enough sunlight reaching the hive.
Progress achieved thus far
The new beekeepers may still have a lot to learn, and they are still far from their first harvest, but they have nonetheless achieved a great deal. Fundamentally, they have acquired training in basic beekeeping: they have learned how to construct a beehive with all its compartments, and they have installed over 100 beehives at various locations in the forest. Two of the installed hives have been colonized by bees as of November 2020, and the new beekeepers have started to gain the practical experience they need to make their beekeeping ventures successful.
(Note: Eight hives have been colonized as of April 2021.)
Current challenges the beekeepers are facing
The major challenges the new beekeepers are facing are as follows:
- Limited knowledge in making top-bars for beehives;
- Challenge in getting bees to colonize the hives they have already installed in the forest.
DFPL ordered the construction of 60 beehives from UOF and supplied them to the beekeepers, and also gave them 150 planks to be used for the construction of additional beehives. During the basic beekeeping training, the participants constructed 10 beehives under the supervision of the trainer, using a portion of the planks DFPL provided to them. During the training, the participants learned how to build a beehive using planks, but they were not able to make the top-bar. The top-bar is the part of the beehive used to cover the hive and on which bees hang their combs. During this practical training activity, the beekeepers were taught how to make the top-bar, but it still remains a challenge for them since they are in the learning process.
It has been two months since the beekeepers installed the 70 beehives, but only two of those hives have been colonized by bees as of November 2020. This is frustrating to these new beekeepers. Receiving bees into the hive is something the beekeepers anticipate eagerly, but when success is delayed, they sometimes want to give up, especially since they are new to beekeeping.
Way forward in addressing the current challenges
The number of top-bar bundles needed for additional beehives to be constructed is large, and the new beekeepers cannot easily make them. Therefore, UOF is volunteering to partner with DFPL to assist the new beekeepers in making the necessary top-bars to ease their burden.
The prospect of success in beekeeping is high, and the beekeepers are highly enthusiastic about it at this stage. However, they must be patient and persistent to have fruitful results.
Beekeeping training including monthly practical training and procurement of tools and equipment is supported by Toyo Tire Group Environmental Fund, and 150 planks were purchased with the support by a Japanese jewelry designer, MIO HARUTAKA.
Front Photo:The beekeepers in Weasua relocate their beehives to suitable venues in order to attract bees to colonize the hives. ©Diamonds for Peace