Letters

Bees for beginners.

Thank you for PASO A PASO. In issue 10 of the magazine it mentions that many farmers who are unable to keep cattle, instead keep sheep or goats. They provide a source of cash when needed to pay for school fees, hospital bills etc.

Why not think of bee keeping as well? This doesn’t require planting and looking after crops, nor herding animals in and out. It’s only necessary to decide to keep them and provide them with a hive or box. Then their products can be obtained – honey, pollen, wax, propolis, honeycomb and even medicine from their poison.

Honey has a high nutritional value from childhood to old age. Bee keeping is easy to do – by both women and men. Bees also bring benefits to farming as they pollinate crops and trees, giving more fruit and seeds.

Here in Peru, swarms of Italian bees can be purchased for as much as $50 but native bees can be found in any corner of the forest, in hollow trees, houses, literally crying to be put in a
box – the operation is called shuffling.

It is necessary first to get training from a beekeeper and either buy or make the necessary tools. Bees are very hard working – they work from 6 am until about 6.30 pm. In our community, which is in the jungle, there are plenty of local trees and forest flowers which the bees like. We keep bees on a family basis and find the products easy to sell. Honey should be extracted naturally, never cooked or boiled.

Bees’ worst enemies are ants – these can be kept away by spreading hot ashes around the hive. I have found a few difficulties. The bees in our area are very aggressive. I also find it difficult to change the wax in the breeding combs since some of the hives are three or more years old. I would appreciate hearing some new ideas.

Silas Santiago Leiva, Comunidad Campesina Paz y Esperanza, Apartado 18, Moyabamba, San Martin, Peru.

EDITOR: Bee keeping is a subject that we plan to look at in detail in a future issue. Please send in your experiences in this subject.

Bamande Pygmy Project

Thank you for our copies of Pas à Pas. The issues on literacy, the environment and drug abuse were of particular interest. I work with the Bamande Pygmy Project in the centre of the equatorial forest in Zaire. It is not easy for these forest dwellers to understand the dangers facing them if they destroy the forest.

It is very important to understand how the pygmies live and to respect their traditional customs in order to gain their trust. Each group of pygmies is linked to a patron or chairman (mukpala in the local dialect). He has authority over them and offers them equipment, food, clothing and other things. The pygmies prefer listening to him than to any outsider.

The pygmies are heavy drinkers and smokers. In particular, they like to smoke Indian hemp. Even small children are encouraged to smoke because they say hemp gives them strength to work and to hunt. Do readers have any advice about this problem?

Emilu Ezabo Bob, Bamande Pygmy Project, c/o Green House Nyankunde, PO Box 21285, Nairobi, Kenya.

Rural and urban animation

Through luck, issue No.22 of Pas à Pas fell into my hands. After studying it, I want to tell you how much I have appreciated it. I hope I can share some experiences in training others through my work with APICA.

I regard animation as the ability of a person or a social group to recognise the reality in which they live – to analyse it, to identify gaps and potential – and then to consider solutions to make it better.

Whether in a rural or urban environment, the aim of the individual or community is identical – to improve living conditions. Often this animation may come from people from outside the area (development workers). Their task is to lead the people to examine and analyse their environment, encouraging awareness which will result in positive activities.

Often development workers ask about the differences in animation between rural and urban settings. At village level, there are often poor communications, lack of organisation in trading and marketing, poor wages, an ageing population due to the migration of young people to the urban areas and few social structures.

In towns, there are differences in social status, unemployment leading to anti-social behaviour and poor social models such as theft, violent crime, prostitution and drunkenness.

It seems that the key differences lie at the level of the problems to be tackled and not in the steps leading to animation. Animation comes through questioning which leads to reflection, then to awareness.

All animation work centres around such fundamental questions as:

  • What sort of economic set-up are we considering changing?
  • What situations are working against improvements in social and economic conditions?
  • What economic mechanisms prevent development of the area?
  • What potential resources are there which could be used to encourage development?

The actions and attitude of the animator should be influenced by the state of mind of each social group and their particular surroundings and problems, whether rural or urban. This is the only real difference, I believe.

Philippe Nkounkou, APICA, BP 7485, Yaounde, Cameroon.

Problems with alcohol

Following issue 23 on drug problems, I would like to share about the problems we have in Karamoja with alcohol. Traditionally we had one type of local alcohol available which was distilled in the towns of Moroto and Kotido. This was called regular. A potent brew called lira-lira was first introduced in 1986, and now people have shifted to drinking this instead.

Young men began selling off their animals in order to raise cash to buy this liquor – the people here are pastoralists. Elders raised complaints and also say that this strong drink has reduced the fertility rate in the area. Some weaker family members are dying because there is often not enough money left for food.

The authorities (Resistance Councils) are trying to stop the buying and selling of this alcohol but it remains a big problem. Do any readers have any advice?

Peter Buiton, Karamoja Seeds Scheme, PO Box Kotido, Uganda.

The footsteps are getting closer

This is a strategy which I have worked out and would like to share with readers. Many communities today find that the difficulties and losses of everyday life have left them vulnerable, powerless and feeling inferior. To challenge this feeling of powerlessness, we need to find approaches that will encourage involvement.

My strategy has three parts:

1. Step by step This encourages communication. It is a democratic process which encourages everyone to express themselves and to develop their thoughts. This process is a slow one in which new ideas are discussed and considered at length.

2. The footsteps are getting closer When trainer and trainees have accepted each other, this will create openings to analyse their situation. If people want to attain power they will have to:

  • analyse their strengths and weaknesses
  • analyse their resources and potential
  • plan to use these resources well
  • obtain necessary information.

Our villages have a history – not just of their ancestry, but also the tradition of their constant battling with their environment. This long experience in rural life leads to traditional practices and knowledge. From these traditions may appear new ideas and organisations that may help with tackling environmental problems. This stock of knowledge, together with the capacity to react and adapt to any situation can provide a rich resource. When communities begin to reflect on and organise their potential, one can say, ‘The footsteps are getting closer.’

3. The footsteps have merged When groups progress with the organisers towards solutions for solving problems, we can then talk of ‘merged footsteps’.

I hope this brief outline of my strategy may help other readers.

Nohoune Lèye, PO Box 10, Khombole, Republic of Senegal.



Bottle-feed your trees

I am working in Northern Nigeria on a variety of agroforestry and agriculture projects and would like to share a simple technique for watering trees.

The long dry season of 5–7 months makes it difficult to encourage tree planting. Watering trees during the dry season takes a lot of work and needs a lot of water, which is often in short supply.

One way to avoid these problems is to bury a container beside each seedling when it is planted, about 40–50cm away. It can be an old tin can or cracked plastic water bottle. Before burying the container, two or three small holes should be punched in the bottom and sides if there are none already. Bury the container in the soil so that only the lip can be seen.

During the dry season the container is filled with water and then covered with a stone to reduce evaporation. In this way the water is slowly released into the soil at a lower level, encouraging deeper root development. Almost no water is lost through evaporation. With this system, the trees only need to be watered one to three times a week. One bucket of water is enough for 5–10 trees, depending on the size of the container. This system is so effective that tree seedlings can actually be planted during the dry season, when the demands of farming are low.

Timothy A Volk, MCC Nigeria, PO Box 42, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria.