Transforming Lives through Beekeeping: UNDP's Impact on Ugandan Communities
September 21, 2023
In the heart of Uganda's Rwenzori region lies a tale of transformation, where the simple act of beekeeping has not only improved livelihoods but also fostered environmental stewardship and economic growth. Mr. Adolph Bagonza, a veteran beekeeper, is a living testament to the power of community support, catalysed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Uganda and facilitated by the Private Sector Development and Consultancy Centre (PRICON).
Born into a family familiar with beekeeping, Adolph Bagonza's journey into the world of apiculture began as a professional pursuit in 1990. His early fascination with beekeeping was nurtured by a project initiated at his school in 1985, guided by a visionary reverend father. Recognizing the potential for collective progress, the reverend encouraged the formation of an association dedicated to beekeeping, aiming to empower young individuals in the community.
In 1991, Bagonza and fellow beekeepers convened, laying the foundation for what would become a thriving community of apiarists. However, the journey was far from easy. It was the intervention of PRICON that breathed life into their aspirations. According to Mr. Bagonza, the support from private sector partners, spurred by UNDP's catalytic approach, transformed their association immensely.
According to Bagonza “On 21st July in 1991, we had our first meeting to organize the beekeepers and form the Kabarole Beekeepers Association. It was not easy, but we persisted until the private sector came in. PRICON intervened when we had 21 groups. The private sector helped us organise up to 44 groups rising to 640 members in Rwenzori region. By that time. We were trained on how to turn crude honey into packed honey. We were able to then take it to supermarkets and other big shops. We were also trained on how to make honey wine and honey vinegar.”
With these trainings, Bagonza and his group ventured into more lucrative endeavors such as producing bee venom, wasp therapy honey, and propolis, discovering that this industry held the potential for substantial profits.
“We were trained on how to add value to bees wax to make bee venom, the most expensive bee product we produce thus increasing our incomes,” Bagonza added.
The impact of UNDP's interventions has been profound. Adolph Bagonza's story exemplifies the success achieved through organized beekeeping. With earnings from his beekeeping activities, he built a comfortable home and ensured his children's education.
“I have spent 40 years in this business and I do not regret it. I have built a good house. All my kids are in school, my son who has already graduated and my family is happy. Last month I made 10.5 million Uganda shillings just from bee venom and wasp venom alone. So, the support we got from everyone including the private sector has been very instrumental in transforming our lives.” he said.
However, the story extends beyond individual success. Beekeeping has become a beacon of hope for Ugandan youth, with Bagonza's association training the younger generation to ensure the continuation of this sustainable practice. Moreover, the emphasis on environmental conservation aligns beekeeping with the preservation of trees and the ecosystem, promoting a harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.
“We are now training youth in schools because we are aging. We want to leave bee keeping to the youth so that they can continue with this activity. There is a big future in this industry for this country. We want bee keeping to become one of Uganda’s biggest contributors to economic growth such as coffee especially because it is more environmentally friendly,” Bagonza added.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Private Sector Development and Consultancy Centre, Mr. Paul Kasande, underlines the instrumental role UNDP played in supporting community-driven development. The programme's multifaceted approach, addressing income generation, sustainable livelihoods, and governance, bolstered the efforts of associations like Bagonza's.
“Under the income generation and sustainable livelihoods, we did a lot of youth skills training in entrepreneurship which now has been wrapped into business development service. We were helping Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to come up in an organised manner and do business. We also linked them to farmers and large markets for their products. UNDP has been very supportive from way back; we have the infrastructure which was built by UNDP which has enabled us to work. Capacity building, we got from UNDP in terms of being able to work with other organisations. We have testimonies of institutions that are still operational that we supported all thanks to UNDP and other partners. And there has been a multiplier effect in the society. These people have trained other people,” said Mr. Paul Kasande.
According to Mr. Kasande, UNDP’s support encompassed infrastructure development, capacity building, and financial services, revitalizing struggling SACCOs and fostering economic growth. With projects like beekeeping and mushroom cultivation, UNDP laid the groundwork for sustainable enterprises that transcended individual beneficiaries, creating a ripple effect in society.
“We have been also able to open a skills training centre where we are doing vocational and hospitality training services, skilling for the youth, welding, tailoring among others. But all this ground has been built by UNDP, otherwise if we had not been facilitated and skilled like this, we would not have been able to get other partners on board,” said Kasande.
As Adolph Bagonza approaches four decades in beekeeping, he reflects on a journey that has defied initial scepticism. Beekeeping has proven to be a catalyst for personal growth, community empowerment, and environmental conservation. The dream of a thriving beekeeping industry, positioned as a major economic contributor to Uganda, is now a tangible reality, showcasing the potential of collaborative efforts driven by UNDP's catalytic approach.
The story of Adolph Bagonza and the beekeepers of the Rwenzori region echoes a resounding message: where there's collaboration, knowledge sharing and community support, transformative change is not only possible but sustainable. UNDP's vision, coupled with the dedication of individuals like Bagonza, serves as an inspiration for regions worldwide to harness their innate potential and create lasting positive impact.