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Beekeeping is a common economic activity in rural Rwanda

Beekeeping is a common economic activity in rural Rwanda

While touring Rubavu with Beyond the Gorillas Experience, I learned one or two things about beekeeping. As a regular consumer of honey, I am intrigued by what happens before the product makes it to the supermarket shelf near me. It is the same affinity that influenced my decision to learn how to pluck and process tea.

I have to admit, beehives are not as welcoming as those manicured tea fields I always write about. Unlike the camellia sinensis plants, bees are not peaceful. Despite the violent nature of bees, I had nothing to worry about whatsoever. Donning the right set of protective gear enabled me to participate in this activity safely. My experience was tailored around extraction, quality control and filtering.

Beekeeping has been widely practiced for centuries. Its earliest documented reference can be found in the ancient Greek literature. In the 16th Century, Conrad Gessner wrote a detailed account of the life of a bee in his book titled Historia Animalium.

In Rwanda today, beekeeping is a common economic activity among rural farmers. Honey is a popular edible supplement. Moreover, the benefits of beekeeping go beyond its culinary delights. Honey is also used to treat allergies, digestive problems, cough, sore throat and wounds. Furthermore, bees help farmers to pollinate their crops.

Apart from honey, bees produce a variety of products — including wax, royal jelly and bee venom. Royal jelly is often sold to other beekeepers to boost the fertility of queen bees. Other by-products serve different purposes. While in Kayonza, I encountered entrepreneurs who use bee wax to make candles and skincare products. As the Swahili say, tembea uone.

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