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BeeSupport, Amsterdam

Zimbabwe: Kutsungirira

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20 years Kutsungirira Beekeeping Society

Kutsungirira Beekeeping Society (Kutsungirira is the Shona word for "Perseverance in difficult times") is a co-operative of beekeepers in the Mwenezi District in Zimbabwe. Founded in 1997 by 10 heads of families, 7 of whom women, the aim of the KBS is the training of beekeepers, the creation of optimal conditions for bee-keeping, and the generation of income from the sale of honey and related products, all on an environmentally friendly and small-scale basis.

Michael Hlungwani and his wife, Miriro, started the KBS.

Michael, a hobby beekeeper, and Miriro, who had followed a course in beekeeping, were very successful with their first harvest: 40 pots of honey and home-made beeswax candles. Their neighbours also wanted to learn how to do this and together they founded the Kutsungirira Beekeeping Society. The name is very apt for this region, where life is very hard.

Mwenezi District is hot and dry, causing most agricultural harvests to fail. Luckily, there are many indigenous trees and bushes that flower and produce fruit, even with little rain, and are therefore attractive to wild bees. These bees populate the beekeepers' hives.

Training

The heart of the KBS's activities is the training and guidance of new beekeepers. Up to now, 550 men, women and school-children have received training. There is a waiting-list of another 300. The lessons are exceedingly practical. Through observation, video-tapes and practical exercises, the participants learn how to deal with the bees and to harvest and process their products. At the end, all participants receive a starter's package, consisting of protective clothing, a hive and a smoker. At first, the courses have been given in Michael's yard. Since there is so much interest, the Kutsungirira Beekeeping Society has built its own BEEKEEPING TRAINING CENTRE.

Facilities

KBS is also building up the infrastructure for beekeeping, such as a tree nursery under a shade, an orchard and a Eucalyptus-plantation. Every villager can obtain young trees to plant in their garden. The building of a water-reservoir for the collection of valuable rainwater makes it possible to have vegetable gardens and fields of maize, etc. The villagers consciously choose produce that will provide extra food for the bees and does not require fertilizers, such as sunflowers.

Shop and information centre

In 2004, the members built their own shop, where the harvested honey, beekeeping products and beekeepers' equipment is sold. The 20.000 bricks needed were made by the members themselves. The shop is situated some 40 km from Michael's village, Shazhaume, easily visible and accessible along the road between South Africa and the towns of Masvingo and Harare.
Tourists and long-distance travellers stop here and are interested in the origin of the honey and beeswax candles they can buy, so the Kutsungirira Beekeeping Training Centre also functions as an information centre on site with a permanent display.