Rwanda: Why Beekeepers Are Grappling With Drop in Honey Production

6 February 2019

USE of pesticides in farming, traditional beekeeping techniques and drought continue to hurt honey production across the country, a study has shown.

The study, the National Cooperatives Confederation of Rwanda (NCCR), sought to assess the beekeeping value chain in the country.

Besides the death of bees owing to chemicals used in farming, the research also found that cooperatives in beekeeping face mismanagement, lack access to finance, low capacity in honey collection and, limited skills in quality assurance among others.

Nyungwe beekeepers union processes honey for retail. Michel Nkurunziza.

The survey shows that the issue is based on bad governance of cooperatives lack of infrastructure in honey production and quality assurance as well as poor research and extension in control of diseases.

Jean DamascèneNtaganda, the president of the Federation of Beekeepers in Rwanda, said that eucalyptus trees on which bees harvest food have been attacked by pests and this has hurt honey production.

"Use of pesticides in crops such as Irish potatoes, tomatoes, coffee and others is killing bees. Due to the issue, the bees are escaping to forests as most of them die due to pesticides" he decried.

He said that there is 10 per cent average reduction in honey production per year.

"The production has decreased from 5,000 tonnes a year to below 4,000 tonnes in 2014. We also need more youths to engage in the sector so that we get beekeepers in every village which could boost honey exports. At least 20,000 youths have joined the profession so far," he said.

Figures show that honey production decreased from about 5,000 tonnes in 2016 to 3,500 tonnes in 2017 while there is a target to increase the production to 9,000 tonnes per year by 2024.

He said that a continuation of status quo could affect food production since bees contribute to pollination of crops.

"If we do not control the threats to bees, they could eventually reduce consequently affecting food production," he warned.

Marie Chantal Nyirakamineza, the Manager of Rutsiro Honey Production and Processing Company in Western Province, said that the cost of honey production is relatively leading the end product to be expensive.

However, production remains low due to reliance on traditional beekeeping methods and lack of youth engagement.

She said that, over the recent years, honey production has been affected by use of pesticides.

"Previously, there were bees everywhere in the nature but today you can walk kilometers before spotting any. We also need more tree species with flowers to feed bees since eucalyptus trees have been affected by pests," she said.

The company, with 625 members, produces and processes 20 tonnes of honey per year selling one kilogramme at Rwf 3,500.

"In 2005, we could harvest 500 kg per year which increased to 15 tonnes in 2015 annually. The annual production rate has, however, been decreasing since 2016 due to different challenges," she said.

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture have urged farmers to use pesticides in ways that do not affect bees or their hives.

The Government has given beekeepers the right to use state forests for farming activities as part of strategies to boost output and avert the shortage of honey in the country.

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