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Communiqué - Rwanda National Training of Trainers on Honey Production, Safe Handling of Bee Hives, Development of Bee Hive Products, Bees Disease Control and Pollination Services

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The Mirror Hotel, 9-11 May, Kigali, Rwanda

Background and Context of Training Workshop

Rwanda, in its Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda Phase (PSTA III 2013) recognized the apiculture as a priority value chain due to multiple contributions to food security, nutrition, employment, rural incomes and biodiversity conservation. The Government has put in place an enabling policy, legal and regulatory framework including the National Beekeeping Strategy and a Ministerial Order to enhance sector regulation. A National Forum of Beekeeping in Rwanda was also established. With a production base of over 30,000 producers with over 90,000 largely traditional hives, the sector remains underdeveloped with significant untapped potential. Rwanda has the opportunity to export honey to lucrative European Union (EU) markets given approval of it residue monitoring plan in 2014. While there is some export, it is limited and uneven, with producers unable to meet even local demand, underscoring the huge untapped potential of the sector. The PSTA III outlines strategies to increase production, development of honey and wax value chains and enhance capacity for quality processing to meet export standards.

The African Union- InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) which is mandated to provide leadership in the development of Africa’s animal resources is implementing a continental project “The African Reference Laboratory for the Management of Pollinator Bee Diseases and Pests for Food Security. This Project, which is a collaborative effort with the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) funded by the European Union is structured to generate new knowledge to control bee diseases and pests and package the information for more efficient knowledge management, awareness building to elevate the profile of the sector, and provide policy makers and regulators with advice with the aim of harmonizing procedures and legislation relating to bee health issues at national, regional and continental levels. In addition the Project aims to utilize the information generated and the knowledge systems developed to enhance the capacity of beekeepers and other sector actors, and of extensions workers to utilize improved bee health technologies and innovations. It will also promote timely collection, analysis and sharing of bee health information as it pertains to sustenance of bee populations, impacts on production, quality and safety of products for human consumption.

As a priority activity, AU-IBAR therefore undertook regional Trainings of Trainers (ToT) in the first year of the Project. A total of 84 veterinary offices, 128 representatives of beekeeper organizations and federations and 74 extension workers and researchers were trained. These trainings were aimed at growing the pool of trainers within Member States (MS), giving them the skills to conduct in-country trainings.

To magnify the value of investment made in the regional trainings, the Project is structured such that AU-IBAR will support the ToT’s to conduct at least twenty-five national trainings at the behest of Member States with the goal of improving in-country capacity in at least fifty percent of African Union Member States.

The Republic of Rwanda was the first African Union Member State to request AU-IBAR support for its national training of ToT’s.

Workshop Goal and Objectives

The overall goal of the National Training was to enhance the capacities of a representative group of national trainers drawn from among beekeeper associations, processors, extension workers and national experts who will be instrumental in improving capacity and access to information within the sector in their different regions.

Specific training objectives included:

  • Enhancing capacity to identify bee diseases and pests, and awareness of the utilization of improved bee health technologies and innovations
  • Enhancing knowledge on how to boost country honey production
  • Strengthening capacity on beehive making, harvesting and post-harvest handling of honey; and
  • Enhancing capacity for value addition to bee hive products (Wax, soap, candles, jelly cream, pro-wax cream, honey facial treatments etc)

Structure of the Training

Fifty participants including representatives of bee associations and cooperatives and private sector actors from all over Rwanda, extension staff from the Rwanda Agricultural Board, and AU-IBAR Project Officers attended the training in Kigali. The three day training, which was facilitated by national resource persons, was partitioned into one day of interactive theory sessions that included an opening ceremony, and three sessions; and two days of practical training. Due to closure of main roads from the north and west which hindered some participants and facilitators from attending the training, the original structure of the training was change. Impromptu decisions also had to be taken to find new field training sites.

The three theory sessions on the first day were: status of the apiculture sector in Rwanda which covered bee disease monitoring, the status of honey production and a brief on the progress towards Rwanda hosting ApiExpo in September 2016. The second session covered beehive making and safe handling; and third improved beekeeping technologies including colony multiplication and division techniques, queen rearing and production of royal jelly, and value addition. Two days of field practicals covered honey processing, modern beehive making, cream and candle making, apiary handling, disease identification, control and management, queen rearing and royal jelly production, and colony division and multiplication.

The key outputs of the Training Workshop were:

  • Awareness of the status and opportunities in beekeeping in Rwanda
  • An update on progress with the preparation of ApiExpo
  • A stronger background understanding and awareness of common bee diseases and pests, with techniques for identification and options for their control and management by beekeepers
  • Improved knowledge in safe handling of bees for better management and harvesting of honey
  • Improved techniques for colony multiplication and basic knowledge on feeding bees
  • Basic practical skills in value addition working with wax: specifically making of bee wax candles and secondly making of body cream with options for cosmetic products and medicinal products
  • Improved honey processing techniques based on the design of a small, compact unit that is robust enough for commercial production in the rural areas
  • Practical hands on knowledge on making a modern beehive

Assessment of the Training

  • Participants felt that the three day period was too brief with not enough time to develop skills in all areas of their concern
  • The topics were relevant and there was new information and opportunity to refine skills and learn new techniques
  • Due to the disruption of the planned field training by the landslides that blocked the road to the north and west of the country, the practicals on the first day were not well planned with some missing materials. But the second day was well organized.
  • Participants got a lot of new information, and hands on training on how to apply the information and felt that they have something to share with beekeepers in their locale
  • After the training participants feel confident to make their own hives whereas before they felt constrained to purchase modern hives or use traditional ones
  • The trained participants expressed willingness to go back and pass on the knowledge and skills however a number of constraints will limit how much they can do:
    • They need an action plan and follow-up steps on how to implement what they learned at the training
    • Difficulties with finding the materials necessary for practicing/ adapting the new skills and techniques
    • For greater impact, they expressed preference that the training is done by government extension, but this would require financial support
    • Much of what was being taught was new, was it possible to have a refresher course at some point?
    • How can they reach and mobilize youth and women who stand to benefit greatly from the information from the training
  • No handouts were provided during the training: participants were informed that all training modules would be accessible on the website, but very few of the participants have internet skills or access. Government should make printouts for the participants.
  • Participants requested for certificates as proof of the training: they were directed to the AU-IBAR website, but also cautioned that willingness to practice the new knowledge was more important than the certificate.
  • Is it possible for AU-IBAR to support ApiExpo which will take place in September? AU-IBAR is there to support Member States: ApiExpo is continental, and therefore support can be requested from AU-IBAR.
  • There are plans in the pipeline for AU-IBAR to provide equipment to Member States: priority will be given to those that have attended the training.

A number of issues were highlighted:

The urgency of the need for the sector to organize itself to comply with the Presidential campaign ‘Made in Rwanda’: launched in 2015 the campaign geared to promote consumption of locally made products boosting growth of local industries and reducing reliance on imports is an important guidance for the that sector. The training exposed participants to value addition, but much is yet needed to mobilize the sector if it is to comply and benefit from the new policy.

In alignment with the ‘Made in Rwanda’ campaign an affirmation of the relevance and importance of the training format and content: Participants appreciated the relevance of the training content and format and are committed to facilitating similar trainings in other parts of the country.

A call for translation of all training materials into Kiryanrwanda to ensure that all participants have access to the information, and therefore can use the materials at local trainings.

To realize the potential of beekeeping in Rwanda, participants, while recognizing the efforts of Government of Rwanda to create an enabling policy, institutional and regulatory framework called for:

  • Promotion of beekeeping as a business with commensurate investment in training and capacity development, strengthening value chains and creating business links and networks
  • Inclusion of beekeeping in tertiary level curricula with supportive research and development programs
  • Support for study tours to other countries to provide first hand exposure to beekeepers to the possibilities of a business orientation
  • Greater investment in the beekeeping sector with increased budget support and public sector investments to attract private equity.
  • A specific call for MINAGRI to facilitate cost sharing on processing equipment, packaging and labelling material, certification and training on standards: as stated within the PSTA III
  • Access to credit for sector actors, especially women and youth
  • Support to emergence of support services especially local artisans and fabricators of hives and other equipment and suppliers of materials
  • A pesticide regulatory environment that ensures protection of honeybees and other pollinators and training of beekeepers on protection from pesticides and management of pesticide impacts
  • Land use planning that accommodates the needs of bees and beekeepers including protection and promotion of melliferous vegetation and access to gazetted forest sites given the non-invasive nature of beekeeping
  • Recognition of the employment potential of the sector and mobilization to enhance women and youth employment
  • Government promotion of improved technologies including the improved smoker in line with government regulations and to protect bees, the health of beekeepers and the environment
  • Development of beekeeping infrastructure including bulking, processing and sales sites
  • Inclusion of bee health within animal and public health systems with access to veterinary services (monitoring, reporting, diagnosis, control and management)
  • Public investment in the organization of sector actors through support to cooperatives and associations
  • More information and practical knowledge on pollination services

Closing Remarks

AU-IBAR thanked the Government of Rwanda for organizing and hosting this important training workshop and renewed assurance of continued support to the Government of Rwanda in matters related to beekeeping and development of all animal resources.