When he was starting out as a beekeeper over 10 years ago, his friends and neighbours dismissed him as a failure, a ‘mere school dropout’. They even complained that his project would interrupt their activities.
“How can a young man keep bees of all things,” many would ask him.
But Samson Mwizeramana, who now has 15 years of experience in beekeeping under his belt, has no regrets.
The resident of Kagarama sector in Burera District had dreamt of becoming a book writer as a child. Unfortunately, he bid the blackboard farewell after completing primary school due to lack of school fees.
He grieved not, but instead devoted his energies to beekeeping.
Mwizeramana started out with four traditional hives, thanks to his father’s generosity.
“My parents had some traditional beehives since they kept bees to get honey they used in making traditional beer... I learnt the art of beekeeping from my father who was a great beekeeper,” he narrates.
He adds that his family depended on the apiary as the source of livelihood.
With the four locally-made beehives in his hands, Mwizeramana set out on a journey as a beekeeper. Today, he has 60 hives traditional and modern beehives.
“I have no regret that I took this road. Maybe it was my destiny that I had to drop out of school and serve humanity this way,” he says.
“The plan was to make beekeeping as serious business, but this required modern beehives.
“Modern hives produce more honey compared to the traditional ones,” he says, adding that he had to be patient.
He notes that after a few rounds of harvests, he was later able to buy modern beehives, which he now uses with the traditional ones.
He is happy he took on the trade, saying he doesn’t have to buy food to feed the bees.
“Beekeeping does not require much investment or a big piece of land. One needs to set aside adequate time to attend to the bees, be creative and innovative. If I do not pay attention and manage my time well, I can easily lose,” he says.
It needs someone who is patient enough.
Challenges and solutions
Mwizeramana says at the beginning it is hard to earn enough money.
“It is not a business for the impatient; you have to invest time and energy to earn big.
“I had to learn from others in the beekeepers co-operative I joined. It also helped me get market for the honey and, I now sell all my produce through the co-operative,” he says
He, however, says the co-operative pays them little money compared to what one invests in.
“Bees are affected by insects and rodents, which kill them when searching for food.
He says apiary is a sector which still needs a lot of funding to grow and become a sustainable industry.
The 36-year-old Mwizeramana has no regrets for taking up bee farming.
He says he will go back to school next year “since I now have enough money to pay my own fees”.
He says he harvests about 500 kilogrammes of honey every month, fetching him about Rwf300,000.
He has constructed a decent residential house that cost him about Rwf10m.
He operates an e-payment platform, where people buy power recharge and pay for water in Nyarwondo centre, which has helped residents who used to walk to Musanze town to get services. The platform cost Rwf2m to install.
Married with five children, Mwizeramana has expanded his project and now has 20 modern and 40 traditional hives.
Advice to farmers
“Farmers should join co-operatives because you learn a lot from sharing ideas and get informed about farming and market trends.