RUBIRIZI – Apiary farmers in Rubirizi district are worried that they could soon lose their business as bees are being killed by the pesticides used on the farms to prevent diseases and pests from attacking crops.
Beekeeping in Rubirizi district is a common green activity being supported by Nature Uganda to integrate livelihood activities and environmental conservation.
Vicent Kakye, the general secretary Magambo Beekeepers Association located in Butoha parish Magambo Sub-county says, “There has been a decline of the population of bees in Rubirizi district because of use of harmful pesticides on crop farms.”
Kakye said farmers who spray their crop gardens with pesticides kill their bees without knowing. “We have realised that a high number of bees are dying from the gardens, something that is seriously threatening the apiary business in Rubirizi,” Kakye said.
He says with the continued death of bees, there has been a drastic reduction of honey collected from the district.
According to Simon Abanyu, the proprietor of Delta Bees Uganda Limited buys honey and provides some inputs like agro-equipment to the bee farmers, Rubirizi district on average produces over 45 tons of honey yearly.
Abanyu says it could be possible that the bees in the district are dying because of the pesticides spread to kill insects destroying crops, which has in turn affected the population of the bees in the district.
He is worried that the said pesticides are most likely to affect the quality of honey despite Uganda being identified as a source of organic products. He has appealed to crop farmers to always follow proper guidelines before spraying their gardens with chemicals.
He said farmers have failed to follow guidelines on spraying the pesticides. Farmers are advised to always spray late in the evening when most bees have returned to their hives but unfortunately, farmers don’t mind. Some spray early in the morning when bees are busy looking for nectar,” he explained.
Kakye wants the government to sensitise farmers about the chemicals being applied to crops in the gardens.
“We call upon the government to sensitise the farmers so that they spray their gardens with friendly pesticides to use to spray crops so that bees are able to live to pollinate crops,” said.
Kakye adds that some bees have also absconded from the beehives threatening apiary business in the area.
“Some bees do migrate when they get affected by other insects so we need experts to determine and protect our bees from danger,” he said.
Kakye also said that Rubirizi being a hard-to-reach area, is battling with a poor road network where farmers don’t access markets easily and that middlemen exploit them by offering low prices for the honey and other products.
Bonny Komuhangi, Programme Assistant Nature Uganda, added that Rubirizi being a mountainous area sometimes hinders the implementation of some activities, especially during the rainy season.
“It is true during the rainy season, people suffer while carrying their bananas to the main road for marketing. The majority are cheated from the farm because they don’t reach the real market due to the poor road network in some places,” said Komuhangi.
Bee farmers come together to speak with one voice
Aventino Byamukama, a bee farmer and chairperson of Magambo Bee Keepers Association says they started the association to sell honey in bulk.
“We started our beekeeping association in Butoha parish that has expanded to other parishes of Magambo Sub-county. And each member has his own farm because we never had land where to allocate the joint beekeeping business as a group,” he explained.
From beekeeping, Byamukama also boasts of buying plots of land, planting eucalyptus trees, and making banana wine.
Mzee Stephen Kasamuri, a beekeeper in Nyandongo, Munyonyi parish, Katanda Sub-county in Katerera Rubirizi district is also grateful to find that he has lived 100 years because of feeding on honey throughout his life span.
“I managed to educate my children and honey has also enabled me to live longer because I use it as natural food but also add it to my tea,” said Kasamuri.
He encouraged the people of Rubirizi to venture into apiary as an echo tourism activity, saying it requires low inputs, yet is a high-impact and sustainable green investment.
“Beekeeping is good because you allocate beehives to one place and just keep checking on the farm and keep harvesting honey,” Kasamuri emphasised.
Among the products obtained from bees include; pure honey, honey wine, soap, candles, propolis, wax, cough syrups, and jelly among others.
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