At Akagera Community Center, I soaked up interesting information on Savannah wildlife. I also learned a lot about the protection of biodiversity and low investment, high reward farming practices. One of the most intriguing lessons came from the beekeeping unit.
As a regular consumer of honey, I was eager to have a hands-on experience on the process of producing this great product. It is the same affinity that made me roll up my sleeves and learn how to pluck and process tea while visiting the Western Province a couple of years ago.
I have to admit though, the beehive is not as welcoming as those manicured tea fields. Bees are not as harmless as the camellia sinensis plants. Nevertheless, the experience was very fulfilling. My involvement was limited to extraction, quality control and filtering.
Beekeeping has been widely practiced for centuries. Its earliest documented reference can be found in the ancient Greek myths and legends. A bee is featured prominently in ancient Greek literature. In the 16th Century, Conrad Gessner examined the life and activities of a bee in his book titled Historia Animalium.
In modern societies, beekeeping remains a common economic activity. It serves as a source of food and medicine while generating income for beekeepers. The benefits of beekeeping go beyond honey’s culinary delights. Bees are important components of a healthy environment. In addition, they help farmers to pollinate their crops.
Apart from honey, bees produce wax, royal jelly and bee venom, among other products. While royal jelly is often sold to other beekeepers to help produce more queen bees, other products serve different purposes outside the bee realm. At Akagera Community Center, bee wax is used to make candles and skincare products. Elsewhere, honey is used to treat allergies, digestive problems, cough, sore throat and wounds.
Akagera Community Center is a source of inspiration for members of the local community and tourists. A visit to the center is a study tour shedding light on agricultural practices, the Savannah ecosystem, cultural heritage and conservation. The facility encompasses a curio shop, uniquely designed amphitheater and indigenous trees. Other projects found at the center include tree nursery and a garden in which vegetables and fruits are grown. Chicken, mushrooms and butterflies are also in the mix.
"We produce a wide range of supplies. Initially, we were relying on hotels found in and around the national park but the pandemic has taught us to dig deeper. We have become a resilient bunch." Says Rutibuka Ettienne, a community attendant.
Construction of a dormitory and a basketball court is in its final stages. The dormitory will cater for the accommodation needs of students and other groups visiting the area for study tour purposes.
The author is visiting all 30 districts of Rwanda. His tour of Kayonza is sponsored by Ikaze Rwanda Tours & Travel, Jambo Beach, Ihema View Campsite, Silent Hill Hotel, Imigongo Art Center and Akagera Rhino Lodge.