Lack of knowledge and adequate information on beekeeping, use of traditional beehives and pesticide are still the major challenges causing low honey production in Rwanda.
According to figures from Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board, the current production of honey is estimated to only 5,600 metric tonnes per year against a demand of 17,000 tonnes.
The challenges are expressed following the World Bee Day that was recently celebrated on 20 May 2020.
Leonard Twahirwa, a beekeeper based in Nyamagabe District said that while some beekeepers are getting better at honey production, some continue to record low production due to various challenges.
“One of the challenges is the use of traditional beehives. When I was still using traditional beehive, one would only manage 5 Kilogrammes while the modern one can provide about 20 kilograms. This is what has prompted me into research about modern beehive,” he explained.
He said the started with one traditional beehive before launching his personal research into beekeeping.
“I set up three traditional beehives and three modern beehives to compare the production. That is why I later benefitted from training on beekeeping. Currently, I train other beekeepers because they have limited knowledge and not adequate enough information about the sector,” he said.
Besides challenges, he added, application of pesticides in farms are killing bees and thus reducing honey production.
“I have three groups composed of 200 of beekeepers and the main challenge they had was lack of knowledge and information. For instance one of these beekeepers was both growing fruits and keeping bees. And due to applying pesticides, bees died when they came out of hives for feeding. He was not aware that pesticides were a threat,” he said.
Twahirwa said that in order to address the challenges, he has preferred to keeping bees far from plants that use pesticides in Nyamagabe District but added that there are other practices to protect bees from pesticide threats.
“There are feeds you can give to bees to keep them inside the hives. There are times when pesticides can be used when bees are staying in beehives. All these can ensure that honey production doesn’t decrease,” he said adding that forests should be leveraged because they are safe places for bees.
He said that he can currently generate over Rwf400, 000 every three months from beekeeping.
“I have 36 beehives with honey and I have more 46 beehives I am going to install. I have spent the income from beekeeping to invest in pigs rearing and animal feeds so as to diversify sources of income,” he said.
Solange Uwituze, the Deputy Director General of Animal Research and Technology Transfer said in order to increase honey production, the institution will mobilize farmers to feed their bees and other practices.
“We have to work together to increase bee colonies through queen rearing and colony multiplication, increase hygiene and sanitation from the hive. We have also to replace old wax foundation sheets after two years, renew queens after two years as well as control swam and disease,” she said.
She said that the solutions for the decline of bees due to pesticide include mobilization of farmers on how to use the pump while applying pesticide outside the flower, continuing more research on pesticides which are low toxic to bees as well as planting more melliferous plants or crops which are bee-friendly.Follow NkurunzizaMiche