21 June 2006

Rwanda: Bee Keepers Become Environmentalists

Southern Province — Members of CDA - Iriba an association of bee keepers have called on other bee farmers to conserve the environment while carrying out their activity. In an exclusive interview with The New Times last week, Vedaste Birindwa, the President of Iriba, revealed that working together in an association has encouraged them to realise the importance of conserving the environment.

"Our activity is a complicated one to the extent that it involves creating smock to enable one to get the product (honey from bees). We used to work in isolation, burning some bushes and sometimes we would cut some trees from Nyungwe forest. We no longer burn the bushes around. The district authorities advised us to form an association. We formed one and we were given a plot of land where we have established our firm. We have also been sensitised on environmental friendly methods that do not involve making fire to smock out bees for honey," Birindwa explained.

He added that the association has now shifted from local breeding to modern breeding by introducing modern bee hives. He further explained that with one local bee hive, you can earn Frw15,000 a year while it becomes three times higher with the modern bee hives.

He said: "We are adding value to our product by introducing modern bee hives and using environmental friendly methods of harvesting. The value addition of our product has improved and the product sells have tripled."

Birindwa revealed that the association members have so far opened a bank account in the Banque Populaire Mudasomwa branch where they deposit their savings. In addition, members have bought themselves about 2ha of land where they plan to expand their project.

In a group discussion, members of Iriba association appealed to the government and other financial development organisations and individuals to extend some financial assistance for them to get a honey processing machine. They urged that a processing machine would improve their product for export to other regional and international markets.

Birindwa wondered when I told him that I have been buying a small tin of honey at about Frw2,000. He said that association were selling a whole kilogramme at Frw400.

Iriba association is made up of 27 members (15 women, 17 men). It started in 2002 by these bee farmers in former Gikongoro Province (Now Nyamagabe district) after realising the importance of honey. Members are determined to end poverty amongst themselves and their families.

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