Doing our homework
Our first “bee” agenda item was to stop on the way to Cape Three Points in a village called Salt Pond. We coordinated with the owner of a local honey producer to stop by their “Honey Center” where they sell honey and other products. When we got to Salt Pond we saw a simple sign on the side of the road that if we hadn’t been on the look out for, would have missed entirely.
The Master beekeeper that runs the Honey Center is Dr. Aidoo who works with an organization called Africa Bees for Development. While he was unfortunately out of town, we met with a woman named Esi who is a beekeeper for the Honey Center and runs the honey shop. Essi was kind enough to sit down with us for an hour to share her company’s experience with keeping bees in this region and the demand she sees for honey that she cannot currently keep up with.
Esi was absolutely fantastic and gave us so much insightful information that filled us with joy and excitement. Here are some of the questions we asked, and the answers we received.
How many hives do you have and how many people work with you?
Honey Center has 1,500 hives on farms across Ghana averaging about 20 hives per farm. There is Dr. Aidoo, the Master beekeeper, with 6 apprentices 3 other employees that work sales at the center.
Do farmers pay you to place hives on their land for pollination?
No. Esi said there is a disconnect still between farmers understanding that the bees benefit their crops. Farmers are just in the beginning stages of seeing and connecting having bees on farmland and the increased yields the plants produce.
When are the honey flows?
There are two major honey flows. Similar to ours, they is a larger one in May and a second flow in the fall. Their swarm season however is in September right before the rainy season begins. The swarm season is so important because in Africa to grow your apiary, you only do so through catching swarms and making splits.
Do you make your own hives or purchase them from a separate provider?
All of the hives the Honey Center uses are top bar hives. The hives are placed in the shade on stands or suspended in the air between trees. The top bars hold 24 bars (frames) and can be purchased from a local carpenter for 40 U.S. dollars a hive.
Do you have a large enough market to sell your honey?
The Honey Center consistently runs out of their honey because the demand is just too high. In speaking with Esi about our hopes to start a beekeeping program, she said the Honey Center would be interested in buying honey that Trinity Yard School creates to help keep their shelves stocked.