Keeping busy bees in Kavula

A joint blog post by Sirkka Killmann & Naomi Folaukitoga of WCS

As part of our Alternative Livelihoods Project in the province of Bua, Vanua Levu, we travelled on 12 and 13 November to facilitate a beekeeping training for a group of women in Kavula, a small village surrounded by luscious green mountains and countless fruit trees in the interior of Bua.

The Bua ladies in bee suits undergoing training. By Naomi Folaukitoga

The Bua ladies in bee suits undergoing training. By Naomi Folaukitoga

The women involved in honey production belong to a local women’s club selling their produce to buyers in Labasa for a low price, making very little profit out of it. Additionally, the women lack the skills and knowledge to tend to their bees properly in order to get maximum quantity and quality produce.

Therefore, at our last visit to the village, the women had expressed an urgent need for a basic beekeeping and marketing training in order to develop their honey production into a small business that could contribute to their livelihoods and to the food security of the whole community.

Led by the beekeeping expert from the Department of Agriculture in Labasa, Darmend Prasad, we organized a two-day workshop tailored to address the women’s needs in overcoming the challenges they were facing.

After our arrival by ferry at Nabouwalu, one broken down car and a flat tire later, we were warmly received by the Turaga ni Koro for Kavula village, Tomasi Se, who hosted us in his cozy bure. Following a hearty breakfast of dhal and rice the next morning, the workshop started off with hands-on practice at the beehives which are situated on a small hill overlooking the village.

It became clear that the hives had not been inspected since the last harvest three months ago, since a bee colony had already constructed an additional hive in between the boxes provided. This again showed the urgency of this workshop.

Looking for the queen bee during the  workshop. Photo by Naomi Folaukitoga

Looking for the queen bee during the workshop. Photo by Naomi Folaukitoga

Besides lessons on proper maintenance and inspection of beehives, the schedule included efficient ways of feeding the wax, grafting and wiring techniques and maintenance of frames. The second day was filled with information about proper breeding of queen bees, splitting techniques and marketing of honey, amongst others.

Darmend interacted very well with the ladies, challenging them constantly to take initiatives and give feedback and the time spent together was never short of jokes and laughter. The ladies were motivated to take better care of their bees and bring their beekeeping to the next level.

The ladies stated that most of the information was new to them and that the workshop had provided them with invaluable skills. Now it is up to them to put their new skills into practice.

We are very thankful to Darmend for sharing his time and knowledge and for the friendliness and hospitality received from the villagers. Apart from the excellent Buan dalo, we brought back five kilos of delicious organic honey as a sample which hopefully can be enjoyed all around Fiji in the near future!

This work is generously supported by the Flora Family Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Dharmend Prasad from the Fijian Department of Agriculture demonstrates how to feed the frames with wax using a car battery. Photo by Naomi Folaukitoga

Dharmend Prasad from the Fijian Department of Agriculture demonstrates how to feed the frames with wax using a car battery. Photo by Naomi Folaukitoga

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