Creating a Buzz in Africa; CORD, the Leamington-Based Charity, Is Using an Innovative Beekeeping Project in a Civil War-Ravaged Region of Uganda. MARY GRIFFIN Reports
Byline: MARY GRIFFIN
FOR 20 years a barbaric and bloody war gripped northern Uganda. Children there saw and did things we would struggle to believe.
Rebel force the Lord's Resistance Army abducted more than 30,000 children in the years after fighting began in the early 1980s.
Night raids on villages saw recruits as young as seven ripped from their families before being brutalised and forced into sexual servitude or into combat as child soldiers.
For Uganda's young fighters - who made up 80 per cent of the rebel forces' front line - violence and trauma became a way of life.
Over 20 years more than twomillion peoplewere forced to flee their homes and 100,000 were killed.
Since truce talks two years ago a fragile peace has descended on Uganda as its people begin the long journey back to normality.
But life has changed dramatically.
Women who have become widows and children who have become orphans must find new ways to earn a living.
The landscape, too, has changed. Over the last 20 years Uganda has lost one third of its trees as people forced from their homes and their jobs turned to burning trees and shrubs for food and fuel.
And according to the UN, the country could lose all its forest cover in just 50 years if the current rate of destruction is not reversed.
But thewomen of Kitgumdistrict may have managed to kick-start the repair of both the landscape and the people with the unlikely salvation of beekeeping.
Wendy Nelson, who works for Leamington charity CORD, explained: "Beekeeping in Uganda has traditionally been a male occupation, but during the war the women were left literally holding the baby.
"So many children had been orphaned and the remaining women took these children under their wings, leaving each woman responsible for anything from nine to 20 children. To eke a living for themselves and the children the women turned to beekeeping."
The Kitgum Women Beekeepers' Association - known as Kitwobee - was started by just eight women.
Chairwoman Margaret Ogaba learnt the tricks of the beekeeping trade from her father. With help from CORD the women were able to replace ineffective beehives made from pieces of open drainpipe or wood with proper hives,machinery to spin the honey, and beekeepers' suits.
Wendy said: "At the beginning of this year Kitwobee had 35 members. In the last few months that figure has gone up to 307 members. They are now calling the area 'Beekeeping Country'."
The honey is famed for its rich, dark colour and unique smoky and fruity taste. Fruit and nut trees, such as guava and shea, are vital for the honeybees to feed on - and as the enterprise grows, so does environmental awareness. …