By Elias Hakizimana.
Nyiraneza Valentine has never seen any impact on her neighbours whose lives were depending on poaching from Nyungwe park forest, hunting animals and burning forests while looking for honey, the activities which are enemies of Biodiversity.
The mother of one is now among 1370 honey producers grouped in 15 bee keeping cooperatives in Nyamagabe District, Kitabi sector, Kagano Sector, Kintobo Village who practice bee keeping on Nyungwe forest buffer zone and produce honey in a cooperative dubbed “Ubwiza bwa Nyungwe” or The Beauty of Nyungwe.
“We could not get markets of our honey produce before joining cooperatives, but today we have a market for the whole honey produce, as I get money, I manage to buy domestic animals as of today I have a cow, a pig and some hens. My child also does not get difficulties in Nursery School and hopefully this occupation of bee keeping will help me pay for her secondary education,” said Nyiraneza.
She further said that besides being a member of the cooperative is also its employee in charge of produce selling. She gets a monthly income that supports domestic daily survival for her family.
Nyiraneza calls up on other colleagues to not rethink on living on poaching, rather to work together for good earnings.
“We cannot loose food and we regularly pay health insurance. My advice to those who still think on poaching in the forest is to stand up and work in cooperatives as there they can easily attain the socio-economic development,” she said.
Income generating activities around Rwandan forests is the government initiative to protect and preserve forestry through the Ministry of Land and Forestry (MINILAF) by motivating and assisting the private sector to invest in Agroforestry’s activities to ensure sustainability of forest management in the country.
Nyiraneza said that poachers used to exploit honey from the forest without modern tools and this caused forests fire accidents as they first burnt the space that covers honey. She added that other poachers could hunt animals and undermine Bio-diversity.
“We are no longer working in Nyungwe forest, we work on its boundaries. Hunters were gathered together in cooperatives and given other income generating opportunities to support their daily survival. When we see animals out of the forest, we take it back there and when we fail to do so we call up on Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to intervene,” Nyiraneza noted.
Vincent Hakizimana, another honey producer who is the Bee keeping Development Officer at Nyungwe forest park is one of local investors who transformed life through honey production, thanks to the support of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Rwanda Development Board’s (RDB) Unit in charge of environment conservation that initiated the programme.
Hakizimana, Nyiraneza and their colleagues grouped in 15 bee keeping cooperatives benefited from the initiative since 1998 and are still enjoying the beauty of forests.
Himself, Hakizimana can save Rwf 1,5 million annually from bee keeping and honey production.
“After they identified us, WCS and RDB put us together in 15 cooperatives working on Nyungwe forest park’s buffer zones, honey production makes us survive. We are 1370 honey producers from at least 400 families,” said Hakizimana.
“After realizing that the park has a big role for our lives, we pledged to preserve it by using modern tools like fire extinguishers in case of fire,” he added.
Emmanuel Uwizeye, Director of Forest Conservation and Development in the Ministry of Land and Forestry said the government targets to help neighboring citizens to forests to work together in cooperatives, preserving forests while doing socio-economic activities in the buffer zones such as the one of bee keeping.
He said that a ministerial policy for forest management and preservation aims to involve citizens among the first protectors of forests to avoid deforestation.
Uwizeye was addressing local media at Nyungwe forest on Friday and mentioned that the need for citizen’s participation by investing in forestry to better preserve it is very crucial.
“The park is protected by security officers but we need citizens’ role to protect the park, as they practice other income generating activities on the forest’s buffer zones, they will no longer need to hunt animals or cut trees inside the forest rather they will preserve it,” Uwizeye noted while moving around Nyungwe forest park this week with the media.
Rwanda National Forestry Policy 2018 states that all forest and tree resources in Rwanda shall be managed to yield sustainable streams of social, economic and ecological goods and services to ensure sustainable forest management.
On behalf of Biodiversity conservation, it adds that forest reserves shall be managed in ways that improve biodiversity and habitats for wildlife.
The policy also highlights the role of Private sector that might be dominant especially in forest management and forest products processing.
Natural forests which cover 11.9 % of total national land area are endowed with the ecological role such as biodiversity conservation.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), pollinators such as bees, birds and bats affect 35 percent of the world’s crop production, increasing outputs of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide, as well as many plant-derived medicines.