Monday, 13 July 2009

Why is Arua Honey the Sweetest?

I used to wonder why some people regard Arua Honey the Sweetest for example in the year 2000, Arua Honey won the Gold Medal at the Lisbon Expo in Portugal. In 2005, Uganda was chosen among the few developing countries that can export honey to Europe. Consequently, a honey and its by-products processing plant that meets European Union (EU) standards was set up in Arua Town. Bee Natural Products (BNP) is a private company that has an annual capacity of 600 tonnes providing an opportunity for bee keepers in the entire West Nile Region to intensify production of quality honey. Farmers in addition get access to national, regional and international markets. Currently, about 120 farmer groups in West Nile are accessing advisory services, modern beehives (KTB and Langstroth), harvesting gear and honey extraction equipment from BNP under a partnership with the Government of Uganda’s NAADS (National Agricultural Advisory Services) Programme for development and increase of incomes.

I posed this Sweetest Honey Question to Philliam Cema, the Arua District Entomologist, and he reasoned, “…because natural honey is harvested from natural vegetation – Acacia and Combretum Woodland (which has a variety of wild tree species that give sweetness to honey). It stretches across the whole of the West Nile Region. It’s very unique vegetation not found in other regions of the country and enters Sudan and Congo. The main problem is how the good honey can be harvested to maintain the standard. Some farmers dilute or contaminate it with ash or foreign particles when harvesting.”

In Kampala, Golden Bees Family located in Bukoto suburb processes honey products and treasures honey sources from Arua. They won the 2008 Second Runner-Up Award in the whole of Africa during the Api – Trade Africa Exhibition. They are upgrading their honey products to two labels - Wild Forest (Dark Honey) and Acacia (for Light Honey). You can find their products (which also include propolis) at their Bukoto residence and in all leading supermarkets including the new 24 Hour Nakumatt Supermarket (If you need Arua Honey, they Got it). Other outlets include Hot Loaf Bakery (Buy bread and spread with honey, that’s a good deal), Payless, Uchumi, Half Price and others.

Simple Ways of Making a Bee Hive
While paying my respects in January 2009 to my maternal grandmother who had died in October 2008 (amazingly in my father’s arms while they rushed her to Kuluva Hospital – a few miles outside Arua), I sat under a mango tree in the Aliba Home with my uncle Dick Diyo and learnt a few things about beekeeping. His eldest kid among three was also practicing it (efficiently). Maneno once set up a simple pot hive in a tree and by evening, bees had already gathered in it. A simple way to create a hive is to cover the pot opening, leave a small hole for entry probably in a crack at the bottom of the pot or elsewhere. Then put the pot on a tree branch that is convenient and watch the bees invade it after scouting. There is bee trivia that if they smell cocaine, their dances intensify. That’s one way of getting bees high. Another traditional method is making a long grass enclosure and covering the open end with something like a wooden ring, that is with wood stripes across. You can use cow dung to cover the outside. Modern methods include using wood entirely or with iron sheets. These are more long lasting. It can take one to two years to harvest for a good yield though some farmers do it after only six months. The Ediofe factory buys at a low price and sells at an expensive price to the European Market. Farmers nevertheless also sell to the local market. A 20 litre jerrycan can yield 90,000 UgX.

There aren’t very many active beekeeping associations in Arua (as Philliam Cema – the Arua District Entomologist – confessed) but one notable one is the A.M.N Regional Bee Keepers’ Association at Plot 34 Mvara School Crescent. Contact person is Jurua +256(774)680445