Archive for July, 2018

Wild Honey – the bees


What is wild honey, how is it collected, who collects it, what is special about it? All these questions were in my mind when a friend with family in Ratnikiri talked about having it when visiting family in the province recently. I was keen to find out more, and particularly to try it.

Then, up popped an advert on facebook from self-described health food restaurant, Farm to Table, together with NGO Non-Timber Forest Products, for a wild honey talk and tasting session on Saturday afternoon, 21 July 2018. I  moved from clicking on interested in the facebook events to paying my $12 on the ticket website. Just as well I did as the event sold out.

After a welcome from Brittany, the owner of Farm to Table, there was a talk from the country Coordinator of the NGO, Mr Keo Tai. He introduced his NGO and then NatureWild, a social enterprise which promotes enterprises in Cambodia working to promote the sustainable management of Cambodia’s forests, including the promotion of Khmum Prey, the wild honey.

Mr Tai talked about the four different bees in Cambodia, in particular the big bee, Apis Dorsata pictured in the book he is pointing to.  He told us that there are over 600 harvesters of honey, mostly from indigenous communities of Cambodia and that the bees are mostly in the Koh Kong area of Cambodia, on the coast near the border with Thailand, living in the Mangrove swamps but they move to the north east of Cambodia in the dry season, March to May. He talked about the different types of bees and I learnt that the queen can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day for five year, one million eggs! Before the harvesters used a spray to get to the honey but this killed drones and sometimes the queen so they are only allowed to use smoke as part of this scheme. Harvesters take only 80% of the honey so that there is something there to feed the larvae and that within 20 days the nest can be visited for honey again, though that can only happen three times in  a year.

He then went on to talk about the harvesting process. The harvesters take the honeycomb from the forest to the village where it is tested for purity before being passed on to NatureWild who work to take the water content down to around 20%, fitting in with the internationally recognised standard. Some do this through heat in order to do it quicker but that damages the enzymes meaning the quality is reduced and it again does not meet the standards. He said that many other honey producers get it from the honeycomb by squeezing it but that allows impurities into it like larvae and pollen. They get the honey by cutting the two ends off and leaving it to drain for a few hours, which takes longer but results in better honey.

In response to questions, Mr Tai said that 5% of the income goes into funding forestry protection. The elephant in the room being the links, said to go to the top of the government, that have seen a lot of the forest removed and shipped to Vietnam to provide fortunes to the people behind it as well as the phenomenal amount of sand taken from the mangrove swamps in Koh Kong to help Singapour expand its boundaries but, at the same time, damage the Mangrove Swamps in Koh Kong.  I was quite amazed to hear that one tree can have 100 nests on for these bees, so long as they are 1 metre apart, whereas other bees in Cambodia have to have 100 metres between nests. The honey in Cambodia is mostly used for medicine when people have digestive problem or a wound to help repair it. He was asked if it is true that a metal spoon should not be used with honey, but it should be wood. He explained that the vessels used by the organisation are stainless steel as fit in with the international regulations. The biggest threats to bees in Cambodia are deforestation and pesticides. The people in the forests have been running these businesses collecting honey for generations, it is the involvement of the enterprise which has resulted in them doing it in more of a sustainable way. There are 21 groups collecting the honey in the country producing 10 tonnes a year compared with a demand for honey in Cambodia 10 years ago was put at 500 tonnes!

Koh Anloung Chen Island Hike


Up early on Sunday morning and a quick trip on the back of a motto to Independence Monument to meet up with the organisers of the hike and the fellow walkers. I’d found out about it through the facebook group Phnom Penh Hike which promised “Sunday on a beautiful hike, this time to Anloung Chen Island. This little island is an oasis in the Bassac River.” We loaded up the coach and set off for the island.

Anloung Chen Island

Little over an hour later we stopped and walked down to a ferry. While waiting for it to come back across the water I watched a man in the river removing poles and other things from it.

The ferry arriving and then us arriving on the other side of the river. We walked to a temple, which was like pretty much every other temple and then started walking alongside the river. My fellow walkers, from what I could work out were mainly made up of people working for NGOs and International agencies like WHO, or were travelers. We were told it also informally known as Longan Island as the fruit is grown all over it.

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Together with a stop for fruit near the end of the walk, this was most welcome as I had gone without breakfast which was not the cleverest thing to do before walking over 7 kilometres.

On the way to what seemed like the top of the island we passed a giant earth moving machine seemingly gouging a small channel in the dirt road. This didn’t make much sense until on the way back we came across people laying a new concrete road.

Elections are to take place at the end of the month, though with the leading opposition part banned and its leader jailed there seems little point, yet there were people from the governing part out electioneering.  As a politician I knew exactly what they were up to.

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After stopping at the temple for some fruit we walked back to the ferry passing the commune’s boat for the races at Water Festival in November. It can hold up to 30 people in it with someone dancing at the front, we were told.

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After a short walk we were back at the ferry and the entertainment of will they fall off or even get their feet wet as two people tried to get their motos off the ferry.

Back across the river and, whatever the man in the water had been doing it was worth it, as we were able to walk across onto decking rather than clambering up as we’d had to the previous three times. Back on the coach passed a mass rally of another party, with a sun and moon logo, and back to Phnom Penh for a very welcome lunch.

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