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The specialist international beekeeping organisation

Making a difference worldwide

Proposed Project: Sustainable beekeeping with honey hunters of Digya National Park

Digya National Park is the second largest national park and the oldest protected area in Ghana. It is located in the Brong-Ahafo Region. It was created in 1900 and given national park status in 1971. The park is the only wildlife territory in Ghana to have Lake Volta at its borders.

Communities living near the Park boundary suffer from extreme poverty, higher than the national average and one of their major sources of income is un-managed and illegal exploitation of natural resources and wildlife in the Park.  This situation is unsatisfactory from the perspective of the local people who need more rewarding and sustainable sources of income and unsatisfactory from the perspective of biodiversity conservation. 

What solution do we propose?

We are planning to transform honey hunters into beekeepers. This will ensure they can use locally available natural resources sustainably, and earn more income than they do at present. At the present time local people travel great distances into the Park to find wild honey bee nests so they can harvest the honey. This is extremely time-consuming and the yields and returns are diminishing each year. Keeping bees in hives means that it is possible to locate bees nearer to the village and this cuts down the time taken looking for wild nests and it is possible to increase the number of colonies by providing more hives.

What is the difference between fixed-comb beekeeping and movable-comb beekeeping?

When bees build their nests in hollow trees or any other cavity they fix the combs to the wall of the cavity. During harvest any removed combs cannot be replaced. This reduces the ability to implement colony husbandry practices, but the bees will store the same amount of honey and the honey quality is equally good. Many beekeepers replicate naturally occurring cavities by making simple cylinder hives with no movable parts - these are called fixed-comb hives.

Over the years some beekeepers have designed more sophisticated artificial cavities - some with top-bars, some with frames. These movable parts allow beekeepers to carry out some interventions and replace the combs afterwards. Such hives are called movable-comb hives. Examples of these, are top-bar hives and Langstroth hives. Necessarily movable-comb hives are more expensive to make than fixed-comb hives. They also permit the transfer of combs out of one colony into another, and this can cause spread of pathogens.

The main benefit of fixed-comb hives is that they are easy to make and not expensive. This means a beekeeper can have many hives, many colonies and achieve high total honey yields. This type of beekeeping is accessible to very poor people who cannot afford movable-comb hives. For these reasons we will be promoting fixed-combs hives in this Project. If some beekeepers choose movable-comb beehives - and we will respond to this need where appropriate. However, our emphasis is on the poorest people and we do not wish to push them into a technology which they cannot afford to buy, as this will undermine long term sustainability.

How many people will benefit from the Project?

We will target 400 people from 5 communities. The intention is to work with honey hunters because these people are familiar with bees and already have established pathways for sell honey. However, if we focused on honey hunters only this would exclude women. So we will deliberately select some women to participate in the training. 

Where will the new beekeepers keep their bees?

At the present time honey hunters travel far into the National Park to look for wild bees' nests. In fact the Park would be a good location for apiaries but it is not allowed by law. The new beekeepers will keep their bees in apiaries which they will establish in forest areas near their villages. There is a lot of forest land outside the Park which is suitable for beekeeping. These forests are much degraded but we estimate that there is adequate natural vegetation for bees to forage. Once people have starting using these forest areas for bees we expect them to take greater care to prevent damaging fires.

What is our Theory of Change

People exploit wildlife for economic reasons. This Project will therefore address this by providing an economic driver to change behaviour away from wildlife exploitation to an alternative. The alternative must be more profitable and more rewarding that wildlife exploitation otherwise it will not provide an incentive. Sustainable beekeeping has been purposively selected for four main reasons:

  • People collect wild honey at present which means there are already established trade pathways for honey.
  • The village areas outside the Park are suitable for beekeeping
  • Honey hunters, whom we will target, are already familiar with bees
  • Beekeeping will not cause further degradation of forest resources outside the Park, indeed it is environmentally beneficial and supports biodiversity

To transform honey hunters into beekeepers we must introduce a beekeeping system which works, is accessible to the poorest, can be adopted at scale and is profitable. This is why we will promote fixed-comb beekeeping. If we promoted expensive hives it is likely that their cost would prohibit poorest families from expanding. The simple fact is that the poorest people will need to use any income earned from honey sales for immediate household needs and will find it hard to save this income to buy more hives. Expensive hives can place a break on development for the poorest families - a consequence which will work against our overall aim.

Our economic case

During a community consultation in May 2016 we collected information about current levels of household income. We have developed an economic case which shows how sustainable beekeeping can be a more economically rewarding activity then honey hunting and bushmeat hunting.

 

 

When Lake Volta was expanded many thousands of hectares of forest were flooded. The remains are still visible today.

When Lake Volta was expanded many thousands of hectares of forest were flooded. The remains are still visible today.

Communities living on the fringes of Digya National Park suffer from poor housing.

Communities living on the fringes of Digya National Park suffer from poor housing.

Some of the Lake Volta tributaries are shrinking. Communities previously reliant on fishing from these rivers are struggling, and in need of new sources ...

Some of the Lake Volta tributaries are shrinking. Communities previously reliant on fishing from these rivers are struggling, and in need of new sources of income.

Jerry cans of honey for sale. This honey has been harvested from wild honey bee nests. Honey hunters tell us that they have to travel much further ...

Jerry cans of honey for sale. This honey has been harvested from wild honey bee nests. Honey hunters tell us that they have to travel much further to honey and are keen to learn beekeeping instead.

Local people have excellent craft and weaving skills. In this Project we will design simple beehives using these same skills. This way we empower ...

Local people have excellent craft and weaving skills. In this Project we will design simple beehives using these same skills. This way we empower the poor to be self-sufficient, without the need to wait for donations of box beehives.

This woven grass is used to make temporary hut walls in the area. Grass woven in this way can be used to provide a waterproof covering for basket ...

This woven grass is used to make temporary hut walls in the area. Grass woven in this way can be used to provide a waterproof covering for basket hives. 

The forests of the Afram plains are degraded as a result of charcoal making, timber cutting and forest fires. Beekeeping is a sustainable away to ...

The forests of the Afram plains are degraded as a result of charcoal making, timber cutting and forest fires. Beekeeping is a sustainable away to use these forest resources.

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