The Life of a Beekeeper: Shafiq’s Farm, Fiji
One of my all-time favourite activities is to visit beekeepers in other countries. I love nothing more than spending time basking in their wisdom, meeting their bees, and learning new ways and methods of beekeeping. I love their farms and their workspaces. I fawn over the materials their hives are made of. I love seeing how differently they do things, what they eat for lunch, what their local markets are like, and what they wear when they tend their hives. I love being taught about the different plants the bees are pollinating and thinking about how these plants affect the honey produced (local honey signatures are another favourite obsession). The list goes on.
Asia is full of life and colour, and my recent trip to Fiji was even more spectacular than I imagined. The people in Fiji were completely delightful – this trip, I was travelling with my three kids and they too were spoilt everywhere they went. I will always remember the lovely sound of “Bula!” (or “hello”) accompanied by a friendly wave, the endless lush green spanning the countryside, and the delicious local cuisine. But it was time spent on a farm in the area of Fiji that stole my heart.
Local farmer and beekeeper Shafiq welcomed me onto his property where he has 600 beehives! Most of the varieties are European Honeybee, and they live happy and plentiful lives due to the warm weather and fertile environment, with flowers to feed on all year round. One of the interesting things I learnt from my time in Fiji is that honey is considered more of a medicinal product than a condiment; however, this doesn’t mean it is unpopular, and Sherveq himself has processed a whopping 14 tonnes of honey from his hives for sale at the local markets, which he sells for FJ$20 per kilo. He also makes everything on his property himself from scrap wood – such an inspiringly resourceful fellow! His hard-working quality is even more admirable when you (me) try to follow him around the farm for a day; it’s very hot and humid in Fiji, which makes working on the land seriously hard yakka! I was a wreck! Not to mention the aggressive nature of the bees – I got stung over 12 times just trying to get some photos! This calls for keepers to be fully decked out in their protective clothing, and with cane toads aplenty, there is a never a dull moment.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Shafiq for your incredible hospitality. I learnt so much from spending time with you, and I hope to take some of your resourcefulness and beautiful cheer to my beekeeping practice in Melbourne, Love Ben x