Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) is seeking to establish partnership with Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority to use state forests to increase honey production and youth involvement in apiculture.
Solange Uwituze, the Deputy Director-General of Animal Research and Technology Transfer at RAB, revealed the deal while responding to questions by youth in agribusiness who claimed that apiculture is still lagging behind.
The challenges that are still hampering the subsector’s development include lack of skills in beekeeping, limited space for beekeeping, traditional beekeeping and crop pesticides which leads to low yields in honey production.
Figures show that honey production decreased from about 5,000 tonnes in 2016 to 3,500 tonnes in 2017 with the government seeks to streamline the sector to meet the target to increase the production to 9,000 tonnes per year by 2024.
Total national honey production is around 4,500 tonnes, while the total national demand of honey is about 16,800 tonnes.
Average honey production per a modern beehive is between 35 and 45 kilogrammes per year; while the average production per a traditional beehive is five kilogramme.
The number of beekeepers in Rwanda is estimated at 83,000, but only 45 per cent of these are active.
Uwituze said that the new approach will increase space for beekeeping and thus boost honey production.
“We are in discussion with the agency in charge of forestry and the districts to partner in increasing honey production. We have identified forests that are appropriate for beekeeping business. We want to get permission to use these forests for modern beekeeping in partnership with cooperatives,” she said.
Rwanda has reached 30 percent forest coverage through afforestation and reforestation.
Farmers’ forest plantations make 67 percent of all forest cover across the country while state-owned forests make up 27 percent and the rest is owned by districts, private institutions with 2 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.
State-owned forests occupy 65,000 hectares without considering national parks.
She said that since state forests management is being privatized which requires to work with forests managers to take beekeeping into account.
“Those who are not planing to immediately harvest forests have accepted and this approach will soon bring change in apiculture,” she said.
Forests were one of the income generating activities having generated Rwf67 billion in 2017 and it is estimated that the state-owned forests will generate over Rwf200 billion annually once all are privatized.
So far about 20 per cent of state-owned forests have been privatized.
Under the fourth Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture (PSTA4), tree species that can be mixed with crops will be planted which is expected to contribute to honey production through diversifying vegetation from which bees can forage.
Youth in apiculture business speak out
Leonard Twahirwa is one of the youth in apiculture whom RAB wants to engage in increasing honey production.
“I started from one beehive and I currently have 15 beehives. Beekeeping is lagging behind considering other sectors in animal resources development and therefore government should inject in more efforts and engage more youth in the sector,” he said.
He asked government should intervene in increasing trainings for youth who want to invest in beekeeping business.
“This is a profitable business considering that one kilogramme of honey sold at Rwf4,000,” he said.
He said that each of his 15 beehives produces over 12 kilogrammes of honey fetching Rwf720,000 for him every harvesting season.
He explained that they can harvest three times per year and that means 15 beehives can provide a profit of Rwf2.16 million.
He said that so far he has won two cash prizes Rwf300,000 and Rwf1 million respectively from beekeeping promoters.
Source: The New Times Rwanda