Umutara Deaf School Project

Umutara Deaf School Project

April 6, 2023
A group of individuals standing together holding their traditional Rwandan beehives

Introduction to the Project

Since its inception in 2018, the Umutara Deaf School beekeeping project has been dedicated to training deaf children to become skilled beekeepers. The project aims to equip these children with the necessary knowledge and skills to establish a sustainable source of income. This not only provides them with financial independence but also fosters confidence and respect within their home villages. In Rwanda, where people with disabilities often face challenges in achieving societal recognition, this project holds particular significance for us.

Support and Training

The Umutara Deaf School beekeeping project has received continuous funding and support from Bees Abroad. The school’s apiary serves as a training ground for students in their final two years of schooling. Additionally, the most promising students, typically around four each year, are enrolled in Bees Abroad’s continued support program, which extends for 1-4 years depending on their dedication and progress in beekeeping.

A total of ten graduates from the Umutara Deaf School have been provided with three beehives each and protective clothing to establish their own beekeeping operations in their respective home villages. Bees Abroad remains committed to their progress by offering ongoing training through the school’s trainer. Regular visits are conducted to assess their development and provide any necessary support. Successful individuals receive additional hives and harvesting equipment after one year of home beekeeping.

An additional three graduates are expected to receive sponsorship upon their graduation this summer. By extending opportunities to these young adults, the project aims to foster their long-term success and growth in beekeeping.

Promising Future

Among the beneficiaries of the Umutara Deaf School beekeeping project, the majority have demonstrated a passion for beekeeping and achieved remarkable progress. Their commitment and enthusiasm have yielded fruitful outcomes, contributing to their personal and professional development.

The Umutara Deaf School beekeeping project, supported by Bees Abroad, has made significant strides in empowering deaf children in Rwanda. Through beekeeping training and ongoing assistance, these children have gained the means to generate income, build confidence, and establish respected positions within their communities. The project’s success stories highlight the transformative impact of such initiatives and inspire hope for a more inclusive and equitable society.

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Visit to Rwanda 2017

We visited 2 community groups in the west of Rwanda to assess projects for future support from Bees Abroad. Both have in the past received funding from other organisations to establish beekeeping however no on-the-ground training was offered.

During our short visit we found that despite both being dynamic and committed community groups the lack of training has meant that neither have been successful in developing beekeeping. This is even more disappointing given that the area has a strong beekeeping tradition and newly established beekeeping groups would certainly benefit from local beekeepers willing to share their knowledge and from non-beekeepers who know the value of beekeeping and are keen to be involved.

During our week-long visit we provided basic training and support to try and enable the communities to make the most of the equipment and local knowledge that they already have. We also identified a future Bees Abroad project to provide further training in beekeeping, harvesting and marketing and believe that sharing these skills would allow both communities  to benefit as much as possible from beekeeping.


The community in Bumba is still recovering from the genocide of 1994 to 1997 with many damaged people and families struggling to move forward in life. The Community Education Programme (CEP) sees its role to develop more projects, to improve local people’s lives and to prepare them for the 21st century.

Our contact was Father Patrick, a very enthusiastic and committed advisor to the CEP. He was previously parish priest in Bumba and has continued his involvement, working to source funding, develop new ideas and keep the community inspired. He is rightly proud of the CEP; a cooperative with a clear constitution and decisions making process whereby the management committee and cooperative members determine how to spend money, what projects to pursue and who gets paid what proportion of proceeds.

The CEP has a bakery with modern European bread oven producing bread and cakes daily. There is also a community nursery school, meeting rooms from which it runs classes, and accommodation for volunteers and/or paying guests.

There is great potential for the CEP’s beekeeping activities however this has not been successfully developed. The CEP secured funding from the German embassy to buy 70 Kenyan Top-Bar hives, 2 bee suits and a smoker but they were not confident in their knowledge and hence when we arrived all 70 hives were still in storage, waiting to be prepared and installed in apiaries.

During our visit we:

  • cut and modified the hives as not all the roofs and top bars fitted properly and taught the team to do this work so that they are now confident with the KTBs.
  • provided classroom training in bee biology, hive management and apiary management.
  • provided practical training in cleaning, baiting, checking and managing local and KTB hives.
  • thought the group how to make Catcher hives and discussed their use.
  • helped the bee keeping group set up 3 apiaries with well-located stands and hives.
  • visited a potential site for a 4th apiary and met the farmer who rents the land from CEP and who is keen to be part of the project.
  • developed good relationships with number of skilled local beekeepers, in particular Martin Ungarare who is competent to repair and modify damaged hives, clean and bait hives and assemble hives into an apiary. He is prepared to routinely check hives and to work with others to develop their skills.

There is considerable beekeeping in the local area, mostly cylindrical local hives but also a few Kenyan Top-Bar hives. Father Patrick was once again our contact: he moved to Ngororera last year and has organised for the Catholic church to support the Ngororera Womens’ group, a co-operative in which about 40 women are involved.

Some of the women have beekeeping experience and the co-operative’s President, an elected member of the local council, has worked hard to organise the use of council land for the main apiary.

The US embassy funded 60 hives however once again no beekeeping training was offered. This has meant that only one of 60 hives has bees.  We found that none of the hives in the main apiary (40 hives) had been set up correctly nor baited, some were not clean and most did not have a full set of bars.

During our visit we:

  • worked to help develop a beekeeping group (6 women, 5 men). Some of the group have bee keeping knowledge and have traditional hives. They will be of great help to the group
  • provided practical training was provided at the main apiary with the group in how to set up a hive correctly and how to clean and bait. At the end of the session 10 hives were in good working order
  • discussed basic bee biology and harvesting.
  • helped plan the development of the apiaries and agreed that 10 hives will be moved from the main apiary to one of the smaller sites, after they have been cleaned and set up properly.
  • developed a good working relationship with Grace, a member of the beekeeping group who is very keen to see the project thrive and who works for the local council that owns the land on which the main apiary is sited.