Nyungwe National Park provides services and livelihood opportunities for many people in the surrounding communities. However, the continuous illegal use of forest resources (such as hunting, tree cutting, mining, agriculture expansion and honey collection) is gradually leading to forest degradation and the loss of the park’s biodiversity. To reduce pressure on the park, WCS is working to create sustainable alternatives that provide livelihood opportunities for local communities.
Why do we do it?
One of the main threats to Nyungwe forest is the spread of wild fires and the subsequent forest degradation. Between 1997 and1998, fires destroyed more than 12% of Nyungwe’s forests. In many instances, fires were started accidentally by people using smoke to harvest honey. Working with park authorities, WCS has been promoting beekeeping outside the park as a sustainable alternative to the illegal harvesting of honey inside the park, which improves local livelihood opportunities and contributes to the protection of the forest.
How do we do it?
Since illegal honey harvesting is a primary cause of fires in Nyungwe, local beekeepers around Nyungwe are encouraged to adopt sustainable and profitable beekeeping methods outside the park. Drawing together beekeepers around Nyungwe National Park, WCS has established honey cooperatives to promote sustainable and profitable beekeeping activities outside the park.
WCS’s efforts in supporting beekeeping around Nyungwe are focused in key areas:
· Establishing and strengthening business skills and capacity of local cooperatives;
· Assisting local beekeepers procure infrastructure and equipment;
· Marketing Nyungwe honey by linking honey cooperatives to local markets;
· Developing and implementing outreach and education program to prevent forest fires and promote best practices in beekeeping development.
What have we achieved?
· Since WCS and its partners started organizing honey cooperatives and coordinating local beekeepers, WCS and its partners have established 13 legally registered beekeepers’ cooperatives operating around Nyungwe, grouping over 1300 beekeepers, many who used to harvest honey illegally within the park;
· Through the ‘Ubwiza bwa Nyungwe Beekeeper Union’, which coordinates the 13 cooperatives, WCS and its partners have established specific programs to improve the capacity of the cooperatives through training, procuring beekeeping equipment, promoting the establishment of new beekeeping cooperatives and supporting the protection efforts of Nyungwe;
· Through the Honey Processing and Sales Center at Kitabi, WCS and its partners established a central processing and sales point for honey produced by the Union’s member co-operatives to help them more efficiently collect, process, package, and market their products;
· WCS and its partners have helped local beekeepers increase both the quantity and quality of honey produced,leading to a national award for Ubuzima Honey for quality in 2011. Now, Ubuzima Honey is also producing other bee products, including beeswax candles and more;
· With WCS support, Ubuzima Honey is now acquiring certification by the Rwanda Bureau of Standards and is marketed nationally through various sales outlets, including trade fairs, shops, supermarkets, hotels and high-end tourist lodges, such as the Nyungwe Forest Lodge.