Apiculture gains momentum in Rwanda

By Hudson Kuteesa

Beekeeping (apiculture) is a potential non-farm activity that can support beneficial conservation and sustainable exploitation of forest resources. This has a positive feedback to improvement of livelihoods for rural dwellers and peri-urban communities, where these conservation efforts are being undertaken.  Honey products are important as food and are rich in vitamins, proteins and calories. However, though Rwanda has abundant forest resources and a friendly environment for apiculture, these opportunities have not been sufficiently exploited for production of honey and other bee products. However, in the 7 year government program, apiculture has experienced a considerable upswing reflected in increase in production from the 2,921 tons of honey produced in 2010 to 4,500 MT(Metric Tonnes) in the year 2016. The Rwanda Agriculture Board boasts about the different programs done to boost apiculture.

Establishment of a queen bee rearing protocol for Rwanda and training of trainers in queen breeding

a) Queen rearing by grafting:

Under this, queens will be raised through both natural fertilization, and also by instrumental insemination. The requirements for successful queen rearing will include:

i) a good breeder queen to graft larva from.

ii) Good light, good eyesight or appropriate magnification.

iii) Grafting larva of the proper age (1-24 hrs old).

iv) Queen rearing equipment (grafting tool, cell cups, cell bars and frame) made or bought.

The detailed protocol to be used is:

Day 1 - Give breeder hive an empty dark brood comb to lay eggs in.

Day 4 - Transfer (graft) larva into artificial queen cell cups, from the breeder comb. Place the frame into a strong colony (cell builder) made queenless the day before.

Day 14 - Remove completed cells from cell builder. Leave one cell behind to replace the queen. Keep queen cells warm (80-94oF) until they are placed in queenless hives (mating nuclei).

Day 22 - Virgin queens are ready to mate. They require nice weather (69oF), and an abundance of drones to mate with.

Day 27 - If queens mate without weather delay, they should now be laying eggs.

Time your activities so that warm temperatures and drones are available when the queens are ready to mate. The timetable for the entire process is detailed in the figure across:

b). Distribution of queen breeding and other beekeeping equipment to farmers
Equipment for queen rearing and other equipment such as bee suits, gloves, smokers, honey extractors, bees wax processing machines and maturators were provided to advanced beekeepers cooperatives from Rusizi, Nyamasheke, Nyamagabe, Huye, Gatsibo. Nyagatare, Musanze, Burera and Rubavu in order to disseminate techniques of raising queens for honey production.

c). Training of stakeholders on queen breeding on FFS

Practical training of master beekeepers on queen breeding were organized in different unions from Rusizi, Nyamasheke, Nyamagabe, Huye, Gatsibo. Nyagatare, Musanze, Burera and Rubavu to use queen rearing equipment to produce high value queens and royal jelly.

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Enhancing honey productivity through development bees’ colonies and dissemination of beekeeping technologies

The objective of the program is to increase strong bees’ colonies for honey production and improve beekeeping, hive product processing practices to maximize yields, ensure quality and enhance incomes of producers and processors. 100 Beekeepers from Ucanya (Nyagatare Beekeeping Union), COPROMI fron Gatsibo, COPROMA from Ngoma, KOPAKI from Kirehe, UNICOPAV (Union from Burera and Musanze), UNICOAPIGI ( Union from Rubavu and Rutsiro), KOPABUHU from Huye and Rusizi union were trained on colony splitting from January to February 2017.

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Caption:Cooperatives from Karongi and Nyamagabe receive equipment

The Apiexpo 2016 was organized from 21 to 26th September 2016 at Camp Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village by RAB, NAEB and other stakeholders in beekeeping. More than 300 exhibitors from African, Asian and European countries exhibited beekeeping equipment, honey and other bee products.

Conferences at Akagera hall  for oral and posters presentation were also organized. The Third General Assembly of the African Apiculture Platform (AAP) on Honey Production, Bee Health and Pollination Services, was held also in the same period from 21st-23rd September 2016 at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village, Kigali, Rwanda. The theme of the General Assembly was “Promoting Intra and Inter Regional Trade of Honey and Other Beehive Products in Africa”. This theme is well aligned to the Malabo Declaration Agricultural Transformation Agenda which aims to triple intra-African trade as a means to address food insecurity and youth unemployment, and to increase incomes and economic growth.

The event was successful because people from Rwanda had a chance to share best practices and   experience with foreigners concerning bee products and api-business. The 3rd General Assembly of the AAP was held as a joint event with ApiExpo Africa 2016, a private sector led initiative under ApiTrade Africa which was meeting under the theme “Driving Socio-Economic Transformation in Africa: the Role of Commercial Beekeeping”. MINAGRI hosted both events at the same venue providing an opportunity for cross-interaction and resulting in greater dialogue between state and non-state actors.

Other activities were done in collaboration with other institutions. The activities include putting in place the beekeeping law and regulations, beekeeping standards and conducting residue monitoring plan.