Beekeeping offers rich pickings for villagers

MUTASA - As the country grapples with one of the worst droughts in years, farmers here have found an escape route — beekeeping.

Apiculture is fast supplanting all other agricultural activities in the remote and poverty-ravaged Mutasa District after United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and Environment Africa (EA) secured a lucrative European market for hundreds of honey producers.

While beekeepers used to take their honey to Harare, the new market linkage entails that a middleman buys the honey right at the farmer’s doorstep, cutting transport costs.

With the new market, the price of honey has jumped from an average of a dollar per kilogramme to over two dollars. The business has been giving locals rich pickings, triggering a huge interest in apiculture.

EA provincial manager Lawrence Nyagwande said this has already seen an exponential growth of registered beekeepers from 200 at its inception in June last year to the current 880, and a greening environment.

“The European Union-funded project is meant to conserve the environment by linking it to communities’ livelihood activities and it’s been a resounding success,” Nyagwande said.

The project, being piloted in four wards — 18, 19, 20 and 26, has seen beekeepers improve their output using better beehives and increasing foliage, which has doubled their number of harvests.

“We are at an advantage on the issue of transport because the buyers are coming to buy honey here,” Nyagwande said.

A local traditional leader and beekeeper, Abraham Chaukura, said he has increased the number of  his beehives.

“We are now supplementing natural foliage with exotic trees and cosmetic flowers,” Chaukura said.

He said while he used to harvest 2 kg from each beehive, he is now harvesting up to 30 kg, while doubling his harvests from two per annum to four.

“I have 260 beehives so far and I am harvesting four times a year,” he said.

The village head said from selling at between $1 to $1.50 per kg even after travelling to the market, they are now selling at $2,50 per kg for A Grade honey and $2,00 for the rest, grossing an average of $3 000 per harvest and a total of $12 000 per annum from the comfort of their homes.

Nyagwande said the beekeeping project was proving to be very effective in environmental conservation as it has a fast take-off and was financially lucrative.

“The objective is to protect and preserve the forest. Now communities see that it’s easy to produce honey and make money out of forests, which is going a long way in our reforestation efforts,” Nyagwande said.


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