Minagri to uplift bee-keeping sector

The Ministry of Agriculture (Minagri) has committed to boost beekeeping in the country.
A traditional beehive hangs on tree branches. The New Times/ File.
A traditional beehive hangs on tree branches. The New Times/ File.

The Ministry of Agriculture (Minagri) has committed to boost beekeeping in the country.

A survey conducted in 2010 by the ministry estimated that there were 83,000 beekeepers and 93,000 beehives in the country. Of the bee farmers, 68 per cent are traditional and 32 modern.

Dr Alphonse Nshimiyimana, the director of Livestock at Rwanda Agriculture Board, said the sector needs to be boosted because most of the beekeepers are elderly men.

He appealed to the youth and women to embrace bee-keeping to enhance their livelihood.

Dr Nshimiyimana said 65 per cent of honey productivity passes through honey collection centres. Currently there are 18 collecting centres countrywide.

A draft law stipulating the need for beekeepers to work in cooperatives was recently approved in the Chamber of Deputies. After the Bill was passed, Agriculture minister Agnes Kalibata said the move would help organise the sector.

“We’ve to ensure that smoke-related stuff are removed from the beekeeping, we’ve to make sure that we have the right equipment even those who enter it don’t do it for a period of time and then the bees run away. All these things need to be in place for beekeeping to generate income for the people,” Dr Kalibata said.

However, beekeepers countrywide lament that the use of artificial pesticides and fertilisers is harming the practice since bees die as they try to get pollination from flowers in plantations where the products are used.

“Nowadays you can’t get a swarm of bees around. We normally lure bees from traditionally-made beehives, but even though the weavers of old beehives are few, those who hang their beehives in trees wait for years for bees to come,” Justin Nzabamwita from Ngiryi cell, Jabana sector in Gasabo district, said.

Pesticide spraying

The 81-year-old former beekeeper said even the cooperative of beekeepers he had recently formed together with some neighbours dissolved after their beehives was rundown.

The Ministry of Agriculture reportedly spends about Rwf20 billion on artificial fertilisers and pesticides.

Asked how he feels with his beehives empty, Nzabamwita said, “I feel amazed, it’s like waking up and you see the sorghum or banana plantation cut down; it’s too bad.”

Nzabamwita served in the Ministry of Agriculture from 1954 until 1992, where he once worked as a specialist of beekeeping, coordinating more than five centres of beekeepers.

The Head of Apiary department at the Rwanda Agriculture Board, Willy Mwiza, acknowledged receiving such complaints, but argued that beekeepers who conduct their business near farms that use pesticides must work with farmers so that pesticides are sprayed before the flowering.

Challenges surmountable

Although beekeepers are being urged to join cooperatives, challenges could continue to dog them as they lack modern equipment such as modern beehives and outfits used while harvesting since smoke-related harvesting is not welcome with the new draft law in the Parliament.

“We need to boost their knowledge for a modern and commercial beekeeping and this is planned,” Dr Nshimiyimana said.

Wensislas Nizeyimana, a cooperative officer at Rulindo district, said 12 cooperatives are up and running and members are living off them.

Also two honey collection centres have been set up in Rulindo district to help beekeeping cooperatives cope with veterinary issues.

Some of the cooperatives that beekeepers can join include Shikama Ukore in Kinzuzi sector, Cama in Mbogo sector, Dutabarane-Nshuti in Rusiga sector, Copama and Conimus in Masoro sector and both Caepa-Abingenzi and Coapingo in Ngoma sector.

A federation of beekeepers at national level was also formed last year.

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