A bee sting to the chin and cheek can really make your face swell up! The irony was, that even before the stings, I had been complemented by the Malya beekeepers group for having become fat and healthy since my visit in May last year!
One of our Mwanza EI community development projects is beekeeping. We have partnered with Bees Abroad, a charity from the UK who assists community bee projects as a method of contributing to poverty relief. Julian from Bees Abroad has beeen visiting here every six months and recently spent a week with us to help our Mwanza EI bee projects with their harvest. This was my real first chance to get up close to a working hive (Victoria had the joy and pain last year!)
Our EI staff member John has quickly become an expert in African beekeeping. Much of his work involves travelling around the region visiting the beekeepers , monitoring the hives and answering questions about the ‘modern’ techniques we promote. The ‘traditional’ approach of harvesting is to burn or smoke the hive so that the colony either flees or dies, allowing the farmer to remove everything from the hive (honey, wax, dead bees) and extract the honey for sale. This destructive approach risks wiping out the entire colony. Our groups have been taught to use hives with ‘top bars’ which allow a trained beekeeper to non-destructively inspect the state of the hive and then, when ready, harvest only enough honey and wax as is safe, allowing the colony to replenish quickly.
We experienced a full range of bee types; from docile crawling bees, to angry buzzing bees which will try and seek any holes in your suit to come and sting you! Our best success was harvesting at night, in a remote field, using a red torch (which bees can’t see) – we filled nearly 3 buckets!
We learnt one very important lesson- when to walk away! At one hive the bees were stirred up so much the local cattle, goats and chickens started getting stung. This can end in tragedy for a farmer since animals can easily die from multiple stings, so we stopped and got out quickly.
In total over 70kg of raw honey was harvested which will now be filtered and jarred. The wax will be processed for either the production of future hives (bees are attracted to bees wax so it helps to colonise a new hive) or to be used in other products such as body cream and candles. The money will be returned to the beekeeping group and its up to them to reinvest it wisely.
[Victoria takes over…]
Life continues in the busy and varied way of life here. We have started up a breastfeeding and early nutrition support group in a second village on Kome Island. The first village we started in have seen their group as very much a ‘church project’ and it’s been challenging to get people from outside of the church involved. There are various reasons for this and at this stage in the game there’s not much we can change. At least for the household sanitation work that Simon has been leading, we have been more successful in engaging the wider community a bit more.
We have now started in a second village – Buhama. There is such a different feel to working with this church and particularly with the pastor. The pastor of this church is a woman, which is quite unusual here. She seems to be well connected and well respected and keen to involve all the women she can, regardless of what church they go to, if any. We feel really encouraged that there have been so many women at the past few meetings. We are also excited that we have been able to set up VICOBA as part of this group.
VICOBA is a community saving scheme. Basically, before every health education meeting all the members have the opportunity to ‘buy shares’. The group have established the ‘rules’ of their group themselves, with guidance from us. This group has decided that each share costs 1000 Tanzanian Shillings (about 30p). Each week the women can buy between one and five shares. Once the ‘bank’ has enough money the women can take out loans to use for business investments. The group has set their priority list of what kinds of things will be most likely to be given a loan for. Those who take loans will pay back to the ‘bank’ with interest. It is a favourable rate in comparison to loan sharks, the women have decided to set the rate at 10% and the loan is paid back over three months. There are various ‘fines’ in place for ‘misdemeanours’, such as being late or not turning up without having informed anyone, or having a good justification for having not done so. These have all been decided by the group members themselves. The fines also go into the ‘bank’. The women have decided to run the scheme on a 12 monthly basis, so at the end of the 12 months they will split the money they have collected between them.
The purpose of the loan scheme is to support business investment, and so increasing the amount of money owned by all members of the group, and enabling the borrowers to be able to afford the interest. Loans must be approved by the group, since it’s a risk for everyone if loans don’t get repaid. Schemes like this can be challenging where community members lack the ability to buy basic necessities, such as medicines. For this reason there is a second, smaller collection each week for the ‘community box’. This is a kitty of money that the women can take loans from for essentials such as medicines or school books. There is no interest on money borrowed from this smaller collection.
Its coming up to the summer holidays and we are close to finishing Tabitha’s schooling. Homeschool groups have been a bit disrupted, most of those on the American system of homeschooling have already finished, for us schooling has lagged a bit due to our nomadic lifestyle. Also we have sadly lost 2 homeschool families in Mwanza who have moved away. This has been very sad for the children and us, losing friends and surrogate aunts and uncles. This has however given us the ruthless opportunity to pilfer any household items they were selling (coffee pots, carpets, power tools etc…). Every cloud has a silver lining!
Finally we are excited to announce we’ll be spending eight weeks in the UK in September and October, we’d obviously like to see as many of our supporters as possible in this time, so please let us know where you’ll be, and we’ll attempt to do the same! We’ll confirm our itinerary nearer the time. Our home visit will be an important time to update our supporters as well as continuing our fundraising and getting more supporters. If you’d like us to give a short presentation about our work in Tanzania to a group or church near you please let us know!