By Elias Hakizimana.
Augustin Katabarwa, the Chairman of National Cooperatives Confederation of Rwanda (NCCR) has said that bee farmers’ cooperatives are counting losses due to increasing use of pesticides that are poisoning and killing these honey-making and pollinator insects.
“As bees die due to pesticides, they therefore relocate to the place where they do not breath such pesticides’ smells. This is a big challenge to bee farmers and they lose the produce,” he said.
He said little honey production comes from places nearby natural forests like along Nyungwe forest, volcanoes and Gishwati parks because there are no use of pesticides.
“We thank Rwanda Development Board (RDB) that helps bee farmers with providing a space to install their beehives at the boundaries of forests. Those places are productive than others with human plantation with pesticides use,” Katabarwa said.
“We are planning to organize meetings for each category of farmers and engage partners to find a way of further advocacy. We will request Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) to do deep technical research to find a sustainable solution, because we need both agriculture (food) and honey from bees,” he said.
Marie Chantal Nyirakamineza, the president of honey factory in Rutsiro District at Gishwati forest said that Rwanda’s honey cost of production is expensive due to traditional way of bee keeping.
“To date, Rwanda’s honey is expensive even at the international market due to cost of production as Bee keeping still practiced in traditional way. Pesticides in crops are also killing bees and, eucalyptus trees which attract food for bees have been attacked by pests.
we are also lacking the contribution of youth and women, limited skills, lack of equipment, …all these factors are barriers to increase honey production in our country,” said Nyirakamineza.
She said that pesticides effects have been a great challenge over five years ago.
She suggested spraying pesticides in evening hours so as to reduce deaths of bees as that is the time when they return to their dwelling places.
She also requested RAB and the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) to plant more trees with flowers to mix with crops so that bees find comfortable places to feed on.
A bee has about 98 per cent contribution in pollinating plants.
“Since 2005,2006, I used to see a bee in one meter but today you can’t find any… we could harvest between 20 tonnes and 25 tonnes per year ,” she said.
She urges responsible entities and people to preserve forests so that bee keeping becomes more productive.
They sell 1 kilogramme of honey at Rwf 3,500. There are 625 bee keepers in Rutsiro district zone.
She continued explaining that in 2005, honey produce in their region increased from 500 kg per year, to 15 and 18 tonnes in 2015 and between 20 tonnes and 22 tonnes currently meaning that the produce is not increasing at the same speed as before.
Jean Damascene Ntaganda, the President of bee keeping farmers in Rwanda (FERWAKAPI) reiterated: “We need do advocacy so that pesticides are sprayed from 4 to 5pm to avoid further deaths of bees. The other major alarming issue is pests in eucalyptus trees and many bees are flying to Nyungwe and other places where they do not spray pesticides.”
He said that before 2013, they were harvesting over 5,000 tonnes and it has reduced today.
“We had 4,967 tonnes in 2018. We have markets in Europe, Africa and in Rwanda. We request the government to encourage Rwandans to embrace bee keeping like Girinka. We can develop a program and dub it ‘Girinzuki Munyarwanda: Have bees’,” he said.
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