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 Most Active Stories: Uganda

IN 2003, Maffu started making his own hives and registered his business as Blessed Bee for Life Company. Through the company, Maffu has trained 600 farmers, who currently supply him with honey

Visiting Mophart Maffu’s office can be a scary experience. there are bees all over the place. From their hives lined up on his office veranda, the bees keep swarming in and out of Maffu’s office.

The old man doesn’t mind sharing his office with them, for the bees are his financial lifeline. So, he is always quick to assure clients and visitors to his office located in the centre of Yumbe town, that the bees will not harm them, as long as they remain calm.

“There is no problem living with bees,” says the 62-year-old bee-keeper.

A veteran teacher and one time a mechanic in Uganda Army’s Air Force wing, Maffu has invested his various skills into beekeeping. by nature, Maffu is a generous man, who is always eager to share his knowledge with others. he is using his teaching experience to train farmers in Yumbe district in bee-keeping.

The farmers become Maffu’s suppliers of honey to his processing plant located in Yumbe town.

How he started

Maffu first ventured into beekeeping in 1998, using three clay pots as beehives. at the time he was a teacher at Eleke Primary School, where he had been working since he lost his job with the Air Force in 1979.

At the same time, Maffu was also doing some work with here is Life, a local faith-based non-goverment organisation in Arua. It was this organisation that sent Maffu to a workshop where he learnt that beekeeping was one of the easiest income-generating projects one could engage in using locally made equipment.

This discovery prompted Maffu to abandon teaching, to concentrate on bee keeping.

“I enjoyed teaching, but I saw three of my female pupils dropout of school because they could not afford sanitary pads,” he recalls. “So, I decided to start something that would enable parents to earn money to educate their children and also meet their other needs,” he explains.

Together with five other farmers, Maffu started a bee-keeping project and the beginning was tough.

At the end of the month, each of them would get sh10,000 as returns from their investment. Discouraged by the meager returns, the other farmers dropped out, leaving Maffu alone.

It was about this time than an opportunity came up for Maffu to pursue a diploma course in rural development from the UK.

While there, Maffu wrote two concept papers; one on vocational training for youth, which resulted in the establishment of the Evangelical School of Technology in Aringa and another on beekeeping as a way of poverty alleviation.

On his return, Maffu started buying honey from local bee-keepers to make wax and other bee products.

Growing the business

In 2003, Maffu started making his own hives and registered his business as Blessed Bee for Life Company. Through the company, Maffu has over the years trained 600 farmers, who currently supply him with honey.

These supplement the output from Maffu’s 120 hives installed in Eleke, Kochi, Limika, Iyete all in Yumbe and around his office.

Besides his office, the building houses a tailoring and crafts room, a honey processing room, a store and a shop, while the veranda serves as an apiary full of bee hives.

Maffu employs five permanent staff and several casual labourers to help run the bee-keeping enterprise.

With his employees, they make bee-keeping gear ranging from protective overalls, smokers and hives; both Langstroth and Kenya top Bar.

They also process raw honey into propolis, cosmetics, pollen cakes, wax block, wax foundation sheets, candles and honey.

Cost of bee products

Maffu’s products cost between sh100, honey packed in drinking straws, and sh50,000 for five litres of honey.

Propolis fetches sh1,500 and above, while a kilogram of wax block goes for sh12,000. The Kenya top Bar hive sells at sh70,000, while Langstroth goes for sh140,000.

Marketing

Maffu does not have to look for market for his products since there is ready demand for them.

The demand is much higher than his production.

“Right now, an American wants 500 metric tonnes of honey a year but my annual output is just a fifth of that. there is urgent need to recruit more farmers into bee-keeping,” he says.

After going through his daily routine of dispatching several salon cars loaded with honey products worth sh600,000 each, Maffu sits back and wonders why the Government is spending a lot of money importing sugar, instead of investing in honey production.

According to the veteran bee-keeper, a litre of honey which costs sh10,000 can sustain a family of five for two weeks, yet a kilogram of sugar can only last a few days.

Whenever he gets a chance, Maffu advises people to consume honey because of its health benefits like boosting immunity against a number of ailments, such as sore throat, muscle strains, cuts and wounds, skin diseases and cancer. According to Maffu, honey is the best treatment for a hangover.

On the average Maffu earns sh27m a year from selling honey products and sh35m from bee-keeping equipment such as hives and smokers.

Achievements

With his earnings from bee-keeping, Maffu has put up a permanent house at his ancestral home in Eleke. besides ploughing some of the profits back into the business, the old man is also investing into tree planting.

His objective is to eliminate poverty from West Nile by engaging as many people in beekeeping, which he describes as God-given wealth.

It is a life-time assignment he has set for himself and until that is achieved; the 62-year-old remains a restless man.

Challenges

Theft of raw honey from the hives is rampant, yet yields are sometimes poor due to the vagaries of weather. This has forced the farmer to employ night watchmen to guard his hives in the jungles.

Maffu complains that persistent low output by his out growers is slowing him down, yet he wants to increase production to catch up with the runaway demand.

He advises farmers to adopt modern bee-keeping techniques to stem the high rate of abandoning their apiaries, which he believes is caused by poor hygiene.

According to him, farmers should routinely check the rate at which the queen bee is laying fresh eggs and consider caging her off or remove some of the queen’s shells and look out for pests in order to keep the bees in their hives.

Future plans

Maffu plans to enroll more committed farmers, who can put up over 10,000 hives and produce on average 200,000kg of honey every harvest season.

This, he believes would be sufficient to meet the prevailing demand and provide enough raw materials to expand his processing plant.

Maffu wants to start manufacturing shoe polish and develop each of the components of processing, crafts and tailoring into fully-fledged departments that support each other.

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