Ghana’s Beekeepers: James Moxon

James Moxon (1920-1999) bore the unparalleled distinction of being the only white man to be enstooled as a village chief in Ghana. As Nana Kofi Obonyaa, Ankobea of Aburi, Chief of Aburi, he held traditional sway over part of the Akuapem tribe that inhabited the cool hilltops north of the capital, Accra. When the Technology Consultancy Centre (TCC) of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) invited all interested people to attend the First National Workshop on Beekeeping in Kumasi in January 1981, James Moxon saw an opportunity to initiate a productive enterprise that would provide nourishment for the children and employment and income for adults under his care.

The Akuapem tribe was distinguished in several ways. They were the first tribe to have their language written down by European missionaries in the nineteenth century. As a result of the early publication of vernacular Bibles, the Akuapem dialect became regarded as the most literary form of the Akan language, a role for which it was well suited by its polite mode of expression. Then it was a son of Akuapem, Tetteh Quarshie, who is reputed to have brought cocoa to Ghana from the island of Fernando Po, where he had been employed on a cocoa plantation by the Portuguese. When cocoa farms spread rapidly across southern Gold Coast in the first few decades of the twentieth century, it was Akuapem entrepreneur farmers who spearheaded the movement and accumulated a large part of the new-found wealth.

Aburi, with its benign climate, was chosen by the British colonial administration as the location of the National Botanical Gardens which in the early 1970s was still a well-tended tourist attraction with a fully functioning guest house. It was to this green and pleasant land with its relatively affluent community that James Moxon had been invited to be chief on the eve of Ghana’s independence in 1957. It is likely that he was expected to continue to benefit the people in the way he had already done in the role of a popular District Commissioner in the British colonial administration.

Janes Moxon was the chief of a community of entrepreneurial people and he was himself an entrepreneur of distinction, having established businesses in Accra that included a bookshop, a publishing house and a restaurant. In attending the First National Workshop on Beekeeping he saw an opportunity to establish yet another enterprise to benefit his people. In spite of sustaining a few beestings, as did everyone who attended that seminal event, within a few years James Moxon’s Akuapem Honey had become an established local brand in Ghana, helped no doubt by the proximity of his apiaries to Ghana’s largest city, Accra.

James Moxon was famous in many ways, as a distinguished author, international negotiator and entrepreneur. He achieved the distinction of having a film made of his exploits as a beekeeper in Ghana and in England. The TCC was honoured by his attendance at the First National Workshop on Beekeeping and gratified by all he did to promote beekeeping thereafter. Not only in Aburi, but throughout the widespread community of beekeepers in Ghana, his memory is honoured as a chief and pioneer.

Ghana’s Beekeepers: James Moxon