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3.0 The exploitation of honey bees in The Gambia

"And from the fruit of date palm and the vine, ye get out strong drink and wholesome food: behold, in this is also for those who are wise", (67).

"And they lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and in men's habitations", (68).

"Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth) and follow the ways of they lord made smooth, their issues from within bodies drinks of varying colours, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a sign for those who give though", (69).

The Holy Quaran Sura 16 (An-Maw) Verses 67-69

In every part of The Gambia can be found natural habitat for the honeybee (Apis melifera). Bees are exploited in all parts of The Gambia for economic, social and cultural reasons. In general, nectar and pollen are abundant especially along riverbanks and its tributaries (fresh water bodies), within the mangrove forests and the agro-forestry systems. Locally, fresh water is the most important factor that determines the bee population in a particular place. According to Nikolaus Bieger (1998), the behaviour of the species Apis melifera, which is the species found in The Gambia, depends not only on its genetic characteristics but also external factors such as:

· Massive disturbance by humans, animals, menace of bush fire and other dangers, the bee colony absconds from their nests immediately or within a few days in order to find a safer place.

· Seasonal migration due to variation of forage - resources.

In The Gambia, bee colonies often migrate from the eastern part (drier part) towards the west during the dry season and go back eastward during the wet season.

3.1 Traditional methods of bees exploitation

3.1.1 Honey hunting

Honey hunting is widely practised all over The Gambia mostly by men who go and look for bee-colonies in their natural habitats (hollow trees, branches, termite hills). Because of the aggressive defence-behaviour of the bees, honey hunters kill the colony by smoking out the nests and burning the bees with fire. By burning the bees, the honey hunter avoids being stung. The use of fire by honey hunters is an important cause for bush fires.

3.1.2 Traditional beekeeping

Traditionally, the beekeepers in The Gambia use logs or grass (Baskets hives) to build their cylindrical hives (local kumbo). These can be found in all parts of the country. Grass hives are more common as useable logs are difficult to obtain in certain parts of the country. By comparison, log-hives are more durable and therefore more profitable than the grass-hives. Grass hives are only usable during the dry season.

Mostly, beekeepers site their hives at a safe distance from human settlements. This way, they can protect them from bush fires or theft. Honey theft is common practice in The Gambia. The beekeepers know very well that forage availability influences the behaviour of bees, therefore, they take account of this in siting their hives for ease of managing their colonies. Also important to them are flowering plants and season.

Protective cloth, smokers and other equipment are rarely used by traditional beekeepers due to the cost involved, even though they are locally produced in the country at the following prices:

Overall - D250

Smoker - D150

Boots q - D270 per pair

Gloves - D 70

Because traditional beekeeping is an off season activity practised by low income earners in the countryside, it does not attract much financial investment.

Due to the recognition of the important negative impact associated with traditional beekeeping (killing of bees, bush fires, deforestation) on the environment, the rural population is offered better opportunities by introducing new technologies and modern appropriate beekeeping methods by the Government through the Forestry Department and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Forestry Department has put the beekeeping section under the technical services unit. This section's mandate includes training of the rural population, awareness creation, information and technical support to individuals involved in beekeeping countrywide. Forestry department and other agencies have been providing training and material support to individuals and groups they work with. To date, the following NGOs and CBOs are involved with beekeeping in the country:

· The Action Aid

· The Christian Children fund (CCF)

· The National Beekeeper Association

· The Danida beekeepers Association

· The Gambia Co-operative beekeepers Association

· GAFNA - The Gambia Food and Nutrition Association

· The Gambia - German Forestry Projects

· Caritas

· Association of farmer Educators and Traders (AFET)

· Gambia Agricultural Rural Development Agency (GARDA)

· Catholic Relief Services (CRS)

· Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV)

· Gambia - German Forestry Projects

The actual number of persons trained and material supplied by these agencies could not be obtained due to lack of proper record keeping. The number of active beekeepers could also not be established due to time factor, information is not readily available from the office - records. Types of modern hives in use in The Gambia are:

· The Kenyan Top Bar (KTB) The objective of introducing the KTB was to provide the beekeepers with a more efficient hive that can be made from locally available materials and which has more advantages than the traditional hives. KTB costs three hundred dalasis (D300 = $30). This seems too costly to the small-scale farmer. The KTBs are usually supplied to individuals or groups by supporting agencies.

· The Dadant hive - This hive type could not be popularized in The Gambia because of its cost (D600 = $60) and the specialized method required for its management.

· Zambian Top Bar hive.

· Lantroth hive.

· Cylindric metal-sheet hive - This was recently introduced in the country by Nikolans Bieger for a trial period. It is so far the cheapest but its suitability to local conditions is yet to be known. (NBA 1999).

3.1.3 Socio-cultural aspects of bee exploitation

Until very recently in The Gambia, bee exploitation was an exclusively male oriented business. Thanks to the intervention of Government, NGOs and CBOs, women are now gradually being trained and entering into the business. Today, 25 women have been trained and all of them are active beekeepers (NBA 1999).

Honey and wax are important commodities in rural Gambia. Low cash income earners, especially in rural areas, use honey as sweetener instead of sugar. Newly born babies are given diluted honey, which is believed to make them more intelligent (group discussion, 1999). Honey is used for treatment of various diseases especially babies stomach pain, the antiseptic effect of honey is used to heal wounds (Baba Njie Bojang-Brikama 1999).

Honey is associated with pleasure. It is often said in the local language that he who has honey in his mouth always brings good news. Wax is widely used by cobblers as a waterproof in jujus and to smooth their needles.

3.1.4 Socio-economical aspects of bee exploitation

The production of honey and wax by honey hunters belongs to the supplementary traditional activities, such as game hunting, fishing, gathering and so on. These off-season traditional economic undertakings are complementary and are often combined.

Honey hunting in The Gambia is usually not for profit-maximization but a necessary risk-minimization for survival. This strategy of risk-minimization for survival has made the rural population specialize in honey hunting and beekeeping. For many small-scale farmers, the production of honey is the only source of off farm cash income. Therefore, honey hunting and beekeeping play significant roles in the rural household economy.

3.1.5 Annual honey harvest in The Gambia - 1996-1998

1996 40 tons

1997 48 tons

1998 60 tons

In The Gambia Honey is measured in volume 1 litre = 1.5 kg (source NBA 1999). The average producer price for honey is twenty Dalasis per kg (D20 = US $2).

3.1.6 Market and marketing of bee products

To date, many Gambians have not responded positively to the potential honey has in the country. The small scale structures of honey production have neither been able to satisfy the local market nor compete with the big and highly specialized producers in other parts of the world. A good part of the honey produced, is consumed by the producers themselves and surplus is sold locally.

Besides the problem of gathering and quality, the continuous supply of honey to the local market is a problem. This is because the honey flow is seasonal (dry season) and there are no appropriate storage facilities to bridge the seasonal gaps. Thus these numerous problems in beekeeping are important factors which hamper the further development of beekeeping in The Gambia.

3.1.7 Beeswax production

Wax production continues to be seen as a secondary objective by a majority of the Gambian beekeepers. Many are not even aware of the commercial value of beeswax and the selling point at NBA Headquarters.

Because most of the beekeepers have a limited number of hives to operate and their extraction method is not effective, the quantity and quality remains relatively low. A majority of them only produce enough wax to put in their new hive frames. Those who produce more than their domestic requirement sell to local markets.

The survey of 50 beekeepers revealed that 35 of them (70%) produced between 5-10 kg wax, 8 of them (16%) produced between 10-20 kg wax, 5 (10%) produced between 20-25 kg wax and only 2 (4%) produced above 25 kg wax.

The marketing of beeswax remains localized and uncoordinated. According to NBA, 80% of the wax produced in the country is traded locally within the production site, 15% is sold at the weekly markets ("Lumo") across the country, 3% of the total annual wax produced in the country is sold at the NBA and the remaining 2% could not be accounted for (NBA 1998). Beeswax could not meet the local demand. The price for a kilogram ranges between fifteen Dalasis (D15) and forty-five Dalasis (D45) depending on the location (NBA 1999).

In The Gambia at present, only one person (Paul, from Sukuta) specializes in wax utilization for making shoe-polish and production of various medicines that are sold locally. According to him, his home industry is constrained by both the quality and quantity of wax available.

3.2 In-country information on food plants in The Gambia

From the Garden of Eden to the Wild, mankind has been plucking ripe fruits from trees, eating succulent roots/tubers, fresh nuts, seeds and tender leaves as a source of food. Wild plants in the forest are a very important source of food security for many Gambians, especially those living in the countryside.

Due to the limited survey area, time factor, financial constraints, lack of well-documented material on this subject, only the most important and widely known food plants are mentioned. An additional list of less widely known but important plant species is also presented.

1. Adansonia Digitata - Sito(m) Bin(w) Boki(f) Bubak(j)

Family: Bombaceae

Food uses: Young fresh leaves are cooked as a vegetable. Dry leaves are pounded into a powder which is used in soup and also mixed with sorghum, leaves are also used in sauce preparation. The fruit is either eaten raw, soaked in water and taken as an appetizer used for ice making.

2. Anacardium Occidentale - Kasuowo(m) Kassu(w) Bukagu(j)

Family: Anacordiaceae

Food uses: The cashewnut is roasted and the kernel is extracted and eaten. The ripe apple (fruit) is eaten raw or juice is extracted for preparation of beverages and liquor. The seeds are roasted and eaten also cooked as soup. The fruits and nuts are important commodities for the local market.

3. Annona Senegalensis - Sunkungo(m) Digor(w)Butor(j) Dokami(f)

Family: Annoneceae

Food uses: The ripe fruit is eaten raw.

4. Balamites aegyptiaca - Sumpo(m)(w)

Family: Balanitaceae

Food uses: The ripe fruit is eaten raw or dried and eaten. The nut is roasted, and kernel extracted and eaten. The fruit pulp is used as a beverage.

5. Bombax costatum - Bunkungo(m) Kattupa(w) Jomi(f) Bunabu(j)

Family: Bombacaceae

Food uses: The young leaves are dried and pounded, then used with coos. Also the young flower is dried and pounded, then used with coos.

6. Borassus Aethiopium - Sibo(m) Sibi(w) Dubbe(f) Dul(j)

Family: Palmae

Food uses: The young fresh shoots / roots are eaten raw or cooked. The juice in the immature seed is consumed, the young fresh terminal bud is eaten raw. The fruit pulp is eaten raw or roasted.

7. Ceiba Pentandra - Bantango(m) Benteng(w) Bategehi(f) Busana(j)

Family: Bombacaceae

Food uses: The young leaves are cooked and used as soup, or dried and pounded and used with coos.

12. Detarium Senegalensis - Tallo(m) Detah(w) Boto(f) Bungungut(j)

Family: Caesalpiniaceae

Food uses: The fresh ripe fruit is eaten raw.

13. Detarium Mierocarpum - Wonko(m) Wanta(w) Mobdey(f) Mounhayona(j)

Family: Caesalpmiaceae

Food uses: The fresh ripe fruit is eaten raw.

14. Dialium Guineanses - Kosito(m) Solomsolom(w) Mako(f) Butara(j)

Family: Caesalpinaceae

Food uses: The mature ripe fruits are eaten raw. The young fresh leaves are chewed.

15. Elaeis Guineensis - Tego(m) Tir(w) Tuguhi(f) Bunak(j)

Family: Palmaceae

Food uses: The seeds are eaten raw. Palm Oil is produced from the seeds. Oil is extracted from the seed (Palm Kernel Oil). Palm wine is tapped from the base of the fruit or terminal bud.

16. Ficus Gnaphalocarpa - Sotokoyo(m) Bot(w) Jiben-yadeh(f) Bupundum(j)

Family: Moraceae

Food uses: The ripe fruits are eaten raw or cooked in soup.

17. Moringa Oleifera - Nedebayo(m,w) Nebeday(f)

Family: Moringaceae

Food uses: Though an exotic species, Moringa is widely planted in many forest types in the Gambia. The leaves are cooked for soup. The young leaves and fruit are prepared as vegetable.

18. Parinari Excelsa - Mampato(m) Mampata(w) Mopatade(f) Busongay(j)

Family: Rosaceae

Food uses: The fresh fruit when ripe is eaten raw or pounded and cooked as porridge.

19. Parinari Macrophylia - Tamba(m)Nyau(w) Naudi(f) Bei(j)

Family: Roaceae

Food uses: The fresh ripe fruit is eaten raw. The nut in the seed is eaten raw.

20. Parkia Biglobosa - Neto(m) Nette(w) Netteh(f) Boutifa(j)

Family: Mimosaceae

Food uses: The ripe fruit is processed into confectionery - The dried pounded fruit is used as flour. The pulp when soaked in water, and salt or sugar added gives a nice drink.

21. Sclerocarya Birrfa - Kuntang jawo(m) Birr(w) Beri(f) Findibaga(j)

Family: Anacardiaceae

Food uses: The fruit when ripe is eaten fresh. Can intoxicate when eaten in larger amounts.

22. Sopondias Mombin - Ninkongo(m) Ninkon(w) Chaleh(f) Bulila(j)

Family: Anacordiaceae

Food uses: Ripe fresh fruits are eaten raw.

23. Tamarindus Indica - Timbungo(m) Dakhar(w) Dabe(f) Budahar(j)

Food uses: The fruit pulp is soaked in water and squeezed to make a drink. The pulp is added to soup. It is of high commercial value.

24. Ziziphus Mauritiana - Tomborongo(m) Sedem(w) Dobi(f) Busedem(j)

Family: Rhamnaceae

Food uses: Fruits are eaten fresh or dried.

NB The source of information in this section is obtained from the same group discussion (GD) at the same time as that of the medicinal plants. Therefore they are not indicated to avoid repetition.

3.2.1 Less widely known food plants in The Gambia

1. Family - Amaranthaceae, species - Philioxeras rermialavis - Singindo(m)

2. Family - Anacordiaceae, Bembo(m) L F

3. Family - Anacardiaceae, species - Lannea Microearpa F

4. Family - Anacardiaceae, species Pseudospondias Mccroarpa - Mendiko(m) F

5. Family - Annonaceae, species -Hexalobus monopetalous - (some(m) F

6. Family - Asclepiadaceae, species - Leptadenia hastata - sora(m) L shoot

7. Family - Boraginaceae, species - Cordia senegalensis - Tamboran(m) Fruits

8. Family - Caesalpinaceae, species - Cassia occidentalis - (Kassala(m) seeds, species - Cassia tora - Jambanduro (m) L

9. Family - Capparidaceae, species - Crataera religiosa L

10. Family - Celastraceae, species - Maytenus senegalensis F,FL

11. Family - Combretaceae, species - combretum tomentosum (kuboo (m) FR

12. Family - Combrelaceae, species - Guierea senegalensis - kunye(m) L

13. Family - Cacarbitaceae, species - cacamis melo - F

14. Family - Euphorbiaceae, species - Antidesnia venosum F

15. Family - Fabaceae, species - Taphrosia platycarpa F

16. Family - Hypericaceae, species - Psorospermum senegalensis L

17. Family - Loganiaceae, species - strychnos spinosa L

18. Family - Moraceae, species - Treculia africana F S

19. Family - Palmae, species - phoenix reclinata: (Palmwine) F

20. Family - Rutaceae, species - Fagara zanthoxyloides L

21. Family - Sapindaceae, species - Aphania senegalensis F

22. Family - Sapindaceae, species - Paulinnia pinnata L

23. Family - Simaroubiaceae, species -Hannoha undutlata F

24. Family - Verbenaceae, species - Lippia chevalieri L stem

Sources: (from the listed literatures Reviewed)

F = Fruits, FL = Flowers, L = Leaves, S = Seeds

3.3 In-country information on bushmeat

Bushmeat has become a very important source of protein in our diet. In The Gambia, the source of bushmeat could be categorized in four groups: terrestrial, primates, avi-fauna and marine. The most important and commonly eaten ones are listed below:



· Warthog/Bushpig

· Antelopes (sitatunga, duikers, guzelles, bush buck, water buck)

· Equana lizard

· Canecutter rat, procupire, Jackal


· Red patas monkey

Avi - Fauna (Birds)

· Pigeons

· Marabout Stalk

· Geese/ducks

· Bustards

· Bush fowl/francolim

· Guinea fowl

· Water fowl

· Horn bills (black + White and yellow-billed)

· Rupian vultures


· Dolphin

· Manatees

· Crocodiles

· Monitor Lizard

Source: Department of Park and Wild Life Management ( Sept. 1999)

Source: (Kassama L, Parks and Wild Life Department Abuko - 1999)

3.4 Common medicinal plants in The Gambia

"Every plant grown on the surface of the Earth has a medical property/use" (discussion groups). With this cultural belief, it is impossible to provide a complete list. Therefore, the choice of species selected from each family is generally based on the amount and the scale of importance of information available, such as distribution/occurrence and usage. Some other species were included if they showed special interest.

3.4.1 Medicinal uses


In this family only five out of 24 genera mentioned in the flora of West Tropical Africa are identified in the Gambia. These are: Uraria cheistophohis, xylopias, Hexalobas and Annona. Out of these five genera only two species are indigenous in the Gambia which are Uraria chame and Annona Senegalensis. They are common under shrubs and found mainly in the Western Division. The others are exotic (G M Hallam 1979).

Medicinal use of Annona Senegalensis: The juice is used for treating:- Bad stomach pain, diarrhoea, and dysentery. The rope like miner bark is tied around the waist to prevent diarrhoea. The leaves are soaked in water and used to wash the face to cure eye-pain. (G.D 1, 3, 4; Sept. 1999).


In this family, only the species Maringa oleifera is identified in the country. It is an exotic species found mainly in compounds and agro-forestry systems.

Medicinal uses: Leaves boiled in water and drunk for treatment of headaches and colds. Juice squeezed from the leaf and dropped in the ear for treatment of earache. (G D 1, 2, 3, 4;Sept. 1999)


In this family, only two genera are identified in the Gambia these are securidaca and polygala. Here only securidaca longiped - unclata species is well-known and used locally.


Out of 3 genera identified here (Ochna, lophira, sauragesia) the species, lophira lauceolata is commonly known for its medicinal uses.


This family is well known and well represented by many species. genera of Combretum, Guiera and Terminalia are common and widely distributed in the country.


In this family only two genera are identified in the Gambia. The species Harungana maduscariensis seems not to be very common and not well known unlike the species Psorospermum copymbiterum, which is very well-known especially for its medicinal uses:


Out of the 17 genera of this family mentioned in the "flora of west Tropical Africa", five are identified in The Gambia: Dombeya, Melachia Waltheria Sterculia and Cola. Of these five, only three are widely known for their medicinal uses.


All the three genera mentioned in The Flora of west Tropical Africa are found in The Gambia. These are Adansonia, Bombax and Ceiba


This is one of the most diverse families mentioned in The flora of west tropical Africa with 65 genera identified. Only 14 are identified in The Gambia. Only 3 species are widely known for their medicinal uses.


The flora of Tropical west Africa mentioned 58 genera in this family. In the Gambia, 16 are identified but only 7 species are widely known for their medicinal uses.


In this family, 24 genera are noted by The Flora of Tropical Africa, 13 of them are identified in The Gambia - and 7 species are widely known for their medicinal uses.


'The flora of west Tropical Africa' listed 80 genera of this family. Thirty genera are identified in the Gambia. Many of these genera are annual herbs. Only 4 species are widely known and used for their medicinal uses.


'The flora of west Tropical Africa' noted 12 genera of this family with only three genera identified in The Gambia - Cholorophora, Antiatis and Ficus, four species in this family are widely known for their medicinal uses.


Twelve genera in this family are noted in 'The Flora of west Tropical Africa'. Only one icacina is identified in The Gambia.


Nine genera of this family are noted in "The Flora of west tropical Africa," of which only one is identified in The Gambia.


Eleven genera of this family is noted in "The Flora of West Tropical Africa". Out of these, only five genera are identified in The Gambia, of this five only two are widely known for their medicinal uses.


Twelve genera of this family are noted in The Flora of west tropical Africa! Four of these are identified in the Gambia and only one species is known widely for its medicinal uses.


Seven out of the 14 genera in this family mentioned in The Flora of west Tropical Africa are identified in The Gambia. Five species of these are widely known for their medicinal uses.


In this family, six genera are mentioned in the flora of tropical west Africa. Only three are identified in the Gambia and only one is widely known for its medicinal uses.


Thirty seven genera in this family are noted by The Flora of west Tropical Africa. Only eight genera are identified in The Gambia and only three are widely known for their medicinal uses.


Thirty three genera of this family is mentioned in The Flora of west tropical Africa. Only five are identified in the Gambia and only one is widely known for its medicinal uses in the Gambia.


Ninety-one genera of this family are mentioned in The Flora of west tropical Africa. Only six genera are identified in the Gambia, of which four species are widely known for their medicinal uses.


Eighty-four genera of this family is mentioned in The Flora of west Tropical Africa. Twenty are identified in The Gambia. Most of the species are annuals and only two are widely known for their medicinal uses.


Eight genera of this family are mentioned in The Flora of west Tropical Africa. 5% of them are identified in The Gambia. Only 2 species are widely known for their medicinal uses.


Six genera in this family are mentioned in The Flora of west Tropical Africa but only three are identified in The Gambia and two are known widely for their medicinal uses.


Five genera of this family are mentioned in The Flora of west Tropical Africa of which only one species is identified in The Gambia.


Ten genera of this family are noted in The Flora of West Tropical Africa. Out of these, only four are identified in the Gambia, and of which two are widely known for their medicinal uses.


Twenty one genera of this family are mentioned in The Flora of West Tropical Africa. Only one is identified in The Gambia. These are annual herbs and most of them are not known for any medicinal use.


Four genera of this family are mentioned in The Flora of West Tropical Africa. Only two are identified in The Gambia and one is widely known for its medicinal uses.

Some plants that are locally known for their medicinal uses





1. Acanthacene

2. Annonaceae

3. "

4. "

5. Apoaynaceae

6. "

7. "

8. "

9. "

10 Asclepiadaecae

11. "



14. "

15. Capparidaceae

16. "


18. "

19. Cochlospermaceae


21. "

22. "


24. "




28. "





Asystasia gangetica

Annona glabra

Hexalobus Monopetalcus

Uvaria Chamae

Baissea Multiflora

Holarrhena horibunda

Ranvoltia vomitoria

Strophanthus Sarmentosus

Theretia nerifolia

Calotropis pracera

Leptadenia hastota

Pergularia daemia

Stereospermam Kunthianam

Cardia Senegalensis

Capparis tomentasa

Ritchea Capparoides

Maytenus Senegalensis

Salaci Senegalensis

Salacia Senegalensis

Cochlospermum tinctorium

Anogeissus leiocarpus

Combretum glutinosum

Combretum tomentosum

Tetracera alnifolia

Tetracera potatoria

Psoropermum senegalensis

Icacina senegalensis

Hoslundia opposita

Hyptis suareolens

Strychnos spinosa

Tapinanthus bangwensis

Sida sp

Tamarix senegalensis


Fruits & Leaves

Bark leaves Roots

Bark & leaves

Whole plant


Bark, leaves & Roots

Whole plant


Bark & Sap


Leaves & Sap

Bark, leaves & Roof


Leaves & Roots


Bark leaves

Whole Plant


Bark, leaves

& Roots




Leaves & Roots




Leaves & Roots



Fruits Shoots

Snake bite

Fever coughs


Stomach-ache Bronchitis, fever






Venereal Diseases





Skin intector

Sleeping sickness


Malaria stomach-ache

Malaria stomach-ache

Diarrhoea cold

Reduce hypertension



Cough and Leprosy


Eye infection




Snake bite



The above mentioned species are not as widely known and used as medicinal plants.

The use of these plants as medicine is localized. They are used by only a certain tribe or ethnic group within a locality, unlike the others earlier mentioned which are used by many tribes across the country. However, they are worth mentioning to provide the opportunity for more follow-up in subsequent work of this nature.

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