Vast decline in honey production making life more difficult

03Aug 2020
Beatrice Philemon
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Vast decline in honey production making life more difficult

HONEY production and beeswax collecting at Ipapa Forest Reserve in  Namakambale village 63 kilometre from Tunduru town centre  has declined  because livestock keepers have invaded the  village land forest reserve for grazing.

Village Natural Resources Committee (VNRC) chairman in Namakambale village, Yacob  Elisha  explains how stream and water sources have been badly damaged due to livestock grazing and are drying up.

Right now the situation is not good for villagers engaged in a beekeeping project because forest cover, woodland forests and flowers that are vital for bees have been destroyed by livestock keepers using the zone for cattle ranching, causing deforestation in the village forest reserve.

Also streams and water sources that flow into Muhesi River have been badly damaged from livestock grazing and are drying up.

Tuchira river flows into Muhesi River, as well as Mwehuru,  Kiwea and Majimeupe rivers that are  the main water sources in the honey production  environment, keeping the surrounding vegetation healthy. They have been extensively damaged by livestock keepers and are on the way to drying up, making it difficult for flowers to blossom so that the bees have the right environment for making honey .

Ipapa Forest Reserve is located in Makambale village with 4491 hectors of land.

The villagers raised these concerns in separate interviews when speaking to journalists from different media organizations in a meeting conducted by the Village Natural Resources Committee in Namakambale village.

Speaking on behalf of Namakambale residents, the Village Natural Resources Committee (VNRC) chairman,  Yacob  Elisha  says, honey production has declined from 2000 litres to 40 litres  per harvesting season and make their lives so hard, a situation that was happily absent in earlier days.

He says in 2018, as group they produced 80 litres of honey and selling for 7000/- per litre.

The money they get from selling honey is deposited in a bank while the remaining funds are used to purchase honey harvesting and handling equipment.

In 2019 they obtained 40 litre of honey instead of 1000-2000 litres  per harvesting season which is just too narrow as a productivity margin, the chief cause of the decline being overgrazing inside Ipapa Forest Resereve. Thus Kiwea, Mwehuru and Tuchila rivers dry up.

Incomes have declined dramatically and make their lives hard.

“As villagers we depend on the beekeeping project to generate income, pay school fees for our children, health services and other domestic needs but right now our lives have changed dramatically as  the funds that we get from selling honey and beeswax are marginal,“ he says.

A 73-year-old farmer and beekeeper, Elisha is among numerous villagers benefiting from the beekeeping project that provided room for villagers to generate income.

In a bid to benefit from what they do, so far villagers have formed a beekeepers group named ‘Nyuki ni Mali C‘  that comprises 21 members.l It is meant to generate income, conserve the forest reserve, with the members harvesting  honey twice  per year.

The group was established in 2013 and so far it has 20 modern beehives, received from former prime minister Mizengo Pinda as he was impressed with the high quality honey that they produce,l with some of the equipment being supplied by the Tunduru District Beekeeping Office.

“Among those, five modern beehives were offered by Mizengo Pinda and 15 were offered by the district office,” he says.

Although there are 20 modern hives, they still need more beehives as some of beehives are at present dilapidated.

The group was registered in February 5th 2012 with support from Namakambale ward councillor, Mfaume Wadali.

“As villagers we express gratitude to him for what he did so that we can operate our activities in a formal sector setting,” he says.

Although villagers have embarked on a beekeeping project, their economic fortunes are not good as honey production, beeswax and hence incomes have been fallen drastically.

Villagers are struggling to access funds to pay school fees for their children’s secondary and vocational education.

Although the village has tried to allocate special grazing plots for livestock keepers to prevent conflicts between farmers and these invaders, they don’t want to use it and they attack those who try to fend off their grazing habits.

Once they kill people or destroy farms they run away knowing villagers will retaliate or the police arrest them, and they come back later when no one knows who actually conducted the killing, or was grazing at that place. The villagers are irate on this bad behavior as farmers  have the right to live similar to the cattle grazing newcomers, he says.

Highlighting on what they need from the government, he says the government should value farmers as they have right to live and  be treated equally by the law which now appears to favor livestock keepers. Village and district authorities are doing nothing about the decimation of the beekeeping sub-sector and deterioration of water sources in the villages.

“We need to be treated equally because when we call ward and district officials to see the challenges we are facing, and help to sort out the problem between villagers and livestock keepers they don’t come,” he says

District and ward officials are at times seen in the area is someone passes away or is killed.

Otherwise they don’t make follow up on livestock keepers  who cause conflicts, kill people  and don’t even appear to know where those invaders live.

“We are just wondering why they will follow up if a farmer breaks this or that rule, but they will do nothing about routine transgressions of livestock keepers,” he says, underlining that this isi the reason for the feeling that farmers need to be valued similar to livestock keepers “because we are all human beings.”

He called on the Tunduru District Commissioner and District Executive Director (DED) to  help them solve the challenges they have already submitted to them because they depend on beekeeping and farming activities for living acceptably, and both these avenues are under threat.

They similarly want the Tunduru district council to help them access 5m/- that in turn will help them to purchase modern beehives as some of the beehives are dilapilated.

For his part, Namakambale village chairman, Hassan Likambale noted : “We need support from the government in terms of DED, DC because  we fear  that as more people, especially, livestock keepers from different regions move into the district, the higher will be the risks of our forests to suffer generalised destruction,” he said.

Livestock grazing has brought hugely negative effects in Namakambale village as right now Majimeupe and Mtipula water sources have been destroyed due to overgrazing and deforestation is apace at Ipapa forest reserve.

Mtipula water source is a vital source of water for people living in Nakapanya and Namakambale villages especially during the dry season as people depend on Mtipula water source for domestic use and watering plants.

The village has been trying to keep cattle out of the water sources but the livestock keepers don’t obey regulations and as more livestock keepers continue to damage water sources, people will suffer even more trying to access water for their beekeeping project and domestic use.

Namakambale village was established in 1974 and it has 10,158 residents.

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