Making of a region specific bee fodder plant list

Isn’t that a mouthful?! And is what I’ve been doing for the last 3 months specifically for Grenada. I’ve been gathering for most of the year, finding little gems (like actual island specific plant books-which are very hard to come by on the island due to all the libraries being closed after hurricane Ivan due to damage and $$). And talking to many beekeepers to get their knowledge on paper. I’m sure I’ll still miss a few plants but this is a good start.

While doing parts of a very tedious, monotonous job I listen to podcasts. One specifically (Min 16) with Derek Sivers, reminds us to “document the process” not only for ourselves but for others to be see how the “how the sausage gets made”

So without a due…here’s what I’ve done to create a bee fodder plant list in Grenada:

My time in Senegal I was able to stumble upon Plants for Arid Lands which happened to have a list of Bees and Honey in the Exploitation of Arid Land Resources, written by of course well known honey bee researcher Eva Crane.

Also the Senegal Peace Corps Agroforesty Manual also had a list of trees listed as bee fodder, not all of them are “true” but also no one could tell me where the information had come from even though the author was still on staff. And Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel is a awesome book for the West Africa region in general.

Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel, luckily the copy I found was in English not French

So between these two lists I combined them and started adding the local names I knew in Wolof, the local language I had learned and worked in. Senegal has 36 languages (per Wikipedia) but Peace Corps Senegal trains volunteers in one of 9 languages (Wolof, Sereer, Mandinka, Malinke/Jaxanke Fulakunda, Pular, Pulla Fuuta, Pular du Nord,French, Bambara)

Senegal Honey Bee Fodder List

This list is currently 171 species using only 4 references (see below). Luckily I had great agriculture volunteers with wonderful language ability to help fill in some of the names as much as they knew. Sadly though this list has never been used for more than personal use. The idea was to create a simple identification booklet for beekeepers to learn terms and identify plants. Similar to this below

Booklet from Mali to teach French vocabulary to beekeepers
Crane, E. (1985). Plants for Arid Lands. In Bees and Honey in the Exploitation of Arid Land Resources. International Bee Research Association.
Sidibe, D., Djitte, C., Constant, A., & Blass, C. (2012). Peace Corps Senegal Agroforestry Manual (Second.). Theis, Senegal: Peace Corps.
Traucht, M. (2009). Working with Bees in The Gambia. The Gambia.
Von Maydell, H.-J. J. (1990). Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel. Weikersheim: Margraf.

After I came home November of 2014 after my Peace Corps service was finished I kept looking for honey bee fodder lists. Not all lists would be pertinent as there are multiple breeds of honey bees and they are location specific. For example, African bees that were in Senegal, can not survive in my native Minnesota due to the cold, but also African bees are 10% smaller than Apis mellifera we have in northern climates, therefore some of the plant fodder might be different too.

Apis distribution map via Apimonda (@apimondiabees)

twitter September 17, 2015

So each list needs to be looked at from a location and Apis breed to see if a world bee fodder list can be made, which from what I can find has not been made, documented, updated, or put online. Which with all the technology we have there are many applications for this information.

Currently I have 49 literature reference sources for nectar, honey dew, pollen and propalis sources that I have started a new list specifically for Apis mellifera (honey bee) with around 2800 plants. Now what to do with the list.

Spring of 2015 I traveled to Grenada to work with beekeepers and kept my eyes open for any references specific to Grenada/Caribbean that I could find on bee fodder as well as what the beekeepers could tell me of plants. Many names are in local common names, not Latin/scienctific names. Also what do I do with all this data which is plant nomenclature, which changes over time. So my list might have duplicates due to name changes from having references sources from 1945 to present day.

Again I was luckily to stumble upon Entomological Society of America‘s 2015 conference that did a wonderful job of putting all of the sessions online. At the beginning of the conference Entomological Collections Network presented for the first day. The stress was putting your data sets online so they can be found, used and added by others. I contacted a presenter for more information, but since it was entomology not plant based it only pushed me to do more research.

Encyclopedia of Life website screenshot

Somehow I had a link from Encyclopedia of Life, I believe was from a conversation from the Bee College from May of 2015 when it was mentioned. Luckily I looked around and figured out that the website not only has common names in multiple languages the entire site is very easy to use with information pulled from various sites, integrating information.

Day in my life updating “the list” follow me on @mayhemmadness5 Instagram
Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is very handy to make ever changing plant lists in and also check the most correct name. Currently I’m almost through the 2800 plants I have in my list with updating the taxonomy. Next I’ll cross reference my list with the 4 books I have been able to find on the island with Grenada flora to see how many actual bee plants are here.

What I would do without books but these specifically have been wonderful!

Once I have my short list of plants, I’ll design a small pamphlet to be used by beekeepers, farmers, and other interested people to identify bee plants but also to encourage preservation, conservation and plant more of them through out the island.

Q & A’s

So as I finish my 3 last weeks in Senegal me and my fellow stage mates are writing final reports, cleaning and purging our belongings, planning for next steps and handing off keys to our huts to replacements if we have them for our villages.

Below are some questions I’m sure people wonder about or have brought up in emails with me that I thought would be good to touch on.

I love seeing your pictures of your life there, but you don’t talk about the stories from your village, why?
In this blog I have not spoken much directly about my village. I did this on purpose for many reasons. First of which is for my replacement if I have one. Reading someone’s blog and trying to get a sense for a village (whether its my replacement or another one after-2nd & 3rd generation, typical villages have 4) is not really a good way to experience a place, people, work, and everything else that goes into it.

Second, it’s so hard to get a sense of the place, people, circumstance in which all this happened in a written story. These are the stories I will tell you if you ask me in person. You will have lots of questions and I will show you pictures. But nothing is every as simple as it is in written form.

How about a photo of my dog instead??

I wish you took more pictures of yourself there with people you know..
I’m not here for vacation, I do live here. I don’t need to have a photo moment everywhere and it also creates everyone around me asking for me to take there picture. Also most days here I’m dripping in sweat, am thin from simply trying to keep up with the people that live here and otherwise never really look great as I rarely have a large mirror to see myself in.

I have taken a lot of photos here, but I am very conscience of what I post on my blog as some of these ‘kids’ now will grow up and if they happen to know my American name, find this blog, see themselves in a photo I took and could be upset with me, or try come find me for a ticket to golden America. I rather avoid all that.

You always seem ‘happy’ or ‘well’ in your blog posts, you have bad days, right?
Also I’ve tried to write when I’m not in a high or low emotional place. As volunteers in a new place with a small about of language ability and just the nature of Senegal (it seems), makes most simple things seem like climbing a mountain. Every dang day. Until they become easier. Until the shop owner complements you on your wolof because he understands everything you asked him for and doesn’t require miming or pointing.

Along with not writing about some of the not so great things that happen here because they don’t just happen here (i.e. ebola) people draw an uneducated mind toward these things and blow them out of proportion when it is what happens when you are not in the happy bubble that is America. Again I hate writing when I am mad as it seems like everything is bad because when you are upset that is how you feel. I try to remember who might read my blog in the future and write to that.

You mention there are things you don’t write about? Why?
 Sadly this is true. I hate this. I wrote a former blog post about this. Most of those things (i.e. cultural norms and taboos) are going to vary from place to place. The cultural frame in which sees these things will vary from person to person even if that person is from the culture. In many ways these are important topics but in others writing your frame of reference is only going to be interesting to people that have a similar background (as I would assume most of the readers of this blog are)

The ‘other’ things I don’t talk about are similar to the things that we wouldn’t in America pertaining to you job on this blog as this is about my work and life. So I can’t bash my boss even when I think he isn’t doing his job, or Peace Corps, even if I disagree with how they handle things. These are conversations to have in person, to be able to fully explain. If you truly love what you do to never complain about it, you my friend, have won the lottery. I’m moving closer to that, but until then, I feel complaining for complaining sake holds no weight. If you think talking about it will make a difference, by all means I will be the first to start screaming. (and I have when needed) But most of the time it doesn’t. So save that strength to fight another day and move people by doing. Usually works faster anyways.

One of my favorite places to watch the sun set

Have you ever thought of writing your memoir? Or write more?
Yes! To both. I would love to write my memoir (I know, I might be a bit young) but it has passed my mind. I’m currently reading/researching doing so. And also am trying to write more and more about my experience here when I can or just the thoughts that I have about my experiences. I have always wondered if my writing DOES anything or CONNECTS to anyone, but the feed back (i.e. emails) I’ve gotten from people says they do. Long term plan is to eventually write about bees and the beekeepers I have met thus far and will meet when traveling.

Of course I will continue to write here and maybe while at home reorganize it a bit.

Always any thoughts, ideas or general feed back is ALWAYS welcome. Thank you for reading!!!

Summary of Beekeeping & 3rd Year Proposal

Like most things in my life recently (past 3 years) the small thought that stirred softly strangely and easily made its way into a larger, possible, plan. My 3rd year position with Peace Corps was the same.

See the queen in the middle of the picture, my first queen bee in Senegal.

Before I came I knew that beekeeping was a bygone area of work for Senegal. Primary work was in agriculture but with crop seed extension and making tree nurseries. Sadly beekeeping is a secondary, maybe ‘other’ project in Senegal’s Peace Corps world. While in Gambia, the small country inside of Senegal, every volunteer, all sectors, are trained on bees as beekeeping is a national commodity and is well known for it. Yes I did ask myself why I didn’t get sent to Gambia, but after visiting and hearing more and more about their president, I understood my personality would be better suited in more forgiving Senegal.

PROFILS, near Mboro, Senegal a wonderful NGO that works in the Fatick region

 Okay back to how this all happened. In my community based training
village (also known as CBT) the first 3 months of my service I was in
Mboro, a sprawling gardening hotbed who’s vegetables feed most of the
nation. It also had a beekeeping NGO based from Belgium. The volunteer
we had living in the village knew them and arranged a meeting with the 4
trainees so I could pester them with my broken wolof trying to make it
known that I too, understood bees.

Mamadou pointing at his hives in a cashew orchard

Next thing I know I’m in my village, maybe a month or two in, and I need
to charge my phone as my I started having problems with my solar
charger. So I go to the next village 2 km/1 mi away as they have solar
and I was introduced to a few households over there so I could hang out
while my phone was charging. One of the kids in the house notices my bee
tattoo on my wrist and asks about it. Soon someone mentions they have
bees and honey. I asked for them to show me. Mamadou, a lovely older
man, brings me a small cup with honey and comb in it. I asked where it
was from, he said it was his. He was the first of many beekeepers I met
similarly to this. Waiting and making conversation as I’m doing my
thing, and something brings up honey, bees, or beekeepers. 

Beginning of comb at the Master Farm in Same

 I knew that the NGO I met in Mboro, trained many villages in my
sub-region (maybe around a dozen). I kept finding there beekeepers and
many who wanted me to help, work, train, learn alongside of them.
Beekeeping is very different than in the states due to the heat, bees,
amount of times you can work a hive (maybe monthly compared to the
weekly as I did in the States)

Honey house in Sangako
Ibrah, Salif  and Casey (former volunteer) introducing me to beekeeping brothers
One night of harvesting honey in Sankago

 Taking photos, notes, making calendars, asking plant names, researching
scientific nomenclature, having tools made, getting estimates on
extractors, sourcing other materials and prices were the things I did in
between my other work, when I had time or the conversation presented

Local honey being sold in a juice shop in Kafferine
Store shelves of honey in Dakar

So from very early on I knew there would be a chance of working with this NGO in a larger broader perspective. The list I made of what I wanted to do looked something like this:

-Working in the region of Fatick (possibly Casamance & Thies as needed) doing hands-on training with established and new beekeepers/farmers to improve technical beekeeping knowledge.
-Improve honey harvesting techniques and selection to improve quality and price through hands-on training and public and private honey tastings.
-Creating plant bee fodder list in local languages and identification manual to improve understanding, conservation and creation of bee habitat through seed saving and tree nurseries.
-Documenting local best practices to be shared with local, regional, country and international partners through conferences proceedings, journal articles, blog postings and other various forms of media to extend teaching to others.
-Further and strengthen partnerships with NGO’s, countries, and Universities through pollination, research and training possibilities.

In February I had a meeting in Theis and so I made my way back to Mboro to talk and lay out my proposal to the NGO. They agreed and said they would look forward closer to November in hearing more from Peace Corps.

Fellow Senegal PCV Jessica, Gambia PCV Darrin, BeeCause DoDo, Myself and Beekeeper Saikou Nyassi. The banner is in Jola and says, “More frowning when you are working, and more smiling when you are eating!”

Also in February I was able to attend a West African Trainer of Trainers Conference in Gambia to share, learn, and meet with other volunteers from 5 West African countries. (Facebook photo album here) Then in May, the volunteer that went with me to the Gambia conference arranged a tourney on teaching beeswax and honey based soap, hand crème and lip balm down in the Kolda region, where is known for honey and boarders Guinea who personally has some of the best tasting honey (tastes like apples and is sold quite often in Dakar) (Facebook

So after all that I had applied in May to Peace Corps Senegal with this outline. And they made decisions soon after that. Some of the positions they posted were not filled and I received a response that saying it was not approved. Sadly I was not happy with this but later found out it had to do with tightening up the programming that we have for Peace Corps in Senegal. I was very sad to hear this I will be moving on to bigger and better things.

Feel free to to check out my Facebook photo albums I linked to above as I it easier to load many photos there than here. I will also be writing and linking to the more detailed blog posts about my experiences in Gambia and with the tourney training in Kolda.

10 Months at Site: A Review

Going back to March (where does time go) It’s hard to believe I have been in Senegal for a year as of the 26th of Septmeber. Honestly I can say I have very much enjoyed my time here aside from a few parts (but life is what is it, it all can’t be sweet)

What have I been up to, you ask? Lots. This post also coincides with reporting we do for our work here. It breaks down the numbers of some of the things we can count to show what we do here and so Washington has an idea too. But many of the things as you can see below, are countless as well as priceless. All in all, I have a pretty cool job.

I will also be writing more in-depth posts on some of these activities to explain in further detail what we actually do or did.

Cut my hair off
Worked at site: dug garden beds
Senegalese independence day
Visited Dasalame Sereer
Attended 2 weddings, 1 funeral
Helped with baby weighings
Mangos started
Keur Baba Diouf had a meeting with my village
Seeded tree nurseries for papayas with 2 work partners
 Teacher Training at Keur Baba Diouf for teaching Wolof alphabet
Tree sacks were filled for tree nursery with help from Keur Baba Diouf
Seeded moringa
Filled tree sacks for nursery
Attended Sus-Ag Summit in Tambacouta
Helped with baby weighing
Went to Nioro middle school for party and teach an English class
Master Farm Field Day in Karang where I presented a station on bees
Taught english class in Nioro Allasane Talle
Attended meeting at Dasalme Sereer for bees with local master beekeepers and NGO from Belgium
Helped host, explain and guide a group of 30 intercity kids from L.A. with chaperons for a weekend visiting our region and volunteers site
On-going project of ‘men cooking lunch’ continues at my village with another work partner cooking lunch
Attending English Teaching Class in Thies
Visited beekeeper Abdul Seck in Bandia
Wrote my grant for Map Mural project for 2 schools
To Dakar for meeting with my bosses
Summit (on going, hands on training for my sustainable agricultural sector and to get together and talk) in Linguere (north)
Mangrove reforestration on the island of Sipo and the village of Bamboung next to Toubacouta
Back to Dakar to help with Access English Camp for a week long camp teaching 105 students
Returned to village

Return to village
Executed layout design and wrote article for the Agrarian newsletter
Visited Sangako to check with beekeepers
Visited Same and started 2 new capture hives, took some honey, and played with new puppy at Master Farm
Visited another volunteer 2 regions over in Kaffrine with my closest site mate and a friend from site
Attened a laamb, Senegalese wrestling match, in my site-mates village, happened to go until dawn. Normallly then are done my 2am.
Traveled to Dakar for the weekend to see some awesome volunteers off. They are done with there service here and will be very much missed