At the Nyabyeya Forestry College in Masindi, 136 students are
following beekeeping courses. As most of them are enrolled fulltime in the
forestry program, they consider beekeeping a class as any other. But not 20-year
old Peace Nabuzale. She is one of the rare students trying to graduate as a
professional beekeeper: “My fellow
students seem to forget that it is bees which pollinate these forests.”
The beekeeping program is one for busy bees. Students first learn how to construct a beehive and make a smoker, which is used to calm down the insects. They then practice how to take care of the bees and harvest their honey. Finally, students process products such as honey, bee wax candles and even propolis, a medicinal liquid.
Peace enjoys the program, saying that she loves the opportunities of beekeeping. “With more bees, more flowers will get pollinated, which will increase the production. Thanks to bees you can get high yields from everyday flowers.” Lawrence Ayo, her instructor, affirms that the school’s honey and candles sell very fast. Bee products seem an underused source of income in the region.
Thanks to the Skills Development Fund, master beekeepers from TUNADO (The Uganda National Apiculture Development Organisation) trained 11 of the school’s beekeeping instructors during a 10-day training. Lawrence is one of them: “I didn’t have the necessary practical skills because we mostly taught beekeeping from books. Now I can set an example for my students.” But it doesn’t stop there. The Skills Development Fund is also used to buy protective beekeeping suits for the students. Before, these were only available for the teachers, leaving students vulnerable to painful stings. As Ambrose Ahibisibwe, the vocational training coordinator of the college puts it: “It is no wonder that beekeeping was not a popular class. But now students can safely practice out in nature.”
To reduce the threshold for beekeeping, students are taught to build hives from local materials such as elephant grass or reeds. This is cheaper than constructing one from timber and iron sheets. “We motivate our students to start beehives on their own, so they don’t become jobseekers but create jobs themselves. “, instructor Lawrence adds. Peace already has some hives at her house. “After my training, I want to help my father in developing our beekeeping business. He is getting too old for it.”
The Skills Development Fund in Albertine-Rwenzori aims at sustainably improving the quality of technical and vocational trainings through public-private partnerships, in order to enhance the youth’s employability.