Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry has embarked on a countrywide programme to train communities on beekeeping with the aim of conserving forests and improving incomes for rural entrepreneurs.
Government is championing the programme in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Russia. The move buttresses the implementation of the Zimbabwe’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2018-2020).
The Forestry Commission is doing the training of communities, with 100 beneficiaries trained in Bulilima District, Matabeleland South last week before focus turns to other provinces.
The 100 farmers in Bulilima’s wards 8 and 22 were trained in bee biology, beekeeping technology, beekeeping for rural development, common practices in beehive construction and management and are working on baiting bees for colonization.
Bee farming produces honey, which is sold to the community and pharmaceutical industry for its nutritional and medicinal value while bee wax is used in cosmetic and candle making industries. The project is set to improve livelihoods and economic security of rural communities.
Project manager Mr Lawrence Mashungu said their main objective was to conserve the country’s carbon sinks through activities that enhance forest management and promote environmental stewardship, as well as provide sustainable livelihoods options and economic security of rural communities and mainstream gender equality.
“The communities are being trained on ways to increase honey yields, controlling diseases and pests that attack bees, controlling effects of pesticides, understanding characteristics of bees, marketing strategies, maintaining financial records and savings, community mobilization and engagement for livelihoods,” he said.
“Beekeeping business will offer income through sales of goods and services, which include honey, wax, and pollination. The project will also sustain community cohesion as villagers would network around projects,” said Mr Mashungu.
He said the project will also help reduce the rate of deforestation as the country was losing about 312 900 hectares of forests per year between 1990 and 2000, an average deforestation rate of 1.41 percent, which increased by 16.4 percent to 1.64 percent per annum between 2000 and 2005.
“This loss of biodiversity can compromise contribution of indigenous forests to climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration. Most rural areas in the country still have dense forests that need to be protected through various activities. These forests can also support beekeeping but the challenge is lack of capacity of communities to start such ventures and knowledge to optimise such.
“The project seeks to enable the country to meet its NDC target by delivering the low emission development strategy and measuring, reporting and verification framework to be able to track and report quantitatively and qualitatively on the mitigation actions that the country is pursuing towards meeting NDC,” explained Mr Mashungu.
In the past traditional methods of bee keeping were used, which have led to increased deforestation as people would cut down trees to make bee hives or burn forests while harvesting honey.
Villagers will also be trained to use Kenyan top bar hives, which increase honey production.
Bulilima District Forestry Extension Officer Mr Fortunes Matutu said the Forestry Commission will facilitate setting up of apiaries, which will be managed by communities across the country.
“It is anticipated that engagement of local communities in beekeeping will result in sustainable forest management as communities start benefitting from honey and also improve their nutritional content. There will be reduced sale of firewood and unsustainable use of forests,” he said.
There are few informal bee farmers in Matabeleland North especially in Hwange, Lupane, Nkayi and Umguza districts.
In Hwange District, only Mr Elias Mzamba through his company Mopani Bees Honey is doing bee farming.
“I am the only one doing bee keeping in Hwange district hence I need Government support to expand and train more people. I have been working with communities and training them but I haven’t gotten help to grow big.
“There is high demand for honey and its products but production is low partly because materials to make bee hives are not available locally,” said Mr Mzamba who has 180 beehives in Woodlands Farm and Monde Village.
He sells to individuals and the tourism industry including hotels and restaurants. — @ncubeleon