By Vision Reporter
Honey and other bee products are highly sought after locally in Ibanda.
However, not many have embraced apiary, with experts suggesting the lack of knowledge and information on the potential of apiary as a huge income earner as one of the reasons.
Evaristo Sahunkuye, who has been in the beekeeping business since the 1980s, said the activity has the potential to create jobs and ensure a sustainable source of income for rural households and, hence, better their standards of living.
He said one can harvest honey three times a year, if bees are well-catered for. A litre of pure honey ranges from sh20,000 to sh30,000 in Ibanda, and each hive (local type) can earn one at least five litres per harvest.
“Other bee products, such as wax and bee venom, also bring in cash if tapped into,” another beekeeper in Bisheshe division, Ibanda municipality, said.
Honey and other bee products are used for medicinal purposes, as raw materials for products, like candles and cosmetics, among others.
“So, this is an enterprise that anyone can harness to create sustainable income-generating businesses and, therefore, improve their standards of living,” Sahunkuye said.
Setting up an apiary does not require a lot of start-up capital and occupies a small part of one’s land, Gerald Mugisha, a beekeeper in Kigarama, Ibanda municipality, said.
A local beehive is about sh25,000 each, with modern ones ranging from sh50,000 to sh75,000.
Currently, there are over 800 beekeepers in Ibanda district, with Kicuzi and Kikyenkye leading. Kijongo, Ishongororo, Keihangara, Nyamarebe sub-counties and Bisheshe division also have a sizeable number of beekeepers, statistics from the district entomology department show.
An estimated 2,000 kilogrammes of honey are produced in the district annually, according to Maurice Mutabazi, the Ibanda district entomologist.
Mutabazi said many beekeeping groups have been registered at the parish level under the Parish Development Model (PDM) programme, with 12 groups of beekeepers already registered across the district,” Mutabazi said.
“The sector is growing and we are confident the PDM programme will drive its growth, creating more jobs for and boosting household earnings.
The ongoing public awareness drives by the district extension staff were attracting interest in the apiary sector,” he said.
“When one invests in apiary, they conserve nature. It not only protects the environment, but also biodiversity. The planted trees and flowers play a role in the climate equation. In actual sense, we are conserving nature,” Mutabazi explained.
“We are creating the right environment for the bees and other micro-organisms besides absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The apiary has a lot of potential for agri-tourism,” he said.
It is recommended to introduce some flowering plants in the area, such as calliandra, coffee and other plants so that bees can readily access nectar in the area. Research indicates that bees improve coffee production through pollination.
Mutabazi said lack of awareness about the benefits of apiary has continued to affect its growth.
Predators, like birds, honey burgers, small animals and lizards also affect farmers. Therefore, the protection of beehives should be a priority for any farmer, by fencing off the area hosting the project, keeping it clear and cutting the grass to keep rats and lizards from invading the apiary.
Low facilitation compared to other sectors in the production department is another challenge.
“We are hopeful that with beekeeping seen as one of the enterprises to help reduce poverty, the situation could change for the better,” Mutabazi said.
Mugisha said climate change impacts, including dry spells, affected the sector’s production and, hence, farmers’ earnings.
Ensure that hives are protected from direct sunlight, wind and rain, factors that can increase the chances of bees fleeing the colony. Wrap the hives well, to keep the rodents at bay.
“Use strong stands that can withstand the weight of honey and maintain them well. Weak stands could collapse under the weight of honey-laden hives, leading to huge losses,” Maurice Mutabazi, the Ibanda district entomologist, said.
The apiary unit should be situated in isolated places that are not frequented by people. Fence it to prevent intrusion by animals or unauthorised individuals.