SELF-SUFFICIENT - Portland rehab centre invests in farming, beekeeping - EntornoInteligente / Jamaica Gleaner / Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer PROSPECT, Portland:

THE PORTLAND Rehabilitation Management Centre (PRMC), located in Prospect in Port Antonio, offers residential and other social and rehabilitative services to its clients.

The objective is to prepare the residents for life in the wider society upon their departure from the centre, which has the capacity to house a limited number of male and female clients.

Operated by Great Huts, an Afrocentric retreat resort located in Boston Bay in Portland, and sponsored by the British High Commission, which funds the reintegration programme, the PRMC also strives to be self-sufficient by way of poultry rearing and the cultivation of food plants. Now, the centre has added beekeeping to its efforts.

The first in a series of beekeeping training sessions, conducted by Don Drummond of Honeycomb Industries, located in St Catherine, was held on Sunday, March 6, at the centre.

The training is funded by the British High Commission through the Ministry of National Security as some people who were deported and had nowhere to go are housed at the shelter.

“It’s not the whole group sitting in the training that was selected. We have selected two persons who … are going to claim this project, work on it, and it’s going to benefit them,” Lloyda McIntyre, care manager at the centre, said. “It’s a project that will be income generating for the shelter and for the clients themselves.”

First timers

None of the participants has ever had beekeeping training, and the first issue that was addressed was the fear of bees. Drummond said being bitten by bees, if you are a beekeeper, is inevitable, and he even gave a lesson on the correct way to remove stings. Using a personal anecdote of his own fear of bees before he entered the beekeeping industry, Drummond assured the participants that they too could conquer such a fear.

The training is to last for five sessions, and on Sunday, Drummond also discussed with the participants how bees function and operate in their own social environment; how they procreate; their life cycles; and how honey, pollen, and wax are produced. This segment saw a lively discussion between the trainer and participants.

The practical component on Sunday consisted of a demon-stration of how foundation combs are affixed to foundation frames before the frames are placed into the boxes where production will take place. Participants were then allowed to place the sealed foundation frames into a box. Foundation combs are membranes on which honeycombs are built.

Prior to the theoretical training, an apiary consisting of two boxes of bees was set up under a tree. After the classroom segment, participants were shown how to remove the frames laden with honeycombs from the boxes, which is an important element in beekeeping.

“When I am through with this training, they should be functional. To an accomplished beekeeper, you are looking at two to three years of work, so this was just an introduction,” Drummond told Rural Xpress . He said beekeeping is hard work, but the key to success is good management. “It doesn’t matter how good the environment is, if the management is poor, you are back to square one,” Drummond said.

The onus then is on the shoulders of the two clients who are responsible for the apiary. “What I can do is to supervise properly, motivate the clients to really participate, ensure that it becomes part of their life … . We have two clients who are going to be responsible. It’s going to be their baby, it should be their baby, and I would just motivate them to ensure that the baby which is born today, they are going to grow that baby, and ensure that the baby matures and reaches adulthood,” McIntyre said.

But even with good management, the biggest challenge to the project, Drummond said, is limited space for expansion and the possible invasion of the hives by certain insects. He said it was the first time he had been engaged to do training at such an institution, and he was “interested to see how it pans out”.

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