Forest Gardens and Beekeeping: A Mutually Beneficial Relationship


Kenya Stories From the Field Tanzania Uganda

July 17, 2017
By Elizabeth Norikane, East Africa Communications Specialist  
Honeybees contribute to more than a third of all agricultural production, in addition to enhancing biodiversity, and improving crop yields.  And although they can be found almost everywhere, in recent years there has been a decline in bee populations, threatening the world’s food supply. Through the work of Trees for the Future and the Forest Garden Approach, bees are a thriving, valued resource.
A traditional hive built from a hollowed log
Many of our farmers tend hives in addition to their work farming the land.  In Uganda, beekeeping is a common pastime among our farmers. Simon Peter, and his son Odongo, have taken a deep interest in beekeeping and now house six different hives on their land. They have melded traditional local practices with new research in order to build hives, welcome bees, and help them prosper. Every so often, Odongo travels hours by bus to the regional hub to visit a library for books on beekeeping and access internet searches on the topic. Through these resources he learned many new techniques and tips. For example, he uses lemongrass rubbed inside his hollowed out and burned log, to attract the bees to make the log their home. He now grows the lemongrass in his Forest Garden, a cutting he located hours away in Kampala. He has also learned about advantageous flowers and trees to plant near the hive to “feed” the bees. Odongo has five hollowed log hives on his father’s plot, and hopes to add more. He talked with great passion about beekeeping and considers the hive itself to be alive. He even names each one – but only once the log is populated with a queen, workers, and drones.
Odongo and his father, Simon Peter in their Forest Garden
Bees also do wonders for our farmers in Ikinu, an area of Central Kenya that has proven successful at growing the high-value macadamia nut. As the nuts are quite profitable on the international market, farmers have experienced trespassers climbing their trees, shaking nuts loose, and stealing them. When Mary Njeri decided she would keep bees, she found the perfect spot: her large macadamia tree. The benefits were manifold – she has a spot to house her hive, the bees help cross-pollinate the tree and nearby plants, and the presence of the bees protect the tree from those looking to take the precious nuts. When harvesting the nuts, Mary’s husband uses smoke to calm them and he wears and protective gear.  They no longer worry about intruders taking from their crop.
Hives in a macadamia tree in Ikinu
One hive at a time, bees are making a comeback and enhancing the productivity of our Forest Gardens. A natural pairing, Forest Gardens are a perfect home for the honeybee and we look forward to watching the honeybee population rebound and our Forest Gardens prosper.
A hive in a Forest Garden in Uganda

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