Monday, February 13, 2012

Getting Beekeeping off the Ground in Senegal

McGahan and April Muniz of the Peace Corps suit up
with Senegalese beekeepers.
Jerry McGahan, a retired beekeeper from Arlee, Montana, recently traveled to Senegal on a Farmer to Farmer volunteer assignment. He worked with Boubacar Cisse’s union of beekeepers and Peace Corps volunteers to help get beekeeping off the ground, part of the national program to improve food security in Senegal. Cisse’s union set a goal of training 1,000 beekeepers across the country but has only succeeded in training 100 to date. Peace Corps volunteers are part of this training program because they will be serving as a support group to make sure that training is translating into hands-on work. They discussed the possibility of establishing local beekeeper organizations and a wax press for constructing frames.

McGahan had the opportunity to visit nurseries throughout the country. In many cases he saw the most primitive forms of beekeeping and honey gathering, which can be efficient yet cannot be turned into larger scale operations. Elsewhere, he saw more established nurseries with wood ware hives and impressive extraction materials. McGahan advised nurseries on the difference between concrete and wood hives, emphasizing that although concrete hives are less expensive, wood hives enable maximum production and efficiency. He demonstrated how to preserve the comb when harvesting honey, stack hives into large colonies, select and develop desirable traits in bees for better yields, fight pests and intruders, and prevent honey from becoming watery.
McGahan teaches girls about beekeeping and works with
them to build bee sculptures.

McGahan also spent time working in a classroom setting where he taught a class of 19 children the relationship between the bee and the flower as well as how beekeepers work with bees. The following day he worked with a group of 10 girls to construct honey bee sculptures. Finally, McGahan visited with community leaders in a village that has expressed interest in starting a village-owned-and-managed beeyard. The tree nursery managed by the village was an ideal site for a beeyard, as it fences out people and is fairly secluded. Over a 3-day period, McGahan and the community leaders solidified the Peace Corps volunteers’ role in the beekeeper training program, and Peace Corps volunteers were trained on how bee colonies operate, what beekeepers do to manage bees and produce honey, and how to avoid common pitfalls.

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