2008 I moved back to Fiji. Most days I am either kayaking,
fishing, snorkeling, building kayaks or . . . training beekeepers! This is my semi-retirement.
Since the 1980's when I last lived
here, beekeeping in the Western Division of Fiji has greatly expanded with help from both
domestic and foreign assistance. However, this country of less
than one million people still imports approximately 20% of its honey (my
estimate) and there are many failing beekeepers.
Many farmers started beekeeping
without adequate training. There are only a few skilled
beekeepers here. Some started with aid money and some
with a bank loan, but most do not know basic beekeeping skills such as how to start new
colonies or prevent wax moth damage. Fiji's beekeepers
in the Western Division do not have the benefit of traditional agricultural extension
help, government or NGO-sponsored training, or access to beekeeping books in
any language. Maybe someday I will write one in the Fijian
or Hindi languages.
on my current experiences here working with local beekeepers, the most common problems beekeepers
encounter in Fiji are:
Starving bees. Beekeepers
sometimes harvest too much honey and fail to feed bees when no nectar is
Wax moth damage to honey comb. This is due to
poor hive monitoring.
Poor care of
woodenware. Hives will last 10 years or more if properly cared
for. Many beekeepers do not repaint to prevent rot, fail to tilt
hives to prevent bottom board rot, and stack boxes sloppily so rain
penetrates the hive.
Inability to create new bee
colonies by division or capturing swarms.
Failure to protect hives from
cyclones and flooding.
Here are some photos from my
beekeeping work during the past year.
Beekeeping Skills Training
beekeepers raise queens, split colonies and learn basic beekeeping
Formal beekeeping workshops that I
taught were arranged and facilitated by Semi Kacanavesikula
the Fiji government's National Center for Small and Micro Enterprise
Development (NCSMED). Some technical training was delivered with help from U.S. Peace Corps volunteers.
I have also worked a little with the Saraswati
organization helping beekeepers start and build their beekeeping businesses.
The bees here are a cross between
the 'black bee' from northern Europe and the Italian bee. The black bee runs
on the comb and is inclined to sting when provoked. The Italian bee is
quieter on the comb and gentler.
Fiji needs to improve its genetic
honey bee stock!
rainy season my friends and I raised approximately 100 queen cells that we
distributed to beekeepers. I am raising several hundred this season.
During the rainy season (November
through March) here in Ra, bees often need supplemental feeding. We feed with dry
granulated raw cane sugar on the inner cover. They only eat the dry sugar if they
Except when breeding queens, we generally feed
only dry granulated sugar, instead of syrup, because syrup may contaminate honey if
the bees store it in the honeycomb, and syrup promotes bees robbing
each other's hive if not done properly.
one-quarter of the beekeepers here are women. Both indigenous and Indo-fijan
women keep bees.
Hives are kept at least 15 inches
above the ground to prevent cane toads from feasting on bees.
am now delivering more
technical beekeeping training focused on dividing colonies and
queen-rearing. Our schedule calls for a visit to 45 bee yards in 28
villages during a one-month period.
Business Training For Beekeepers
U.S. Peace Corps volunteer Leslie
Currie-Leonard and I co-taught a series of 2-day training sessions on personal and
business financial skills in 5 villages and 1 town.
The first day of training focused
on personal financial skills that emphasized budgeting and increasing
awareness of sources of income and spending habits.
The second day focused on how to create a financial plan for an agricultural business.
Participants learned how to use
estimates of income, cash expenses and labor hours to evaluate the financial
return of beekeeping. Together, we built a financial plan for a 20-hive honey business. This
involved making assumptions on cash costs, labor, income and life of
The participants later
groups to use the same training on a different business idea of their own
choosing. They built financial plans for growing capsicum (bell peppers), taro, sugar cane,
village bakery, fish farming, catering, a general store, commercial fishing,
selling fish retail, and mat-making.
The participants also
concepts such as product pricing, understanding customers, and benchmarking
These training sessions were
organized by Semi Kacanavesikula, (photo on left) through the National Center for Small and Micro Enterprise
Development Department of the Fiji government.
We almost always had more
participants for the second day of the 2-day workshops, and more people often
joined during both days. I take that as a sign that the participants
enjoyed and learned from the sessions.
villages required overnight stays and others required boat rides, but we were
always welcomed, well-fed and enjoyed the visits.
The training sessions averaged participation
of approximately 20 people - some beekeepers and some
non-beekeepers at each session.
I am grateful to Fiji's National Center for Small and Micro Business Development for
organizing most of the beekeeping training.
Created by John Caldeira