Two of Tanzania’s most important active volcanoes rise up near Arusha, an urban center in the north of the country: Mount Kilimanjaro and, 70 kilometers away, Mount Meru. The village of Ngurdoto lies at the foot of Meru’s lowest slopes, and here the women of the community produce nyori, honey made by black stingless bees (Meliponini).
Until 60 years ago, this very unusual honey was collected in large quantities from the hives that were created naturally in dry tree trunks, holes in the ground, bushes and trees. Then, growing deforestation and pollution drastically reduced production.
Traditional hives are made from hollow trunk sections and hung from the roofs of houses, fences or the highest branches of fruit trees like mango, avocado and papaya. Normally, they are bought already inhabited by swarms from local youth who have learned from their families how to build the hives and manage the swarms. They go into the forest around the village and identify the stingless bee species that need to go into the hive (only a couple of the eight species that live around here are suitable: the large black ones, which are very productive).
Each hive, cut in half with a knife, yields 3 to 4 liters of pure honey, which is separated from the wax and impurities using a manual press and gauze filters. The honey is harvested in January, February and sometimes in October as well, if the season stays hot and dry. The multi-flower honey has a liquid consistency and a sweet-tart flavor, with citrusy, floral notes. It is renowned for its medicinal properties, particularly for curing respiratory problems and menstrual pain. It is added to milk or tea, or used to sweeten maize or millet porridge.
In addition to the honey, the producers also extract the precious propolis from the internal walls of the hive, a dark and sticky substance, which is mixed with lemon juice and used for toothaches, or mixed with sunflower oil to prepare an emollient cream (supo), or used as a natural glue.
Ngurdoto village, Arumeru district, Arusha region