Rwandan winner of Vita’s photo competition
The winner of Vita Bee Health’s annual photo competition is Vincent Hakizimana, who comes from Rwanda, so we were especially keen to find out more about his beekeeping and thrilled at what we learned…
In his winning photo, Vincent Hakizimana is seen holding a small swarm of honey bees – that’s how he demonstrates to young people how gentle Apis mellifera scutellata can be when well managed – that will come as a surprise to many in temperate climates who link scutellata with a highly defensive nature and with the so-called killer bee of the Americas when they crossed with other bees in Brazil.
Vincent, now 48, is a very experienced beekeeper, having begun the craft aged eight. He has even earned the name Kayuki, meaning Little Bee. With a degree from the National University of Rwanda, he now manages an apiary of 86 hives at the 200-hectare Arboretum Ruhande, which is linked to the university and renowned for its wildlife, seed gene bank and one third of a million trees of 178 different species.
Vincent is also field coordinator supporting research that involves students from University of Rwanda, University of Virginia in the USA, Trinity College in Dublin in Ireland, and from the Netherlands.
Keen to encourage beekeeping among young people, Vincent is involved in a programme that makes special efforts to include girls and overcome taboos and expectations that beekeeping is a man’s occupation. His message focuses on the importance of bee pollination for daily food, biodiversity and fighting poverty.
Beyond the university and arboretum, Vincent trains Rwandan beekeepers in modern techniques and helps establishing beekeeper cooperatives and facilitating their members in attending trade fairs in Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda.
The Ubwiza bwa Beekeepers’ Union, an umbrella of 15 beekeeping co-operatives around Nyungwe National Park, and the 722 members in South Western Province-Rwanda have gone on to win top producer prizes at ApiExpoAfrica 2016 and improve the lives of communities in their areas. The beekeepers, now much more aware of the importance of their environment, assist in its conservation. The Nyungwe National Park community is now committed to biodiversity conservation and helkps prevent illegal activities such as wild bush fires, tree cutting, snaring, poaching, mining and agriculture encroachment.
Sebastian Owen, commercial director at Vita, says, “Vincent’s competition entry fascinated all members of the judging panel to such an extent that we thought we really must find out more about him. That has proved to be very rewarding, and we plan to keep in touch with Vincent to discover how his enterprising activities in Rwanda are progressing.”