Arusha Stingless Bee Honey

Tanzania

Honey

Insects

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Arusha Stingless Bee Honey

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 (Melipona family).
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.

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Stingless bee honey production was revived in 1996 thanks to the women of the Umangu association (Umoja wa Maendeleo Ngurdoto, which means “women together for the development of Ngurdoto” in the local language). Started in 1994 by Rose Machange (a woman with great initiative, a cultural mediator working with the Maasai ethnic communities and the coordinator of the Umangu association), the group’s aim is to bring together the women who live in difficult conditions to improve their quality of life, providing them with the skills and means needed to start their own business. Each member of the group has between three and ten hives. They collect the honey and bring it to a shared workshop, where it is filtered and jarred. A tenth of each member’s production is donated to the group as a contribution to help support its activities. The beekeepers also produce a medicinal cream and unguent; manage the Ngurdoto community food garden (one of Slow Food’s 10,000 Gardens in Africa); preserve plant varie- ties at risk of extinction, like kweme, an Ark of Taste passenger; and raise awareness among the local communities about the importance of eating local food and rediscovering traditional gastronomy. The Presidium launched in 2016 organizes training on quality honey production and tasting, funds the purchase of equipment (like hydrometers, filters and storage containers) and assists with the marketing of the honey, helping the women make suitable labels and packaging.

Production area
Ngurdoto village, Arumeru district, Arusha region

Technical partner
Conapi
15 beekeepers, united in the Umangu association (Umoja wa Maendeleo Ngurdoto, “women together for the development of Ngurdoto”)
Slow Food Presidium Coordinator
Helen Nguya
tel. +255 754756606
helennguya@gmail.com

Presidium Producer Coordinator
Rose Machange
Umangu Women’s Group
tel. +255 754471198
rmachange2000@yahoo.com
Stingless bee honey production was revived in 1996 thanks to the women of the Umangu association (Umoja wa Maendeleo Ngurdoto, which means “women together for the development of Ngurdoto” in the local language). Started in 1994 by Rose Machange (a woman with great initiative, a cultural mediator working with the Maasai ethnic communities and the coordinator of the Umangu association), the group’s aim is to bring together the women who live in difficult conditions to improve their quality of life, providing them with the skills and means needed to start their own business. Each member of the group has between three and ten hives. They collect the honey and bring it to a shared workshop, where it is filtered and jarred. A tenth of each member’s production is donated to the group as a contribution to help support its activities. The beekeepers also produce a medicinal cream and unguent; manage the Ngurdoto community food garden (one of Slow Food’s 10,000 Gardens in Africa); preserve plant varie- ties at risk of extinction, like kweme, an Ark of Taste passenger; and raise awareness among the local communities about the importance of eating local food and rediscovering traditional gastronomy. The Presidium launched in 2016 organizes training on quality honey production and tasting, funds the purchase of equipment (like hydrometers, filters and storage containers) and assists with the marketing of the honey, helping the women make suitable labels and packaging.

Production area
Ngurdoto village, Arumeru district, Arusha region

Technical partner
Conapi
15 beekeepers, united in the Umangu association (Umoja wa Maendeleo Ngurdoto, “women together for the development of Ngurdoto”)
Slow Food Presidium Coordinator
Helen Nguya
tel. +255 754756606
helennguya@gmail.com

Presidium Producer Coordinator
Rose Machange
Umangu Women’s Group
tel. +255 754471198
rmachange2000@yahoo.com