Engineers in a developing nation often find themselves in the base of an inverted pyramid of grassroots industrial activity: upgrading mechanical workshops to create machines for rural industries that supply inputs for agriculture and/or post-harvest processing. In Kumasi, Ghana, for example, the Technology Consultancy Centre (TCC) of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) introduced the manufacture of carpenters saw benches and taught nearby carpenters to produce Kenyan top-bar beehives to support an extensive beekeeping industry. In Kumasi in the 1970s only one workshop produced saw benches, perhaps a dozen or so carpenters produced beehives but the beekeepers came to quantity hundreds with some individual apiaries employing hundreds of beehives.
When in 1975 TCC engineers studied the lost-wax bronze-casting industry of kurofofrom near Kumasi, the artisans, makers of the renowned Ashanti gold weights, complained of shortage of beeswax. It was soon discovered that the only locally-produced honey and beeswax in Ghana came from honey hunters who employed fire to drive wild bees from their nests and take their honey. The honey was of poor high quality, typically tasting of smoke and contaminated by the brood: young bees inside the egg and pupa stages of growth. It was realised that a beekeeping market could supply the local market place with far better excellent honey, beeswax and other bee products.
SIS Engineering Ltd, a client of the TCC was producing carpenters’ saw benches for woodworking enterprises generating weaving looms for one more rural industry project. These same carpenters could, no doubt, create beehives if appropriate plans had been provided, so a search began for a beehive developed to accommodate the African honey bee. In 1977 it was located that a project in Kenya funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) had developed the Kenyan Top-Bar Hive (KTBH) and drawings of the hive were obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture in Nairobi. Early in 1978 three of these hives were produced inside the Department of Constructing Technology workshop on the KNUST campus.
Two of the new beehives were supplied to an APPLE project at Atebubu in Brong-Ahafo Region which aimed to train wild honey hunters as beekeepers. The third was installed in the university’s botanical garden exactly where it was soon colonised by local bees. However, the university had no trained beekeepers and it was not until 1979 that it was possible to send two folks from Kumasi to Kenya for training. On their return, some significant beekeeping began as well as the on-campus apiary was steadily expanded.
By January 1981 the TCC was confident sufficient to begin a training programme plus a First National Workshop on Beekeeping was held on the KNUST campus. It was attended by 53 people, 20 had been US Peace Corps volunteers, who had been extremely critical in promoting the new rural market, and 33 had been Ghanaians along with a couple of foreign residents from all parts of the nation. Quite a few these pioneers became large-scale beekeepers who helped and encouraged several of their buddies and neighbours to start their own apiaries.
Of all the projects of the TCC started in the first two decades of its existence, it really is likely that beekeeping touched the lives of most people and spread economic, social and wellness advantages most widely throughout the country. Some beekeepers, like Kwesi Addai in Sunyani built up apiaries of 300 hives and produced honey stored in 200 litre oil drums. Annual sales amounted to millions of cedis and traders from Cote d’Ivoire crossed the border to acquire a lot of the create. Numerous modest farmers installed a few beehives on their modest plots and women seeking to boost the diet plan of their modest children were encouraged by particular programmes to establish single hive apiaries to produce honey for home use and for sale.
As for the lost wax bronze casters, beeswax had by no means been so affordable or so plentiful. Huge stocks of beeswax built up at the larger commercial apiaries plus the TCC was faced with demands to discover export markets for this item. Beekeepers were also seeking markets for other bee merchandise like royal jelly, pollen and bee venom, all of which might be utilized as medicines or dietary supplements.
Beekeeping touched the lives of thousands of people today. It was the sort of project in which international development agencies delight, bringing rewards to the poorest people today within the most deprived rural locations. Yet it could not have flourished but for the little group of carpenters who produced the beehives, along with the carpenters could not have coped using the huge demand for beehives without having the machines produced by a single engineering workshop located in the good city of Kumasi. The international development agencies are reluctant to support projects in what they think about to be the wealthier urban areas, but without these projects supported by institutions like the TCC the mass-effect rural projects would not be doable, unless sustained permanently from outside. For locally self-sustained economic development in developing countries a strong urban-based engineering market is necessary.
To learn more about the intriguing story of the grassroots industrial revolution in the turbulent Ghana of the second half of the twentieth century, read John Powell’s novel The Colonial Gentleman’s Son or his non-fictional account The Survival of the Fitter. More details of these books and photographs of the informal sector artisans of Suame Magazine in Kumasi will be found on the following websites.
( http://www.ghanabooksjwp.com )