PLAAC beekeeping project in Mbanza-Ngungu

A visit to PLAAC beekeeping project in Mbanza-Ngungu reaps rewards for HandUp Congo’s colleagues in Equateur Province
By Safari Kanyena, development worker for Disciples of Christ in Congo Community (“CDCC”) and advisor to HandUp Congo

Safari Kanyena

In 2016, Célestin Engelemeba and I travelled to Mbanza-Ngungu in Kongo Central Province to visit PLAAC (a cooperative of beekeeping associations), about three hours by car from Kinshasa. Mbanza-Ngungu is a city and territory in Kongo Central Province in the western part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, lying on a short branch off the Matadi-Kinshasa Railway.

Why this visit? One reason was to learn about beekeeping, and explore ways our Pygmy colleagues in Equateur Province can enhance their traditional beekeeping skills and find ways to alleviate their poverty by selling honey. Other reasons are outlined below.
The CDCC development office (called “BDC”) works in the remote equatorial forest region with rural poor communities. The latter live mainly from agriculture but just for subsistence. For earning money, they practice deforestation to produce charcoal and wood planks without any initiative of reforestation. In some villages of Ingende and Bolomba, pygmies are the poorest population whose vital needs are mainly oriented to the forest exploitation. Women and youth are also among people living with limited resources.

The basic challenge that BDC needs to face is to develop a strategy which can insure economic life of human communities without destroying the natural resources (of which the forest is one of the main earth climate stabilizers).
Regarding the Province of Equateur, BDC vision is to get a population living harmoniously and sustainably in connection with the forest. As a development local agency, BDC will be developing communities’ capacities on its traditional topics (food security, poverty reduction, environment protection…) in a perspective of gender promotion.

Then, we will need an integrated community development strategic plan which promotes the non-wood forest products (honey, edible insects, mushroom, fruit tree plantations…), so that poor communities and other less powerful populations (pygmies, women, youth) can get money from regular activities which can be organized around their villages, have a high demand in markets and whose success depend on the presence of trees.

For honey production, processing and commercialization, PLAAC is a model in the western Congo, bringing together 733 beekeepers. To get more inspiration on how we can organize a similar project in Equateur, our visit began at their office where we focused on the history of PLAAC, the cooperative organization, the techniques of capturing bees, the queen-bee raising, the process of honey processing, the beekeeper’s basic equipment, and the second step brought us into the field to give us an opportunity to see more than 30 hives, to participate in capturing bees, to collect honey etc.

Toussaint is the leader of PLAAC, which also makes bee suits and other equipment needed to harvest honey.

The second day was devoted to the future cooperation between PLAAC and the intended project of Lotumbe honey production. (Lotumbe is a remote village accessible only by canoe, and where HandUp Congo works closely with community leaders.)

Capturing bees from subsoil to a hive.
honey crop

CDCC strategy on beekeeping:
The inspiration we got from PLAAC helped us to think about a CDCC strategy which will involve:

training and working with pygmies, youth, women and pupils in poor villages bordering the forest,

promoting the planting of bee-attracting fruit trees in the target villages,

promoting the non-wood forest products,

working in local partnership with PLAAC and other potential environment protectors,

developing awareness about “the bee” (as a divine worker to perpetuate the life on the earth, through fecundation of flowers);

practicing agroforestry (combination of trees and food plants).

In short, it was a very important and impressive experience we acquired from PLAAC. Our mind was opened more again for environmental issues. The enriching discussions we got with the PLAAC leaders revealed us new ways of working together for more success.

It is a very interesting thing for the world to think about strategies worthy to perpetuate the green world where the climate is good for food production, human activities and animals’ lives. This trip showed us that, thinking green means especially thinking about the wellbeing of bees. In fact, bees are the excellent partners of this process, if they can be involved, they can play an important role in ecological restoration.

NOTE: HandUp Congo supporters made it possible for Safari and Celestin to experience this field trip to Mbanza-Ngungu. It resulted in a crowdfunding campaign which will take two PLAAC bee experts to Lotumbe in June 2017, to conduct training for the community. Thanks to donors Cynthia N, Beth F, Betsy B, Elizabeth W and Alison F for making this training excursion possible!

UN POEME SUR L’ABEILLE
(a poem on a bee) – By Safari

Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.
Tu m’entends ? Je passe, je bourdonne,
Je visite tes plantes, j’en prospecte les fleurs,
Le fruit de mon travail, je te le donne,
Pour que, plus de faim tu ne pleures,
Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.

De la cire et du nectar, je fais le miel,
Cette nourriture aimée de tout âge,
Cet aliment que Dieu donne du Ciel,
Quand Israël reçut Canaan en partage.
Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.

Construis-moi de bonnes ruches,
Utilises-moi et protèges ma vie,
De mon miel tu rempliras tes cruches;
Et l’argent tu ne manqueras dans ta vie.
Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.

Ne me chasses pas, je ne suis pas ton ennemie,
Dieu m’a établi comme ton fidèle ouvrier,
Afin de vivre avec toi comme ton amie,
Et assurer que tu aies ton produit vivrier ;
Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.

Je veux faire un pacte avec la jeunesse,
Afin de construire ensemble un monde équilibré,
Prévenir de l’humanité la grande détresse,
Et des caprices de son climat déséquilibré
Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.

Plantes et ne coupes plus des arbres,
De fleurs tu auras mon miel et des fruits,
Toi et moi vivrons sous leur ombre,
Nous réjouissant, mangeant et buvant sans bruits.
Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.
-by Safari Désiré Kanyena

A POEM ON THE BEE
by Safari Désiré Kanyena

Let me live, you will live by me.
You hear me? I pass, I buzz,
I visit your plants, I prospect the flowers,
The fruit of my labor, I give it to you,
For that, no more hunger you cry,
Let me live, you will live by me.

Wax and nectar, I make honey,
This beloved food of all ages,
This food God gives of Heaven,
When Israel received Canaan as a share.
Let me live, you will live by me.

Build me good hives,
Use me and protect my life,
Of my honey you will fill your pitchers;
And money you will not miss in your life.
Let me live, you will live by me.

Do not drive me away, I am not your enemy,
God has established me as your faithful worker,
In order to live with you as your friend,
And make sure you have your food product;
Let me live, you will live by me.

I want to make a pact with youth,
In order to build a balanced world together,
Preventing humanity from great distress,
And the whims of its unbalanced climate
Let me live, you will live by me.

Plant and no longer cut down trees,
Of flowers you will have my honey and fruits,
You and I will live under their shadow,
We rejoice, eating and drinking in peace.
Let me live, you will live by me