Ms. Margaret Ogaba, shows some of the “oduru tree fruits”, one of the indigenous trees, whose flowers are liked by bees.
“For processed honey to qualify as organic honey, the apiary must not be located in areas where there is an intensive agricultural practice where pesticides are used or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) food crops are grown”
“Whether we in Africa process “organic honey” or not is not an issue here, because when we take our processed honey to exhibitions, people always run for our Uganda Savannah Honey”
LAMWO-UGANDA: On Monday, June 12, 2017 at her family farm at Palabek Kal in Lamwo district in northern Uganda, I sat Ms. Margret Ogaba, who has been widowed since the 1970’s, to talk about her honey business, for which she is known all over the world by its brand name: “Uganda Savannah Honey”.
“Whether we in Africa, process “organic honey” or not is not an issue here, because when we take our processed honey to exhibitions, people always run for our Uganda Savannah Honey”, says Ms. Ogaba to my inquiries whether her Savannah honey is classified as organic or not.
For processed honey to qualify as organic honey, the apiary must not be located in areas where there is an intensive agricultural practice where pesticides are used or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) food crops are grown.
Such apiary must be located where living organisms in the soil, natural trees such as Shea-nut trees and other planted tree species like Teak or Acacia to supplement the natural trees are in abundance.
“Look as far as your eyes can see! What you see are only natural trees and some farmland where my neighbors grow some food crops, but this is not intensive agricultural practices. When bees from my hives travel for nectar from flowering trees, they don’t come back with contaminated nectar and therefore don’t affect the quality of the honey I process” says Ms. Ogaba.
Just as she was finishing the statement, her phone rings. I could hear her making appointment to supply the caller, who lives in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, located about 300 miles (over 400 Kilometers) away.
“Even within Uganda, I travel a lot between home and Kampala. To ensure quality product to the satisfaction of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), I have only three employees helping me in the process of processing. This particular caller wants me to take for him some honey to Kampala in two week’s time”, she proudly says.
Ms. Ogaba packs her honey in 300 grams, 500 grams, one kilogram and five-liter containers. She is currently looking for additional capital to inject in small packets of one tablespoon for hotels, airlines and hospitals.
“I look forward to the day when I can acquire more equipment like Manual Centrifugal Honey Extractor and packing materials which can pack only one table spoonful to enable me supply hotels, hospitals and airlines with Uganda Savannah Honey”
Ms. Ogaba, who a member of The International Bee Keeping Association (Apimondia), has visited several countries around the world including Belgium, Slovenia, France, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Ukraine, Britain, Turkey, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda promoting and selling her honey.
She has received four technical awards as the most outstanding African lady Bee Keeper who is inspiring other women to involve themselves in bee-keeping for rural development.
“Traditionally, bee-keeping has always been a male dominated activity. When I first started bee-keeping in 1981 when I left teaching job for farming, some people used to despise me arguing; why are you taking on bee-keeping as you are a mere woman? I want to inspire other women to join the trade”, says Ms. Ogaba.
She is also a life-member of the International Honey Show Exhibition which brings together exhibitors from all over the world which takes place every autumn.
“I have gained a lot since I learnt the trade from my mother, the late Naomi Olana Langoya and my late uncle, Andrea Ono. I have made friends all over the world with whom I always network”, asserts Ms. Ogaba.
Some of the challenges she and other bee-keepers in Africa face includes mites/diseases which reduces the number of bees in a colony, expensive improved bee-hives, vandalism, theft, lack of equipments and the fact that African bees are not easily adoptive to the new bee-hives.
“Our bees are dying because Bee diseases which are affecting our hives. The problem of bees dying was not there twenty years ago. I got only one ton of honey this season, yet I used to harvest over three tons every season”, she concludes the interview.