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NBU Apiculture Overseas


We have a history of involvement in R & D projects aimed at improving honey bee disease monitoring, recognition and diagnostics in rural Uganda


The Great Yorkshire Show 2006

The Great Yorkshire Show 2006

Beekeeping is recognised as being a vital seasonal activity in many regions of rural Africa, where honey and other bee-related products are significant sources of food and income to very poor people, including those in the most extreme poverty groupings. The Food and Environment Research Agency's International Development Team, and the National Bee Unit, are developing overseas projects that expand the income-generating potential of apiculture, to combat poverty in Uganda. As part of this initiative, CSL presented an exhibit entitled "The Path of a Ugandan Honey Pot", at the Great Yorkshire Show (11th-13th July, 2006). The exhibit poster which can be see in the background of both photographs, can be viewed in full by clicking here.


Organised by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, this is the largest farming and country event in the North of England, held on the impressive 250-acre showground on the edge of the spa town of Harrogate. Our exhibit was put together in collaboration with Linda Whitby (Project Director for the established charity Hives Save Lives Africa, that supplies hives, training and employment to vulnerable Ugandan communities) and Robert Kajobe (Chief Apiculturalist, Faculty of Forestry and Nature Conservation, Uganda). Invaluable practical help and expert advice was also provided by Claire Waring, who came to the Show on behalf of Bee Craft, and assisted in manning the stand.

Bee Craft is a highly renowned magazine aimed at informing British beekeepers about events, issues and research from around the world. Published 12 times a year in colour A4 format it is posted directly to all subscribers. This event received substantial coverage in the November 2006 issue, the front page of which can be viewed by clicking here. A copy of the whole article can be read by clicking here. This year's Show basked in glorious sunshine, and was attended by over 135,000 visitors (an all-time high in the show's 148 year history!), as well as its patron HRH The Prince of Wales, and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall. The Path of a Ugandan Honey Pot, housed in the Universities Pavilion (with the theme of Tomorrow's Agriculture), attracted a considerable amount of interest, including that of the royal party.




Issues in Rural African Apiculture

Issues in Rural African Apiculture

Dr. Robert Kajobe, Chief Apiculturist at National Agricultural Research Orgnisation (NARO), Livestock Health Research Institute in Tororo, spent six weeks with the National Bee Unit (NBU), between April and June 2007. His visit formed part of a British Ecological Society Fellowship, awarded to Dr. Kajobe for his project Habitat selection, nest architecture and colony characteristics of equatorial afro-tropical stingless bees of Uganda. More details about Robert's work in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forests of Uganda can be seen in his article Primates harvest bee nests in Ugandan National Park, published in the July 2007 issue of Bee Craft.



While at Fera, Dr. Kajobe screened African bee samples (honeybees as well as stingless) collected from different agro-ecological zones of Uganda for pests and diseases. He undertook this work in close collaboration with the NBU and the Novel Diagnostics Methods Team, giving him an opportunity to use traditional diagnostic methods (microscopy and taxonomy), as well as state of the art molecular analyses (real time PCR). He also worked with the Plant and Environmental Bacteria Team, to undertake preliminary analyses of a selection wild honeys collected from distinct honey-production areas, to assess their antimicrobial properties.







Pests and Disease Surveillance in Ugandan Bees

Pests and Disease Surveillance in Ugandan Bees

In 2008 The National Bee Unit hosted a second visit from Dr. Robert Kajobe (Head of Apiculture Research, National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), Uganda). On this occasion, Dr. Kajobe was in receipt of an award from the African Fellowship Programme ((AFP) Rothamsted International), to develop appropriate surveillance systems for Ugandan honey bee pests and diseases, as a further step towards improved honey production. To this end, Dr. Kajobe collected several hundred bees from diverse field sites, to obtain representative samples from Uganda's contrasting agroecological landscapes. The adjacent image shows Ugandan field assistants collecting samples for the project.



Identification of honey bee pests and diseases was undertaken by the Fera, using a combination of traditional microscopy and molecular methods (e.g. TaqMan real-time PCR assays). We are pleased to report that this project yielded original data, including first reports of viral disease, not only previously undetected in Uganda, but also undocumented in neighbouring Eastern African countries. This collaboration has proved mutually rewarding, and has significantly expanded our existing knowledge of bees and their pathogens. Outputs from the AFP project will be disseminated in several ways, at different organisational levels: The surveillance protocol developed by Fera/NARO for detection and monitoring of Ugandan honeybee pests and diseases will be used to advise MAAIF on how a Ugandan Apiary Inspection Programme (UAIP) could operate, how an effective apiary-sampling regime can be formulated, and how information obtained informs future Government Policy relating to bee health. Project findings were also reported at NARO National Workshops, the National Agricultural Exhibition, and at similar annual rural events which are attended by the broader agricultural community.






Apimondia 2009

Apimondia 2009

In September 2009, Gay Marris from the National Bee Unit had the opportunity of being able to attend the 41st Apimondia Congress in Montpellier, France. This international congress, held every 2 years, brings together people from beekeeping communities throughout the world. All aspects relating to bee management, pest and disease control, climate change, pollination and impact of pesticides were represented. It was thought that upwards of 2,000 delegates were in attendance. On behalf of co-author Pam Gregory, Gay presented a Poster: Starting a Beekeeping Development Project - A Tool for Decision Making.


It is widely accepted that honey production could be a key activity for small-scale farmers, hunter-gatherers and pastoralists in many developing countries. The wealth of natural resources available in the world’s forest communities could allow them to be major honey producers. Moreover, beekeeping and honey hunting offer sustainable use of natural ecosystems and promote biodiversity. It is a stark fact, however, that this huge potential is far from being realised. Constraints to development lie in the daunting complexity of barriers currently facing rural beekeepers. These include rapidly increasing degradation of natural resources, poor land access, limited entrepreneurial capacity among subsistence farming communities, lack of connection to appropriate markets that encourage producer expansion, inadequate access to supply chain infrastructure and lack of logistical understanding, the complexity of exporting and specialist marketing schemes, and the potential regulatory burden on producers.


To achieve a successful beekeeping project, local constraints must be understood and addressed; this will enhance the success of a proposed initiative and allow appropriate choices to be made by all actors initiating projects. Many projects fail due to excessive emphasis on new production methods with an over reliance on ‘modern’ western ideas, while the limitations of indigenous techniques has become a paradigm that does not bear close examination. We present a decision making tool designed to help those with an interest in starting a beekeeping project to make sound considerations about the appropriateness of this activity in their chosen locality. Attention to the presence or absence of the building blocks necessary for beekeeping - or whether it is feasible to put them in place - will maximise the chances of the project making an impact on the lives of those they wish to support.