Ghana’s Beekeepers: Akwesi Addai

When the Technology Consultancy Centre (TCC) of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) invited all interested people to attend the First National Workshop on Beekeeping in Kumasi in January 1981, there assembled a band of pioneers who by their later achievements proved themselves to be quite exceptional people and extraordinary characters. Some of these were foreigners: British residents in Ghana and US Peace Corps volunteers, but the man who created the biggest apiary and achieved the greatest commercial success was a Ghanaian cocoa and oil palm farmer, Akwesi Addai.

In Ghanaian terms Akwesi Addai was already a wealthy man, owning several hundred acres of oil palm and cocoa plantations at Nsoatre, a village near Sunyani, the capital of Brong-Ahafo Region. However, his aim in taking up beekeeping was not only to further enhance his own wealth but to play a role in the economic development of his community by creating new business and employment opportunities.

Akwesi Addai took up beekeeping with the newly introduced Kenyan top-bar hive with such energy and enthusiasm that by 1985 he was producing 82 gallons of honey a year from 60 hives. After building up his apiary to 100 hives he lost all but 32 in a forest fire in 1989. Nevertheless, from those 32 hives in 1990 Akwesi Addai harvested 132 gallons of honey. By the mid 1990s, the apiary had expanded to 300 hives and the honey was being stored in 44 gallon oil drums and sold to traders from over the border in Cote d’Ivoire.

Akwesi Addai bought his first few beehives from carpenters in Kumasi trained by the TCC but he soon decided to manufacture beehives in Sunyani. With a saw bench from SIS Engineering Ltd in Kumasi, a carpentry shop was established in a small informal industrial area near Sunyani market. Here Akwesi Addai made beehives for his own use and for sale to other people seeking to be beekeepers. He encouraged others to take up the activity by offering on-the-job training in his own apiary and often donating the first hive to give a younger person a flying start. One of his apprentices, Alex Sarkodie, built up an apiary of 40 hives and eventually became the beekeeping extension officer of the Sunyani ITTU. Another, Mr E K Kwapong, a bank manager, continued as a beekeeper and a beekeeping promoter after transfer from Sunyani to Tamale and Accra.

Akwesi Addai’s contact with the TCC and SIS Engineering encouraged him to establish more small scale industries. He started with the purchase of presses and boiling tanks to produce palm oil from the fruits of his oil palm plantation. Later, he added equipment to convert some of his palm oil into laundry soap. From SIS Engineering he bought corn mills to grind corn and grating machines to produce gari, a popular food made from dried and partly fermented cassava. He established a bread bakery for his wife. Then realising that he was operating numerous mechanical machines which might need to go to Kumasi for repair he set up a blacksmithing and repair workshop to complete his self-sufficiency in Sunyani.

Every project started by Akwesi Addai provided employment and training opportunities for other members of his community. Others began to follow his lead and an Association of Small-Scale Industries of Brong-Ahafo Region was set up with Akwesi Addai as the first chairman. He also served as chairman of an Interest Group set up to prepare for the establishment of an Intermediate Technology Transfer Unit (ITTU) in Sunyani, and when the Sunyani ITTU was opened in December 1990 Akwesi Addai became a member of its Regional Advisory Board. By that time Akwesi Addai had been working with the TCC for ten years: a decade of intense entrepreneurial activity that demonstrated what local leadership could achieve in terms of economic development. Beekeeping for Akwesi Addai was not only an end in itself but also a means to a much broader involvement in service to his community.

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