Title :Protecting Forest Ecosystems and Improving Agricultural Productivity through Beekeeping in Burundi
Audience :Forest Adjacent Communities and Extension Agents
Ruvubu National Park is the largest nature reserve in Burundi and covers an area of 50,800 hectars. The Park is a habitat for important plant and animal species that are extinct or threatened in other parts of Burundi. Animal species in the Park include; leopards, pangolins, hyenas, colobus-bay, and 26 bird species, which are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Various human activities exert pressure on Ruvubu National Park ecosystem. The pressure emanates from; bush fires, illegal hunting, illegal cutting of trees for firewood and timber, and agricultural activities adjacent to the Park. The Burundi Office for Protection of Environment (OBPE) developed a policy of protecting the Park from exploitation.
Beekeeping has been idenfitied, through community involvement as an activity with multiple benefits including forest conservation. In Burundi, there are 32 species of bees found in forests and crop land. The bees as main pollinators, move to and from forests and agricultural fields. A beekeeping project was therefore intiated in three (3) villages, namely; Gasave, Itaba and Karehe in Buhinyuza Commune. A total of 4,615 persons were involved in the project. The project provides income to communities and contribute to forest conservation.
• To reduce pressure on natural resources in Ruvubu National Park through beekeeping
• To build capacity of Park adjacent communities on nursery establishment and management, and on-farm tree growing
• To improve livelihoods of communities
• To protect Ruvubu National Park from over-exploitation
• To provide alternative energy sources to households
The beekeeping practice was promoted through Participatory Forest Management model to effectively manage forests under village land. The practice was disseminated using various techniques, which included; video shows and testimonials from other farmers who had successfuly undertaken beekeeping. Activities involved:
• Establishment of a 20 km long greenbelt using Austro cylindropuntias subulata tree species in association with Euphorbia. The belt created a buffer between the park and the farms.
• Establishment of monitoring committees to address poaching as well as monitor and prevent bush fires.
• Installation of 100 improved bee hives.
• Creating community awareness on ecological and economic value of the Park.
• Integrating planting of trees with crops in agroforestry systems on-farm for wood and timber production. Priority trees species include Markamia lutea and Trema orientalis.
• Planting Miscanthus grass for soil erosion control and provision of fodder for livestock.
• Management of habitats for effective biodiversity conservation.
• Environmental and livelihood monitoring.
• Reduced environmental degradation and deforestation.
• Improved agricultural production and crop diversity. The practice has led to increased quantity and quality of fruits and vegetables produced due to effective pollination by bees.
• Improved livelihood through sale of farm products and honey, which fetch competitive prices in the market. For example, 100 improved bee hives produce about 2,300 kg of honey per year generating about € 9,200 (FBu 27, 600,000).
• Enhanced ecological value of the Park through conservation of plants and animals.
• Reduced forest fire incidences leading to improved forest and wildlife health.
• Use of video shows and testimonials from other farmers to disseminate the practice.
• Invasion by pests such as moths and ants, which disrupts beekeeping leading to loss of bee colony.
• High cost of modern bee hives.
• Capacity building of members of associations and communities is necesary to successfully implement new projects.
• Environmental conservation has ecological and economical benefits that are a motivation for farmers to participate in the project.
• The success of the practice depends on the willingness of the community to adopt, and apply acquired skills.
• Involvememnt of communities in project conceptualization and implementation increases chances of a project success.
There is strong local interest in beekeeping due to benefits acrrued. Beekeeping enhances forest protection leading to conservation of endangered species, improved biodiversity and livelihoods.