An insight into keeping poultry.

A live adult layer chicken on its way to the local market.
A live adult layer chicken on its way to the local market, tethered to the back of a motor bike.image

Although the main purpose of my visit to Uganda was to support the ongoing project work of Bees Abroad it also provided an opportunity to learn more about local poultry production systems and, where possible, to offer technical advice.  Since my first visit to Uganda in 2012 word had spread within the various villages that my day job involved working with poultry as a technical advisor. During our visit to the homestead and an apiary of one of the group leader’s I briefly interviewed her husband about their chickens.

The lush vegetation at the homestead. Plenty of banana, mango and avocado's grown for the families consumption.
The lush vegetation at the homestead. Plenty of coffee plants plus banana, mango and avocado’s grown for the family’s consumption.
Chickens - I assume a local indigenous breed.
Chickens: including some indigenous breeds.
Feed
Close up view of the maize and fish feed.
A cockerel in the bush.
A cockerel in the bush.

Some notes from the interview on keeping chickens in a rural village.

A total of 20 chickens (15 hens, 5 cockerels) were kept at the homestead and managed free-range (extensive) mainly to supply eggs for the family.  They had been purchased as chicks at a local market and were now between 1-2 years old.  The hens had been kept for almost one year before they had come into lay.  Most of the hens produced an egg per day, mainly during the dry season (December to February), and tended to be laid close to the house rather than in the bush.  The birds usually scavenged for their food but were sometimes offered feed in feeding troughs.  When this was the case the feed comprised mostly of finely ground maize (produced locally) and fish (sourced from Lake Albert).  The birds were usually very healthy and significant mortality was rare.  No vaccinations or treatments were routinely administered.  The services of a local vet was rarely requested (response slow and also very expensive).  The husband told me that Newcastle disease was his main concern and that in the past he had encountered coccidiosis in some of the birds. On further questioning it was concluded that it was likely that the diagnosis of clinical coccidiosis had been incorrect – blood in the faeces having been mistaken for caecal faeces (chickens produce two types of faecal material: intestinal (‘normal’) and caecal droppings, the latter not infrequently mistaken for blood in faeces. Interestingly, his current worries were thieves stealing his birds and wild animals (monkeys, probably baboons) killing his birds. If they survive this, the birds are kept for about 5 years before being killed for consumption by the family.

Rather fine looking chicken accommodation (at a different homestead).
Rather fine looking chicken accommodation (at a different homestead).

 

 

 

 

 

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Not all types of bee hive are productive.

In many parts of Africa there is a history of honey hunting particularly in areas having a low population density and an abundance of natural bee flora. Traditional honey hunting has largely been replaced by beekeeping. Indeed, many parts of rural Africa have strong beekeeping traditions which play an important role in the rural economy. Despite such a tradition, there has been a considerable decline in traditional beekeeping in many parts of Africa, including Uganda. Proposed reasons for this decline include the intensification of agriculture which is commonly associated with degradation of bee forage and over-use of pesticides. It is worth mentioning that many people in Uganda, and also other areas of tropical and sub-tropical regions of Africa, are experimenting with a wide range of beekeeping methods, from traditional to modern. The important point to note here is that some of these methods have been successful, others not. Of the apiaries that I have visited in the rural villages of western Uganda many use traditional log hives. Generally speaking these work well.

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Traditional log hive — in use.

Similarly, the introduction of more modern hives such as the Kenya top-bar hive (KTBH) also work well but require some initial training in their construction and use.

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Kenya top-bar hives — in use.

Where new methods fail it is usually because the technology is inappropriate to the particular area, e.g. the use of Langstroth hives in remote areas of Uganda. Although these types of moveable-frame hive are used with considerable success in temperate climates, and in cooler parts of Africa, overall they have met with limited success in Africa. The aggressive nature of the African bees is not suited to the techniques for managing such hives which are expensive and intricate and must be built with precision. Expensive equipment is also required to extract the honey. Furthermore, unlike the KTBH, these hives cannot easily be suspended high enough off the ground to be safe from invasion by ants and termites, and they are also vulnerable to colonisation by wax moths whenever the bees abscond. Despite such limitations, Langstroth hives are frequently supplied by larger donor organisations and governments without any appropriate training or technical support and can often be found abandoned, often never colonised.

imageLangstroth hives — not in use, abandoned.

Value-added products: making the most of beeswax.

Beeswax is often wasted by beekeepers.  It is however a valuable commodity whether it be for baiting bee hives or for making a variety of products such as candles, polishes and cosmetics. In 2012, during my first visit to Uganda, the group leaders received training in the harvesting and processing of beeswax.  We saw the fruits of this training on a visit (29 April) to the homestead of one of the group leaders.

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One of the group members proudly showing her sample of candles, some using sections of bamboo.

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Another group member with some nice blocks of good quality beeswax.

How to harvest beeswax:

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1. Wash the crushed honeycombs in water to remove as much honey and dirt as possible.
2. Wash in water
2. Squeeze by hand to remove water and transfer “cleaned” honeycombs into a suitable container.
3. Place cleaned honeycombs into a suitable cloth and tie with string. Then place in an old cooking pot with water. Push honeycomb under the water and heat the water gently.
3. Wrap the “cleaned” honeycombs in a suitable cloth and tie with string. Then place into a cooking pot with water. Push the honeycomb underneath the water and heat the water gently.
4. As the water warms (it must not boil)
4. As the water warms (it must not boil) the melted wax starts to pass through the mesh and will rise to the surface of the water. The bag should be continuously pressed underneath the water to aid this process.
5. The last amounts of wax
5. The last amounts of liquid wax are squeezed out of the bag using two sticks. As the water and liquid wax cool, the wax will solidify on the surface of the water.
6. Blocks of solid wax are produced which will need to be processed again to remove remaining pieces of dirt.

Visiting the apiaries of group members, 28 April.

One of the aims of this trip was to visit  the apiaries of individual members rather than group leaders  to try and get a better understanding of what is actually going on at grass-roots level with the project. [Further details on this and other posts, together with other activities carried out on the trip but not mentioned in this blog, can be found in Roy Dyche’s full trip report which should be available on the BA website in June.]

Getting ready to visit the apiary, Tuterane Kigaaya group.
Getting ready to visit the apiary of the Tuterane Kigaaya group.
Local members of the homestead keeping a close eye on us.
Members of the homestead and other visitors keep a close eye on us.
Off into the bush to try and locate the apiary.
Off into the bush to try and locate the apiary.
Close up of a KTBH.
The apiary consisted of 18 Kenya top-bar hives (KTBH) only 5 of which were colonised with bees. Note the protective clothing worn by this beekeeper made out of maize flour sack material which is tough and cheap. The marigold gloves were provided by the Dover and District  Beekeepers.
Watching ladies making a KTBH. The mixture that they are applying to the floor and sides of the hive is composed of mud (4 handfuls), cow faeces (2 handfuls) and wood ash (1 handful).  This helps keep the inside of the hive dark and also prevents ants and other pests from getting in.
Watching ladies make a KTBH. The mixture that they are applying to the floor and sides of the hive is composed of mud (4 handfuls), cow faeces (2 handfuls) and wood ash (1 handful). This helps to keep the inside of the hive dark and also prevents ants and other pests from getting in.
Cutting stalks of reeds to the appropriate length using a machete.
Cutting the stalks of reeds to the appropriate length using a machete. These are used to construct the bottom and sides of the hive.
Preparing the gable ends of the hive using locally available wood.
Preparing the gable ends of the hive using locally available wood.
Applying the finishes touches.
Applying the finishing touches.
The apiary of the Baina Onugisa group.
The apiary of the Baina Onugisa group.  Calliandra and marigolds had been planted to provide forage and a splash of colour, although some of this vegetation could really be cleared a little to help remove pests such as beetles and lizards. Unfortunately none of the hives (8) was colonised due to a variety of problems which had caused the bees to abscond (an established colony leaving the hive for pastures new).
Homestead of one of the Baina Onugisa group members.
Homestead of one of the Baina Onugisa group members.
Roy filming an interview with Lazarus (BISUDEF).
Roy multi-tasking by filming and interviewing Lazarus (BISUDEF).
Roy interviewing Beatrice one of the group members who managed a very well maintained apiary.  She had already harvested 10 kgs of honey during the season half of which she had sold the rest used by her household to supplement their diet but also for medicinal purposes.  Roy hopes to use the interview to create a 'story' for the BA's next newsletter.
Roy interviewing Beatrice one of the group members who managed a very well maintained apiary. She had already harvested 10 kgs of honey during the season half of which she had sold the rest had been used by her household to supplement their diet but also for medicinal purposes. Roy hopes to use the interview to create a ‘story’ for BA’s next newsletter.

 

 

 

More than just bees!

By way of an introduction, the mind map below created by Mary Home shows the scope and diversity of the work of Bees Abroad.   During this trip to Uganda (my third) I shall be assisting BA Project Manager Roy Dyche to evaluate progress with a project launched in May 2012. The aim of the project is to help women’s groups living in the rural areas of Uganda’s Hoima District supplement their income, often less than $1.25 a day, by undertaking more modern, environmentally sustainable beekeeping.

Importantly, the day-to-day in-country management of the project continues to be handled by our local partners, the small Bigasa Sustainable Development Foundation (BISUDEF).

Of course, as suggested by the mind map, there will be other, perhaps less visible, certainly more difficult to evaluate, benefits generated by the project. I hope to capture the essence of some of these in my photographs, incidentally, to be taken by nothing more sophisticated than either my iPhone or my iPad.

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