One of the biggest challenges facing the apiary industry is the near stone age method of keeping bees that are practised by most farmers. And yet, there is a big demand for Ugandan honey and by-products all over the world. Uganda’s current honey production stands at around 500,000 tonnes, against a potential of over two million tonnes per year.
“It is not just the kind of hives that people use on their farms, but also the methods that they use in harvesting honey,” says Kelvin Odoobo, an apiary expert.
Odoobo says the traditional hives yield very little honey in addition to affecting the entire colony.
“For example, to harvest from a traditional hive, you must first kill the bees and destroy the combs, but this is not the case with modern hives such as the CAB hive,” he says.
The bees should simply be smoked away, before the combs that contain the honey are pulled out of the hive. These combs are then put in a modern honey extractor that squeezes out the honey, before the combs are returned into the hive without any damage.
Odoobo says bee hives should be positioned in areas that have flowery crops, like maize and sunflower, because it is from these that bees get nectar, that they process into honey.
Bees also need water, which means that there should be a water source nearby. With a modern hive, a farmer can harvest at least six times a year. With each kilogramme going for sh15,000 on the open market, the farmer gets sh195,000 from each hive per harvest.
The basic commercial beekeepers tool must include; at least one bee suit, pair of gloves, smoker, stainless steel extractor, bee brush, uncapping fork, pair of strainers and a wax sheet.
If one has five hives, the cost is around sh2.5m for the enterprise.