Now I can see one, and then another, and another…! Bees, there they are, moving in and out from the boxes. I move hesitantly closer and wrap the scarf more tightly around the body. The situation does not seem to bother Abdulqadir Daahir Mohamud and Abdirahman Abiib Yusuf who work daily in the farm. “It is winter time and bees are not active this time of the year but mainly stay inside the boxes”, they explain.
We are just outside of Hargeysa, the capital city of Somaliland, in the village of Haleeya. This is one of the places where GABA – Ga’an Libah Agriculture and Bee Association runs beekeeping activities, in co-operation with the NGO Berri-Somal Kehitys based in Finland. It feels good to be outside the town and its traffic jams, get some fresh air and enjoy the green scenery, with the silhouette of the mountain Naasa Hablood at the background.
Since Abdulqadir started as a beekeeper, he has been given a nickname “Shinele”. Shinni in the Somali language means a bee. Abdulqadir used to have a small business in Hargeysa, but four years ago he started as a beekeeper. He has invested and bought the land where 40 beehives are kept, as well as a small plot for a garden nearby. Beekeeping is the only source of income for Abdulqadir and his immediate family, a wife and three children.
Honey is a valuable product, which is also consumed as medicine. Moreover, bee products are used, for example, for beautification. Abdulqadir relates that before the training given by Berri-Somal Kehitys, he did not know, for example, that bee wax could be used for many purposes. He used to throw it away. Now he has learnt that it can be mixed with moisturizing cream and, hence, made into a nourishing skin product.
Annually, Abdulqadir’s bees have produced some 360 kilos of honey. One kilo of honey costs approximately 10 USD, the most expensive and finest honey being the one coming from the mountainous areas. However, beekeeping is a risky business, Abdulqadir says. “Drought makes beekeeping difficult, because there are no flowers. Last year we collected honey only once, normally we may harvest it 2−3 times a year. Moreover, there are some insects in the boxes that kill the bees.”
I am relieved when we move further from the bees to a nearby garden, which is protected from grazing animals by a fence. Abdulqadir proudly shows a water reservoir he has dug by himself. Abdulqadir seems to enjoy introducing different flowers he has planted and grown. He knows which flowers the bees like the most.
According to Jamaal Abdi Ahmed, the Chairman of GABA, beekeeping has not traditionally been well-known in Somaliland but now the interest towards it is increasing. Since 2008, with the funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Finland, GABA has trained about 300 beekeepers, mainly in Hargeysa, Berbera and also Erigavo. Berri-Somal Kehitys has provided GABA and the beekeepers with necessary items and equipment such as beehive boxes; plastic containers where honey is preserved and sold; protective clothes; gloves; hive tools; honey extractors and queen breeding units. Moreover, they have given training and also published a guidance book for beekeepers in the Somali language.
Once a year, GABA organizes a bee exhibition, where they give lectures to the community about the importance of beekeeping and advertise their bee products. Through the project, in addition to the knowledge on bees and beekeeping itself, GABA has also raised awareness about the need to protect environment and stop cutting trees for charcoal. In the future GABA would like to extend beekeeping activities also to other regions in Somaliland and hopes that co-operation with Berri-Somal Kehitys will continue.
Berri-Somal Kehitys has been promoting beekeeping since 2000.
The association has organized beekeeping courses for migrants in Finland and also maintained their own beehives. Moreover, with the funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Finland Berri Somal-Kehitys has promoted beekeeping projects in several regions in Somaliland.
Over 1000 beekeepers and instructors have been trained.
GABA is one of the co-operating partners.
The author works as Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Social Research at the University of Helsinki. She visited Hargeysa in January 2011.