CHIMANIMANI, ZIMBABWE — After Cyclone Idai hit in 2019, some Zimbabweans turned to activities like illegal gold panning to survive. Now Voluntary Service Overseas, an international development charity, is giving them a new option — bee keeping. In the town of Chimanimani, life has turned sweet for one Zimbabwean because of the honey from his bees.
While some in Chimanimani started gold panning after surviving Cyclone Idai in 2019, 21-year-old Washington Nyakazeya turned to bee-keeping after he and his family survived the disaster.
He is now an organic honey seller in Zimbabwe. He says the program has transformed daily life as he gets at least $300 a month — more than what a school teacher gets.
“Since I started bee-keeping I have seen a change in my life. Money is now coming to our home through honey sales. At times I even wonder if it’s me having some of the amount of money I get some days,” he said.
Nyakazeya family’s fields were left in tatters after Cyclone Idal struck, leaving millions in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe homeless and hungry.
Voluntary Service Overseas Zimbabwe is training villagers — mainly youths — to do bee-keeping here in Chimanimani.
“Due to climate change, unpredicted droughts, persistent flooding after Cyclone Idai we have managed to realize that bee-keeping is a viable adaptation strategy. So we have trained young people in bee-keeping so that they can earn income as a secure and resilient livelihood option,” he said.
Former Zimbabwe Forestry Commission official, Roseline Mukonoweshuro, says the project is sustainable not just for the farmers but also for the environment.
“Bee keeping is very important because we see that once people are practicing bee-keeping, they will protect their forest and as a result they won’t cut the trees because they need the trees for forage and at the same time, they won’t burn the forest because they still to have their hives as well as the forage,” she said.
Zimbabwe Forestry Commission says the country loses 330,000 hectares of forest annually as a result of deforestation, but Nyakazeka is jealously guarding all the trees near his home.
He plans on increasing his 50 bee-hives to more than 100 next year and wants to start exporting his organic honey to Europe and the United States.