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  • Writer's pictureKenny Mann

A BEE-EAUTIFUL STORY!


PICTURE THIS: My partner Uli and I are in an uber traveling from Nairobi (Kenya) to the plains of Kitengela, where my brother lives, on the edge of the Nairobi National Game Park. I always sit in front with uber drivers, partly because I get car sick and partly because they always have such interesting stories to tell. So, it wasn't long before I discovered that our driver, Henry, was a professional beekeeper. In that instant, I knew that I had to introduce beekeeping to the Maasai community of Kitengela, which has lost most of its livestock because of ongoing drought. I hired Henry on the spot to conduct our first training sessions for Acacia Moyo - Where Tradition Meets Technology - which was founded to help this community to develop sustainable sources of income.



Kenny, co-founder of Acacia Moyo, with her partner Uli.
Uli (left) and myself, Kenny, (right), in Kenya

NOW PICTURE THIS: We arrive at my brother's house, which is utterly chaotic. There is literally not enough room to put my cell phone down between African artefacts, books, magazines, papers, stuff, tools, parts of engines, crystals, cables, chargers, and heaven knows what else. While I am chatting to my dear brother, Uli is prowling around, looking at all the bound National Geographic magazines that my brother inherited from our mother, which lie all higgledy-piggledy on a bookshelf.


Now where might that book bee?
Finding a bee book in a haystack!

After dinner, and in the pitch black of the equatorial night, Uli and I walk back down the dirt road to the cottage where we are staying. We can hear lions roaring nearby and something rustles in a bush. We hurry along. Once inside, Uli switches on the one light bulb and, with a quirky smile, hands me something from behind his back.


NOW PICTURE THIS!!! It is a handbook on beekeeping that my father, Dr. Igor Mann, wrote in 1953 for the Kenya Veterinary Services! It is illustrated by my mother, Erica Mann. The title is BEES ARE WEALTH or, in Kisuaheli, NYUKI NI MALI. And Uli found it squeezed and suffering and squashed and sneezing between two bound volumes of National Geographic - 1946 and 1947, I believe.



Book cover BEES ARE WEALTH
Beekeping handbook by my father, Dr. Igor Mann, illustrated by my other, Erica Mann. 1953.

My father was not a beekeeper. But his handbook has become a treasured heirloom, not just for me but as a useful guidebook for this Maasai community. It serves as a constant reminder of the enduring legacy and the profound impact that a single individual's dedication can have on a community and the environment.


NOW HEAR THIS! Uli knew nothing at all about my father or this book - he had not been deliberately searching for it, and I myself had completely forgotten all about it since I was only seven years old when it was published. And who cared about bees then, anyway? We took them for granted, right?



The most popular honey bee is Apis Mellifera
East African bee


SO WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? I loaned the book to Henry and only a few weeks later, he conducted our very first beekeeping training session for twenty-three Maasai men and six women.

You can see details of that event at acaciamoyo.org/projects


SO WHAT DO YOU THINK? Isn't it just too quirky and weird that these two bee incidents happened to me on the same day, quite by chance?


OR WAS IT CHANCE? That's up to you to decide.


The thing is, back in the 1950s and for several decades after, Papa's little handbook became a valuable resource for beekeepers across the country. Little did he know that his legacy would reach so far beyond its publication date and that this own daughter would unknowingly take up the baton! Hey Pa, hope you're watching...


JUST FOR FUN


Watch BLACK MIRROR on Netflix - it's all about robot drone bees....


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