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In October 2009 we received an e-mail from an NGO worker, Toby Martin, who had returned home to West Cornwall after two years working in Nepal and offered ACE his help in Uganda to assist in developing new projects.

It was decided that he would work on a project that we had been thinking about for a while - the possibility of setting up beehives as a way of earning income for the schools. The income would be spent on whatever the school needed - maintenance, stationery, latrine emptying.

It would also train the older children so that if they left education they would have learned how to earn an income.

Toby Martin


Toby decided that the best way forward, after much research, would be to go there and do a feasibility study.

He arrived in Uganda in February 2010 and travelled to Kisoro for a three month stay. He soon made contact with the local cooperative, Kisoro Honey, who are assisted by the British charity, Bees Abroad.

His feasibility study was excellent and convinced the trustees that it was a worthwhile project for ACE to take on. He concluded that 6 of the 8 ACE schools in the area were suitable for apiculture. Preparation work was necessary at each location to attract the bees and provide them with food plants, water, shelter and security.


Our first hives were set up at Kabami School where a teacher has been provided with training and the relevant kit.

ACE is providing initial setup funding but, once honey production starts, each school project must be self-supporting.

This picture shows Julian Willford who is the project leader for Bees Abroad in the Kisoro area. He is an experienced beekeeper and has been very helpful to Toby.

On 19th March, Toby wrote -

The first main site has been selected with a further three being prepared for later on in the year.

Kabami, to the South East of Kisoro lies right beside Lake Chahafi and is our first main site. It has been set up and the bees will be introduced before Easter. Unfortunately short sharp heavy showers in recent days have prevented travel to the site by even 4x4. The area has had additional plants put in place which have started to grow well and will supplement the bees' sources of nectar later on in the year.

The other sites of Nyarusunzu to the North near Bwindi National Park and Gitenderi & Rukongi to the South are progressing steadily. Preparing the areas for hives at these sites involves building small fences and adding trees at Rukongi & Gitenderi and clearing unwanted plants & material from the site at Nyarasunzu. This is then followed by adding more bee-friendly plants and a wide variety of flowers. When these areas are ready in a few months time then the beehives can be introduced.

In additon to this the site at Rukongi is waiting for the final crop to be cleared from an adjacent field before the compound is completed.

Production of honey from the site at Kabami is hoped to start in August 2010 with a first estimated harvest of between 40 & 50kg of honey. It is planned that, after installation, the hives at the other sites will produce the first harvest in early 2011 - of an estimated 100kg plus.

Toby's Report on the Feasability Study and Initial Trial

Toby subsequently returned to Britain and presented this report to the ACE trustees on 16th May.

General Notes

During the first month of the feasibility study it became apparent who would be of value to the project in the beekeeping industry already active in and around Kisoro.

The initial support from contacts obtained through Bees Abroad were found to be nothing but 'money grabbing' opportunists, out for the short term gain for themselves and not the long term gain to the communities. This was communicated to Bees Abroad and we have confirmed suspicions that they have had for a while. They have since pulled their funding and reduced their support to this individual. A shame, as when this individual thinks about what he's doing and doesn't get distracted by $ signs he is a knowledgeable although lazy individual.

Whilst still working with this person, I found that the wood used for making all the top bar hives in Kisoro in fact comes from areas surrounding near Bwindi National Park - the home of the Gorilla! Not something an organisation with 'conservation' in their name needs to be associated with.

As well as being able to source wood from better managed and ecologically sound practices within Uganda and Congo, there is however a cheaper alternative which needs to be looked into as soon as possible. This alternative is for the use of bamboo framed top bar hives as used in other places in eastern Africa mixed with wooden top bar hives.

These bamboo hives are lined with one layer of banana leaves, one layer of mud, another layer of banana leaves and another layer of cow dung and mud mix, and are very environmentally sound.

We need to use this initial time to get bamboo hives in place for the first harvest this year. By having these for hives we will be able to determine if they produce more or less honey than the wooden top bar hives. These bamboo hives are more like a natural African bee colony and the likelihood of absconding is reduced.

These hives were not considered in the original feasibility study as I was informed by some Ugandans that they are no longer used. However, after months of field visits to highly productive apiaries, I have found that the best sites have a mix of modern with old and in more cases bamboo hives are used.

I requested an additional amount of funding from ACE for the making and purchase of 4 bamboo hives in my final three weeks of this visit, of 125,000 USch - roughly 40. Each bamboo hive costs a fraction of the wooden top bar hive. This green bamboo for building the hives was sourced from a local smallholding on the northern borders of Mgahinga National Park, just outside Kisoro.  
Making bamboo hive
If these bamboo hives prove successful, then the initial start up costs for other sites are reduced significantly from 625,000 USch to 535,000 USch. As well as this the environmental impact of the bee project being greatly reduced as well. These two things are of great importance to the project. Bamboo is easily available and is a sustainable crop that grows quickly after cutting. These bamboo hives would supplant but not replace additional wooden hives and would also keep the project supporting local communities, local individual skills as well as bringing in the all important financial benefits for the schools.  
Moving bamboo hive

William's hives  

The valued locals around Kisoro!

This site is right on the Congolese border - 20 out of the 21 hives have bees in.


This site is close to the Schools Inspector, William's, house and all of his hives have bees in.

As can be seen, there is a mix of hives types.


Apiary Site 1 - Kabami

Kabami has a newly found strength of interest.

The whole school has worked hard to prepare the area. The site is on an island and the children gathered volcanic rocks to build a causeway, making access to the site a whole lot easier. This was no small task as the water is 3 feet deep.

The causeway

The area on the island has been cleared well with a small area behind the site already having a natural colony of bees - the second such finding in the vicinity.

The variety of plant life at the site is very diverse and will produce a significantly sweet honey - in tune with that of Kisoro Honey.

Site preparation

A full day's work, with Benon (headmaster) & Eric (P7 teacher), prepared and built the compound. We worked from 10am to 5.30pm with only a short break of 30 minutes for lunch.

The bamboo fence was built first to enclose the area from prying eyes and the elements, as well as enabling even more foliage to grow.

A set of frames for the hives to be placed on was then built, using eucalyptus wood poles, which will in itself attract bees. This was followed by a eucalyptus leaf fence around 6 to 8ft tall, providing shade to half of the site.

Constructing shelter

Moonflower & sunflower have been planted on the pathway to the site and then randomly around inside the site area.

The frames for the hives to stand on were finished; a top bar was put in place in an area slightly differently to others - it was place on a small triangular frame so it would fit nicely under a small bushy area.

The remaining frame was finished in the following weeks. This has now has a wooden top bar and a bamboo hive placed on it.

Benon and Eric

On my return visit on April 6th 2010 I came across two hives with bees in within a week of placing hives in their final position.

ACE's first hive

The top bar hive that was placed on the triangular frame was the first to be colonised by the bees themselves - no buying of bees was necessary at all.

The bees did it themselves because the ingredients were perfect.

Hive in position

The first Langstroth hive that was placed was colonised within 24 hours of the other hive.

At the visit the eucalyptus fence was improved and added to, giving greater shelter to more than 50% of the site.

Langstroth hive
The fence will be added to during the dry season and by the time the honey is due for harvesting the moonflowers and other plants will have grown up to supplant the eucalyptus fencing
Toby positioning hives

An interesting point to note - within a week of this fence being completed a bird has built its nest in the shelter of the fence. That's good conservation. Obviously the ingredients are good enough for the wildlife as well as the insect life - both of which are in an abundance.

A colony of bees that were already at the school in a big tree are still there and will be left until it is needed to move them. When this happens, they will be moved into a bamboo hive placed in at the site.

Bird's nest

Apiary Site 2 - Nyarusunzu

Site clearance begins


The site at Nyarusunzu school has been put on hold and will now come into the second phase.

Unfortunately, messages I instructed to be passed up for them to prepare the site were never sent and upon visiting the site I found that very little had been done.

The deputy head, Mandela, and I carried out the initial preparation of this site, three days prior to my departure. The site is better than the original plan, slightly bigger with room for expansion.

Toby at work


When the honey is produced at this site over the next few seasons, right on the edge of Bwindi National Park, it will be sold to the up market lodges - such as Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge at Nkuringo.

The honey would sell at a good price and reduce costs that the school would have to pay to get the honey the 3hrs drive to Kisoro. Clouds are looking into long term plans of producing honey themselves. However, if Nyarasunzu can produce enough honey then Clouds would only use their hives to top up honey we sell to them.

Site on three levels  

This picture shows the cleared site - each person is standing at the proposed three levels for the placing of the hives.

This area will have a mixed planting of flowers and trees added to it.

Apiary Site 3 - Gitenderi

After a few weeks of constant delay, the site at Gitenderi has moved on significantly since my previous visit.

The area marked out in late February has now been fully fenced with a small entrance way. This area has in turn been surrounded on all sides by moonflowers that have already begun to grow. This in turn has already started to prove a good recommendation, indicated by the large amounts of bees already attracted to the area. This indicates a greater presence of bees than first thought.

Within this fenced area there are a group of trees, bushes and plenty of flowers providing good shelter and food for the bees, with protection from rain and wind. Gitenderi's prompt action has shown that they have strong interest in this project - and a new involvement from their science teacher has brought a good enthusiasm from the more senior students.

Gitenderi compound

This compound at Gitenderi is initially good for four hives but can hold a maximum of ten hives, providing the area is kept well with flowers, trees and water, and with minimal interruptions from humans and goats. All of this has been addressed by the staff at the school and are being improved even more after suggestions were made by me.

In the closing weeks of the feasibility study Gitenderi was supposed to be planting trees, bushes and flowers as part of science lessons but his only partially happened. However the school is now constantly pushing for more involvement in the Bee Project.

Compound from outside

My penultimate visit to Gitenderi was disappointing - 2 weeks after instructing them on the next stage of proceedings I found that nothing had been done at all. The fence surrounding the compound is falling over and more trees have been cut down. I was given excuses that they have had no time, etc. etc. - however, as you will read, Rukongi managed with the same timetable with less time and achieved far more.

This visit had intended to assess whether there was enough shade to place 2 hives at my last visit - this will now not be able to happen. The site was finally being prepared correctly in the last few days and has moved to the next stage and it will be ready for hives by the end of the year.



Apiary Site 4 - Rukongi

The land for the proposed site at Rukongi is within church land and they had to wait for the land to be cleared of the crop of potatoes before they could do anything else.

This they have done - and only two weeks after this was carried out, they have completed the site and were building frames and finishing off fences - very impressive work.

The land they have secured is slightly bigger than that in the original assessment, as, after negotiation, the school has been given extra land. This site was to be completed by my last visit to the school.

After negotiating with the church they have worked hard over the last two weeks to get the bee compound built and the teachers more interested. They have also got their night watchman involved in the bee project - as he keeps bees himself - this greatly reduces time spent teaching new staff.

The members of the school management committee, who are also from the church committee have planted moonflower around the outside of the field where the hive is and have also increased the bee friendly plants in the immediate vicinity. The committee is also looking into purchasing, through a contact of Victoria, the headmistress, some calliandra trees - bee friendly trees, to be planted to the south of the compound field.

Frame for hives

  This is the Rukongi site with frame for hives under the tree line and moonflower planted in foreground.
Cleared land  

The continual hard work at Rukongi has now meant that the school now joins Kabami in Phase 1.

Rukongi will now have a single bamboo hive in this phase 1 and additional hives will be placed in phase 2.

These two following sites are for phase two and are very promising - more so at Mukibugu -

Apiary Site 5 - Nyakabaya

A plot of land has that belongs to the church surrounding Nyakabaya has been negotiated and given to the school for the purpose of beehives. It is situated behind the school and staff latrines away from the children. It provides a sufficient area for 3 hives initially and a possible 6 hives after some time of improving and growing suitable vegetation.

However the concerns over the amounts of potatoes in the area are still extremely valid. If more land is used for other crops then beekeeping would become more profitable in this area.

The area surrounding the school to the north is OK - however to the south, west and east it is not. This site needs to be assessed further when the area is supplanted with trees & flowers.

Since visiting a few weeks ago - small trees in this area have been cut down for growing beans - this will significantly hamper the planning stages of this site. This needs to grow first before the next stage is put in motion.


Apiary Site 6 - Mukibugu

Although Mukibugu was dismissed from the initial study due to lack of land, long drawn out negotiations and advice given by me has landed the school a good plot of land otherwise left alone due to its rockiness.

This area is a good size, surrounded by diverse trees and flowers, is in easy reach of the school and in view, providing good security for the compound.

As with all the schools I have advised the Mukibugo to make the compound and get it growing well so the ingredients for the bees to stay long term are well in place. Mukibugu, due to its nearness to Mgahinga, has the potential to produce a good honey. The foundations need to be put in place by the school and the community supporting it.

Christophe has my full backing - he has worked well for me and has not failed in anything that I have asked him to carry out within time constraints.




The introduction of the hives at Kabami and the preparation of the sites at Gitenderi, Rukongi & Nyarusunzu have all met with increased enthusiasm.

Each site has its small minuses, however, the potential that can be unlocked in the schools and in the local communities is huge.

This project, if supported in the right way and moved forward correctly can have a massive impact on the lives of the children in the schools supported by ACE as well as the local communities.

Within the space of a week of setting the hives, 60% of the hives were occupied by the bees themselves, without having to place bees in the hives - saving money. A further 10% were occupied in the next 3 days following this.

Having this high percentage of hives occupied proves that the manner in which the set up of this initial trial has been carried out was done in such a way that the bees are happy - conservation in the right manner and a key ingredient to produce lots of good quality Kisoro Honey.

No trees - no bees - no honey - no money!!! .....

..... and we have the resources for all ..... it's just a simple case of using them!!!


Honey Project Receives Grant Funding

Honey Bee  

We heard on 14th June that ACE has been awarded a grant of £1,331 from The Waterloo Foundation to enable us to continue to place hives at other schools and to provide beekeepers' equipment. We are very grateful to them for their support.

This is what we are proposing to do. All figures based on an exchange rate of 3,000 Ugandan Shillings (UGX) to £1.


Costs are -

Langstroth hives
120,000 UGX
Topbar hives
70,000 UGX
Protective suits
100,000 UGX
Smoker and equipment
45,000 UGX
50,000 UGX

We have allowed for -

865,000 UGX
288 for 6 hives
865,000 UGX
288 for 6 hives
675,000 UGX
225 for 4 hives
795,000 UGX
265 for 5 hives
795,000 UGX
.265 for 5 hives

All estimates have been for a mixture of hives with 2 protective suits for each school.

Toby is hoping to return in October to work further on the project. The work will be carried out over a period of time as several of the proposed sites are being prepared but are not yet ready.

Latest News

First Honey is Produced at Kabami

When David Epidu visited the schools in September 2010 he was able to send back some exciting news from Kabami -

The Head told me that they harvested 4Kgs of honey from the two hives - one hive had most of the honey and the other had just very little.

The honey was sold for Shs 20,000/= and the money was used for buying an English text book and the receipt is kept by the head.

He also told me that it is normal to harvest little for the first time, but they expect much in the next harvest.

The school has also made three new beehives which they plan to add to the site.

Shs 20,000/= is about £5-6. Not a huge amount, but an encouraging start.


Hives at Gitenderi  
David also found new hives in place at Gitenderi School .....
Hives at Rukongi  
..... and more at Rukongi.



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