Medical student dabbling in bee farming shares entrepreneurial lessons

Bonaventure Niyoyita is a medical student and entrepreneur behind the ‘Youth Engaged in Apitherapy’,  a firm that rears bees for honey in Kamonyi District.

He is a student of General Medicine and Surgery at the University of Rwanda. His business venture aims at helping get youth out of drug abuse by keeping them occupied in bee farming. He spoke to Business Times’ Joan Mbabazi about his enterprise.

What motivated you to start this firm?

I noticed that a number of students were affected by drug use silently and ended  up spending all their pocket money and savings buying drugs such as cocaine and marijuana.

I imagined that if there was a way out, most of them would be able to save the money spent on drugs which could be used constructively in ways such as running business ventures.

I was not skilled in the beekeeping business but got training from the Association of Rwandaise Pour la Promotion du development Intergre (ARDI), an organisation that extends training to those interested in beekeeping. In three months, I had enough capacity to give training and start a bee farm.

From the training, I was able to build capacities of fellow young people in beekeeping some of who confessed that they were dealing in drug abuse but were willing to stop. Currently, most of them are now saving to start small ventures and when they have accumulated enough, ARDI will assist them to start commercial beekeeping.

We are empowering the youth to save so that after six months, they will be in  position to buy one modern hive which can produce 10 to 15kg of honey per season.

I started last year with capital of Rwf 90,000 which I  used to set up five beehives, two modern and three traditional hives. I put the beehives on one hectare of land.

After six months, we were able to produce about 70kg of honey per season. (A year has three seasons.)

Which is the best season for high honey production?

The best season is summer (June to December); whereby the modern hives are highly productive. The rainy season is not good for beekeeping and has significantly low honey production. It is in summer that most flowers blossom making it easy for bees to collect nectar. Currently, we are unable to provide food supplements for bees but we will do so in a year’s time.

The traditional hive can produce about eight or nine kilogrammes of honey per season while the modern hive produces between 10 and 20 kilogrammes of honey each season.

What progress have you made so far?

My company won an award and an investment of Rwf870,000 from an initiative dubbed, ‘These Numbers Have Faces. ’ The Initiative supports young entrepreneurs to develop their businesses through mentorship and small investment.

I am glad that I am independent as I cater for all my needs. I have been able to provide employment to three young people.

Currently, we have 10 modern hives and have grown  from 70kg of honey to 120kg per season. Apart from honey, we also sell bees though it is not our main purpose.

Through social media and word of mouth, we have been able to create a growing customer base as well as have a team of ambassadors.

What are some of the companies that you supply honey to and how are the prices?

My clients’ base is made up of individuals and supermarkets in Kamonyi District who we supply to every season. We hope to expand to Kigali as the company grows.

One kilogramme of honey costs Rwf4,000, while half a kg goes for Rwf2,000. We earn around Rwf480,000 from honey per season.

How has the entrepreneurial journey been like for you?

I was often discouraged by people that beekeeping is for old people and is not profitable, but since I have objectives and goals, I have remained on track.

For the first five months I did not get any returns from the business but I kept positive.

I am now enjoying the fruits of my business. I have learnt to be patient in my business and know that even in the event of losses, I have learnt to keep going.

Are you planning to continue with your business after graduating?

I believe after school I will have more time for my company.  Since I am doing a medical course, I plan on using honey for medicinal purposes. I will seek to gain more skills in the uses of honey to benefit more people.

How often do you give training to young people interested in beekeeping?

We offer training to students every first and last Friday of the month. We want them to use the time and the money they could have spent on drugs to focus on developing themselves.

What are the requirements for a successful beekeeping business?

You don’t need to have much money. You can even start with one beehive, traditional or modern.  You also have to be devoted, hardworking, have a target,  and you can improve your skills with time.

What are your future plans?

I am looking forward to establishing my firm as one of the top companies in honey production in Rwanda. I am also aiming at joining the international market.

How do you balance school and business?

I don’t have to spend the whole day at the farm. I also have a strong team, even during my absence, I am assured that everything is working fine. 

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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