Local teaches beekeeping and honey production in Ghana

By: 
KATIE DUNN
S-E Staff Reporter

Douglas Johnson is a beekeeper from Northeast Washington who just returned from a trip to Ghana where he taught the locals about beekeeping.

Johnson is a facilitator with Steele Apiaries, a commercial beekeeping outfit in Idaho. His job is to assure the safety of their 25 bee yards, which contain approximately 600 colonies. In return for his work, a share of the honey crop is bottled and sold to local markets under Johnson’s Pure Honey label.

As a beekeeper, Johnson is developing strains of honeybees from the Washington State University survivor stock, which are being reared in the Pacific Northwest.

Every year has presented Johnson with a new set of problems. He has had to deal with Arroa mite destructors, external parasitic mites that attack honey bees, bee diseases, Global Warming, dwindling forage, the affect of genetically modified foods on his hives and other issues.

Dealing with situations like these on a regular basis has made Johnson an expert on beekeeping. His knowledge is one of the reasons he volunteers to travel to other countries to teach beekeeping practices.

From Nov. 26 to Dec. 10, Johnson was on an assignment in Obusai, Ghana as part of the Farmer-to-Farmer Program.

Worldwide, the Farmer-to-Farmer Program is implemented by eight organizations, including ACDI/VOCA, which implements programs in West Africa, Europe and Central Asia.

For his assignment, Bee Colonization and Queen Rearing, Johnson was sent to Obusai to work with the Obuasi Beekers Association (OBA).

The OBA started operating in 2014 with 14 farmers. Now the organization has 30 farmers. The main objective of the association is to improve the livelihood of the beekeepers in Obuasi and the surrounding communities.

According to Farmers-to-Farmers, beekeeping is the main economic activity of the OBA, but members also grow cassava, citrus and plantain, among other vegetables.

The OBA currently has seven beehives as a group. Individual members have up to 58 hives.

Many of the members have had difficulty attracting bees and colonizing their hives. Members who have successfully colonized have lost their colonies to “unknown locations” after only a couple of harvests.

In addition, Johnson said members lacked knowledge on bee products, like making bee wax into candles.

To address these issues, the OBA requested for an apiarist with experience in beekeeping through the assistance of the Farmers-to-Farmers Program.

Johnson spent his time in Obusai assessing the OBA’s operations and recommending the best practices they could use to improve their honey production.

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