Elita Chikwati-Acting Features Editor
Bees sting and kill ,many people the world over but when handled properly bees provide a huge source of income, with very little input from the keeper.
In Bandera Village in yonder Mbire, north of Zimbabwe 39-year-old Dorcas Murongazvombo, who is also the village head Musauki boasts of earning a living from bee keeping.
The village head who is also a secretary of the Mbire Bee-keepers’ Association said she can now realise meaningful profits from the project and this has since transformed her life.
Mrs Murongazvombo can now pay school fees for her children using proceeds from selling honey and will soon be processing honey into other products, as part of her value addition strategy.
“This project has empowered a number of community members especially women. This is our first time to venture into apiculture. Now that women are getting an income from bee keeping, issues of domestic violence have dropped.
“We can now contribute towards payment of school fees and buying food. We used to be wholly dependent on our husbands and this in some cases resulted in domestic violence.
“Soon we will be marketing our honey through the processing plant which is still under construction. We are going to upscale our project so we can meet both local and export demand,” she said.
The village head said she recently harvested 40 kilogrammes of honey from her 11 beehives and used part of the proceeds to buy 100 indigenous chickens to boost her poultry project.
“I hope the programme will be expanded from five to all the 17 wards. We should have command apiculture so we can maximise profits and venture into other income generating projects. Under the project, we are also encouraged to plant trees and we are using some of the fodder trees to feed our livestock,” she said.
Mrs Murongazvombo is one of the beneficiaries of the Zambezi Valley Biodiversity projects being implemented by Government in partnership with the UNDP GEF in Mbire, Muzarabani and Hurungwe.
Other partners include the Forestry Commission, Environmental Management Agency, Mbire Rural District Council, Lower Guruve Development Association(LGDA) and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority among others.
The multi-faceted project is aimed at strengthening biodiversity and ecosystems management and climate-smart landscapes in the Mid to Lower Zambezi Region of Zimbabwe. The project is part of efforts to protect natural resources and to curb human wildlife conflict.
Mbire is in region 4 and receives low rainfall. The community depended on hunting, farming and fishing.
In most cases crops are affected by perennial droughts. On the other side elephants invaded the communities destroying crops leaving people with no alternatives than to turn to the forests for food.
This resulted in poaching of wildlife, veld fires and deforestation and escalated human- wildlife conflict as people were killed while others were injured in the forests while trying to get firewood, fruits, honey or meat.
Thus the projects were aimed at ensuring people were no longer dependent on forests for livelihoods.
Some were trained on bee-keeping, production of small livestock, fish farming and production trees both indigenous and exotic.
Resources were also availed for piped water systems and biogas, and establishment of nutritional gardens among other interventions.
In Bandera village, Ward 9 Mbire people were trained on bee-keeping and they are now selling honey. Mrs Dadirai Nyamupenza said most women did not have knowledge on manufacturing beehives.
“We did not have knowledge on bee keeping but now we can manufacture own beehives. We have established apiaries near our homesteads and these help in deterring elephants.
“We were using the traditional hives which we made from indigenous trees but now we make the Kenyan top bar from which we can harvest three times a year and helps farmers produce high quality honey.
Mbire RDC assistant executive officer, natural resources and agriculture, Mr Obert Shoko said the projects have reduced deforestation in the area.
“We are also working with the Forestry Commission which is giving farmers trees to plant.
“People in this area relied on firewood for energy and this was depleting forests. Now farmers can grow own trees for fuel while others can use biogas for energy and this helps in conserving forests.
“Human-wildlife conflict has been rife in Mbire. This year we have lost four people who were killed by wildlife. Crocodiles have been killing people who go for fishing in search of relish. Now the through the UNDP programme, farmers have been trained to establish fish ponds at home so they do not need to go to the rivers,” he said.
Mr Shoko said the honey processing plant which was being constructed in Ward 9 was going to help farmers package and market their honey.
“Farmers have formed the Mbire Bee-keepers Association and with assistance from partners have ventured into value addition. They are now making shoe polish, wax and candles among other products and this increase their income,” he said.,
Forestry Commission extension officer, Mr Francis Lunga said they were encouraging farmers to plant trees.
“Our mandate as Forestry Commission lies within the restoration of forests. There has been a lot of deforestation in the country and about one million hectares have been destroyed annually. We want to plant two million trees in Muzarabani, Mbire and Hurungwe. For Mbire we are going to plant 700 000 trees that include indigenous and exotic species depending with the use. We have established a nursery so we can produce seedlings and give farmers,” he said.
Some of the beneficiaries of the project have ventured into fish farming.
In Mataya Village, Chitsungo, farmers constructed a fish pond at Nyambudzi Primary School which is also serving as a demonstration centre. The fish will be harvested and sold to members of the community and proceeds used to buy books for pupils.
Nyambudzi Primary School has a feeding programme for the ECD pupils. After the establishment of the pond the pupils now eat Sadza with fish. Chairman of the project, Mr Leonard Mukohwani said communities were learning to produce fish at household level.
“We are working the LGDA on the fish farming project. A number of people have established fish ponds at home and no longer go and poach at the rivers,” he said.
Mr Chiunye Chiunye said the challenge was there was limited water supply as the school also depended on the borehole dug for the project.
Mrs Tianzvo Gwaze of Chikafa Village said the use of biogas has helped her as she no longer needs to travel long distance in search of firewood.
“My family was big and used a lot of firewood, an average of three scotch carts per month. We would fetch the firewood from very far away areas and there were dangers of being killed elephants or lions.
“Now that I am using biogas I use gas stove to cook. My health has also improved. My health had deteriorated as I used to carry heavy loads of firewood. We are now charging our phones and lighting our house using biogas,” she said.
Farmers in Matsiwo, Kadzibonga Village area were helped to establish garden.
They were provided with a borehole and a tank.
Mr Love Zonde said they were now producing vegetables throughout the year because of the availability of irrigated water.
“Gardening helps us to get money from selling our vegetables to the nearby communities. We used to practice stream bank cultivation and others were growing crops on the river bed. A lot of things were happening. Stream bank cultivation led the siltation of rivers. Some of us also poached rabbits from forests but we now we have an alternative source of food. We hope we can get more boreholes so we can expand the area under irrigation.
Mrs Teresa Bakajese said she was happy because of the gardening project which had offered another source of living.
“We used to rely on cotton production but now have diversified to horticulture.
“We used to grow crops on the stream bank and elephants would come and destroy our crops. We now have new crop varieties and our children are enjoying fresh vegetables. We used to rely on dried vegetables.
“Now we can also help send children to school. As a woman I now have own source of income. I am planning to buy goats from the proceeds. This garden is not only helping members but also other people in the community as they come and buy while others are employed to work at the plots,” she said.