"The body is the harp of the soul. It is yours to bring forth from it sweet music or confused sounds" Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Land of Honey

I have only two stories to tell. Honey and New Volunteers

A metal box converted into a hive and painted by one of our beekeepers with a flair for the artistic

I feel at home in the Gambia. I feel like my work is fulfilling. I feel I am making a difference. This means that I am happy and settled in everything I do here. I am the busiest and happiest I have ever been here. I am a beekeeper. I am a honey advocate. I am a honey marketer. I am a trainer of beekeepers and volunteers on best practices in beekeeping, I know the honey seasons, approximate potential volume harvests for different types of hives in different seasons. 

I have reached a really good point in my service and I am so thankful for all those who have helped me, taught me, and seen me at my worse in between.
Harvesting hives at our apiary "Kummo Kunda" with the help of volunteers learning about beekeeping

There were many struggles with the change in management that I mention earlier, but despite this I feel more empowered to be apart of the recreation of an organization (BeeCause Gambia) trying to help create a sustainable beekeeping industry for an entire country (be it a small country). 

Overall reaching this point has been the culmination of so many of my efforts over the past 16 months. The accomplishments that were needed to reach this point include: 
  • Learning the Wolof language
  • Transfering from a non-productive work situation
  • Learning everything about bee biology and beekeeping
  • Overcoming a fear of bees

(For anyone who has not seen I recently posted a video on youtube of a particularly aggressive hive we visited in the village of Jali)

I am now in the midst of trekking, teaching volunteers, studying for a GMAT exam, writing reports, and planning  mirco-finance grants that BeeCause hopes will assist interested villages and beekeepers acquire hives and pay them off in future honey sales.  

I am busy and I am happy.

Here are some photos of what has been going on

In order to go bee keeping Dudu one of my coworkers lights a cardboard carton to put inside our smoker. Smokers help disperse bees and cover the alarm pheromone smell that tells bees they are under attack causing them to sting
Here is Dudu fully suited up and ready to beekeep.
Despite practices of putting strips of wax on the wood in hopes the bees will build along them. They still sometimes "cross comb" a hive. Which is a headache that involves surgery on the comes to reattach them with wire.
The aforementioned surgery

We were trekking in a small VW Golf on back roads that were barely 4X4 suitable. So thanks to a grant we now have a land rover. Much more appropriate. This picture shows Peter our head trustee, my counterpart Bala, the staff, the honey processing room in the background, a fresh honey comb, and myself

Everywhere I go I still dance

Maybe too much

New Volunteers!

After cross training in Senegal, where a journeyed a month ago to train the new group in beekeeping. The trainees have come to the Gambia finished all their training and as of yesterday are now volunteers! We have 18 new health and environment volunteers here to wage peace.  

I have a few pictures to recap their journey. Actually, just two. The trainees had their sight revealed by being blindfolded and placed on a giant map of the Gambia. 

Speaking for the bees
For the swear in BeeCause my NGO decided to pull a little stunt. After pulling out fresh combs of honey from our apiary. We met and decided to present them to the ambassador for the US, the minister of agriculture, and the Peace Corps country director who were all present for the swear in. 

Here is the new group receiving the oath of a Peace Corps volunteer

To this extent I was given the honor of giving an impromptu speech on the benefits of sustainable honey production in the Gambia creating awareness on what really really beautiful honey looks like.    

My counter part Balla and our environmental program manager Bahtu helped present the honey combs

here is the minister checking out the honey
Afterward I cut up honey comb and served it to everyone. It was probably one of the more exciting things I have done in this country

afterward all those who helped train the new volunteers got a picture together

Sadly I once again have left you with few words but many pictures. I am busy busy though and have to run!

I will end with a few misc pictures. One of me playing frisbee with brits at the local research center and the last is a pair of sleeping puppies a saw on trek

Peace Always,


  1. Through your eyes and words I am transfixed with shock; I guess culture shock: bee stings as abundant as drops of rain in a storm; persistence fueling resilience as hard as steel; deluges of admnistrative strife and its resulting drought of funds; repetitive persistence and patience as creative as a new day of sunshine that has kept you on track to reach into Gambia's world to harvest the bees and their honey and to harvest the Gambians' will to become apiarians. Amazement abounds as well at witnessing from my insulated place the Herculean force of willpower that you have had and have mustered to fulfill your vision. BRAVO! Through you, I have tasted and felt the heat and dirt of this continent and country; have sensed the children swarming and the roosters encroaching assailantly; have seen the beauty of humans of different tongues and colors and mores striving together and dancing along the way. Thank you for your gift of shairng your PCV experience. It has spelled out the hope of humankind.