Harvesting Honey

By Alyssa Milo
Oct. 26, 2018

Diougou returns from his field in rural Fatick, hands swollen but a wide grin on his face. “Try this!” he says to his niece, holding out a piece of honeycomb, liquid gold dribbling between his fingers in a mess of honey, wax, and bee debris. 

Honey is a rare treat in Senegal, occasionally obtained when a bold individual locates and successfully removes a wild hive. Often this is done without gloves or with too much smoke, damaging both the hunter and the honey, as well as destroying the bee colony.

Agriculture Volunteer Alyssa knew there had to be a better approach for teaching illiterate work partners to become beekeepers, but with suitable pedagogy and less expensive materials. To her it was common knowledge that bees are crucial pollinators of subsistence crops and fruit trees in Senegal. However, when she learned that a few bee hives can actually double the fruit production of cashew trees, she found the motivation she needed to design her own curriculum that would be fine-tuned to the needs of local farmers. 

If a single honeybee hive has the potential to improve the livelihood of someone facing food insecurity, Alyssa knew that Peace Corps Senegal would benefit from an accessible program to help Volunteers spread that information to locals.

After months of compiling research, testing out hive designs, and hand-making equipment, she created a curriculum for farmers across all regions of Senegal who want to try small-scale beekeeping. She also tapped into the knowledge of local experts, such as BEECause in neighboring The Gambia, to create a fully comprehensive small-scale beekeeping manual to help other Volunteers become experts before assisting their potential beekeeping work partners. This Beekeeping in SeneGambia manual is being translated into French to assist local partners throughout the country.

On June 20th, Alyssa and a nearby beekeeping expert hosted a pilot training for her newly designed Beekeeping 101 Class. Volunteers from all over Senegal brought their work partners for a day of hands-on learning and discussion. The class involved nine lessons that focused on bee biology and their ecological significance, hive behavior, guidelines for using inexpensive or free local materials to make equipment, safety precautions, how to capture and maintain hives, processing high quality honey, and more. 

Volunteer Alyssa training local beekeepers

The course was assisted by a Work Partners’ Illustrated Guide, which depicted the main points of each lesson using full page infographics and colorful illustrations. Volunteers concluded each section by reviewing the infographics with the work partners.

Many work partners who attended the training have already reported success in setting up their equipment and catching a beehive. Diougou, the fearless honey-hunter, now understands the negative affect honey hunting had on his cashew orchard and is now using sustainable methods.

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