Lisa Bosia's diary
7 February 2015
Katrine, Isabella, Leon and I left Kigali shortly after noon and along the way we made several stops to buy provisions: meat, vegetables, fruit, oil. Rural Rwanda is dotted with dignified villages with brick houses, some covered with tiles, others with tin. All around a splendid vegetation: eucalyptus trees that stand proud and very high, the multicolored trunk, the soft leaves moved by the wind. Banana trees, flowering bushes and small hedges with straw yellow leaves. Terraced hills where corn is grown, the shiny leaves glistening in the sun. Hills and villages and people who come and go pushing carts full of merchandise, children lying along the road, elegant cows with their curved horns. An indescribable beauty. There is no plastic in Rwanda, it is a known thing, but seeing the perfection of the landscape not polluted by the damn plastic bags that make up trips to the Ivory Coast fills my heart with tenderness and admiration for a decision as simple as it is. effective. Rivers and rivers wind their way through fields and rice fields ready for harvesting. And then, after the last stop along the paved road, the track began. A red and dry track that goes up and down the hills leading to Nyamyumba, our destination. On the eucalyptus many traditional hives that fill me with excitement.
Traditional hives are built with intertwined branches covered in mud and placed high in the trees. The local population knows bees and beekeeping, and this is an excellent premise for developing a project. We cross magnificent tea plantations and then, after a bend to the left, Nyamyuma Hill appears in all its glory. We cross the village accompanied by greetings and welcome gestures. Amakuru the children tell us, welcome we say karibu, smiles, a few handshakes and we arrived. The house is very nice, brick, with a nice dining room, five bedrooms, hot water and even internet connection. A real luxury considering that we are three hours from the capital and forty minutes from the last urban center. The garden is lush with vegetables and there are also strawberries. After all, the two hives that Katrine placed six months ago are both inhabited, one by a strong family, the other by a family that has recently settled. We put our ears to the hive and hear the familiar buzz of welcome. Just behind the two modern hives on the tree that gives them shade, a traditional abandoned hive. I would like to open it immediately but we are a bit tired and we postpone the operation until tomorrow. The night comes quickly and the air cools, from the village come the joyful cries of children playing. The night is filled with the chirping of crickets and the croaking of small frogs. We expect a legume soup and a local spinach species called lenga-lenga, delicious. A glass of red wine, a herbal tea, a game of cards with Isabella, a sense of peace and complete fulfillment.
Katrine spoils us, the landscape seduces us, the silent calm of the night refreshes us. Another day has passed, a day full of wonder and amazement.
February 8, 2015
The project is progressing like a marvel, it almost seems to be self-made. Today we met Jean De Dieux, the author of a beekeeping manual in Kinyarwanda. He is a veterinarian and beekeeper and has already formed and supported the creation of 12 cooperatives in the region. He is undoubtedly the most informed person on rural beekeeping and the stages of transition to rational beekeeping. It reassures me about the use of the Langstroth hive about which I had some doubts. He also tells me that in their cooperatives, they can produce up to 60 kg per hive and that they are equipped for professional honey extraction with electric centrifugal extractors. The ARDI cooperative takes care of the transport and packaging. They are so good that they have obtained certificates for the export to Europe of their honey which is found in France, Belgium and Holland. What I would like to know is whether organic honey from Rwanda is sold as such, or is it blended and sold alongside other lesser quality honeys. The afternoon reserves other very pleasant meetings: Filomène, who in 1992 was president of a cooperative of beekeepers (engulfed by the genocide), Fabien the village carpenter who will build the modern hives and finally, a community meeting with about twenty pygmies. They arrived in the rain, with plastic slippers and plain cloths to cover themselves. We went to the pygmy community this morning to welcome the new homes, visit the families and see where to install the apiaries. In the houses of the pygmies, a true miracle of Mabawa, everything is in order, very clean. They are happy and grateful and welcome Katrine with big smiles and handshakes. On the walls the image of Jesus and on the side Katrine with the Batwa community. For the bees we found two eucalyptus groves right next to the pygmy houses and of course, passing this morning I didn't expect much enthusiasm. Instead, many came, listened carefully and I am sure that for Saturday they will have chosen ten seriously interested young people.
I could not have hoped for anything better: an expert trainer, an interested community, rustic hives already inhabited, the approval of the authorities and an association determined to carry out the project. We proceed quickly and the next steps will be to prepare the dossier: objectives, economic plan, timing, choose the first group of beekeepers to train and sign a contract with them, plan the next visits. We are hardworking people :))
In the evening, at sunset, we walk through the village and then the wonder of the children who joyfully and spontaneously approach us, take our hand and look at the contrast that our pale, close to their caramel color makes. Toothless smiles, very short hair and bare feet. Every soul we meet along the way approaches us to greet us and slowly we learn names and a language made up of gestures of greeting and reverence, sounds of a language that we do not know but that we learn little by little. The rain-soaked banana leaves glisten brightly in the warm sunset light. It is a moment of pure happiness that turns into play: whiskey the spider climbs the gutter, finger games that date back to childhood and then the muzunga monster with white eyes that makes shrieks and makes children run in every direction. After all, happiness is made up of little things: a child who takes your hand and accompanies you to the front door, a shared dinner, a game of cards. The evening comes quickly and brings the chirping of crickets, the gre-gre of frogs, moths and a voracious bat that catches them flying in front of the front door. And the uncomfortable questions that accompany me on African journeys evaporate in a satisfaction that I cannot say.
13 February 2015
My new life starts here in Rwanda. On a hill of cypress and eucalyptus trees, to visit a very well structured sustainable beekeeping project. A small cooperative of twelve young beekeepers who use traditional hives and rural hives. They catch the swarms by placing the hives built with intertwined branches, mud and straw on the tall trees, and then, once captured, they lower it with long ropes and transfer the bees into Langstroth hives. In a few years they have achieved a honey production of 50-60 kg per hive and this has allowed them to increase their income, to buy cows for the family and to build new hives. In the last year I have dedicated myself intensely to the study of beekeeping projects, I interviewed leading experts, I wrote a thesis on this topic and I invented a new activity that combines the love I have for people, for mother nature, for travel and intercultural exchange.
This is me, on a very special day for me. I am very grateful to Katrine Keller for giving me the opportunity to be here and to Isabella Medici to accompany me with such patience and also for the burraco matches and the delicacies. It is an experience that fills me with happiness and confirms that this is what I want to do and will do for the rest of my life. I will go around the world to make beekeeping projects. On Saturday we will meet the candidates for the basic course which will take place in June. The project is almost ready, it takes into account all the experiences I have had so far and everything I have learned. I can't wait for it to be Saturday and then also for June when I hope to be back. I love Rwanda and its people, I love Nyamyumba hills and being here. Thanks Mabawa - Wings for Africa, this experience is giving me more than I could ever have imagined. Thank you so much
February 15, 2015
Evening falls on Mabawa and brings with it a refreshing downpour with thunder and lightning lighting up the hills in the distance. The current comes and goes and eventually goes completely leaving us in the mysterious darkness of the night. Then the candles are lit and we slip into an ancient world, time expands: the mobile phones are turned off, the movements slow down, the voices fade, the thoughts go to distant friends, the memories emerge.
The night becomes deep and dark, toads move happily among the puddles of water and we slip into sleep, serene of someone who has had everything and more than he could imagine. I like this new life, I like it immensely.
February 14, 2015
There are overwhelming emotions, so intense that they leave you speechless. Tonight, after a wonderful day spent talking about bees, beekeeping and women's rights we went to the inauguration ceremony of a house built by Mabawa.
The landlady, a widow with three dependent children, welcomed us in her best place. One after another other women and other men came out of the kitchen. Everyone found a place in the small bright emerald green living room that reflected on the excited and happy faces from the walls. A thanksgiving ritual unfolded before our moved eyes. The eldest son introduced his mother, Lucie who told how this house makes her happy: for many years I lived in a house with a broken roof that let the rain through - he tells us - and sometimes, when we were far away, in the fields , we went home and found everything wet: the bed, the clothes, the floor.
Now that this house is built, I feel a great happiness in my heart and words are not enough to thank Katrine and Mabawa who made this dream possible. Never - says Lucie with a touched voice - I would have dreamed of having a beautiful house like this. Thanks to Katrine and thanks to Mabawa who gave us and the whole village this happiness. And it really is a beautiful home, simple but comfortable. Painted ocher outside, with a nice solid door and jalousies on the windows. Inside there is a small sitting room, two rooms and a wood stove. All painted in emerald green. The genocide took her husband away, Mabawa gave her the opportunity to have her children study and build a house to spend the rest of their life in. Mud bricks, plaster, paint, an insulated tin roof with a simple wooden ceiling, an energy-saving light bulb that brightens the room when night falls.
Mabawa has built over a hundred houses like this in Nyamyumba, and terraces to cultivate on and schools to study in. A global development project that Katrine followed with passion and tenacity, even when there was no electricity and running water, even when things didn't go well. Making mistakes and learning from their mistakes in a crescendo that simply leaves you speechless for breadth and intelligence. Homes are a difficult business to finance - he tells me - because people don't always understand their importance. Yet development is also knowing that you have a place to live the rest of your life peacefully, where you can welcome your grandchildren and where you can close your eyes at the end of our earthly journey. While the grown-ups talk and honor each other, the children stand outside the door with their sly eyes and toothless smiles. The cows return from the pastures with some goats, the sky thickens, a tropical storm is preparing, soon it will rain heavily, on the red earth of Nyamyumba. Lucie, her children and her grandchildren will sleep in the new house tonight, and it's truly a love story with a happy ending. Thanks Katrine, thanks Mabawa!
February 15, 2015 - Village meeting
“I am a widow, with three dependent children, and I am HIV positive. I am afraid for my children, if I were to die would you take care of them? " Katrine shudders but no doubt: "Of course yes, we will take care of your children, but tell me more about your situation ....".
This interview takes place outdoors, in front of the whole village, or rather, to those who have come to hear the news on this gloomy day. Katrine and Leon introduce the guests to the villagers: Desiré, head of the government project “a laptop for each student”, Isabella an expert in international development, and me, the bee sciüra. The atmosphere full of intensity makes the encounters with the villages in the Ivory Coast immediately resurface, when you arrive and you don't know who you will be: sometimes ten people, sometimes a hundred. And there is talk of beekeeping, of water, of community problems. In the Ivory Coast, the notables and kings of the village meet - toothless and semi-illiterate old men who wear bizarre pink embroidered pajamas and who most of the time fall asleep in the middle of the speech -, here, on the other hand, the women, dressed in their beautiful colored pagne on the feast day. The women in the center, the men on the sides and behind, as if to protect the group. They speak one at a time: who thanks for a cow received, who for the house, who for a scholarship and she, sitting right in the center, who asks this simple question: "I should die, could I count on your help?". It is not the only dramatic story we hear on this day of extraordinary humanity.
A pygmy comes forward, small, really very small, with a bright green straw on her head. She stands right in front of Katrine and begins her story: “I gave birth to nine children, but I was poor, so poor that I saw the first six die one after the other, and I was waiting for the death of the next one. Then you came and gave me another life. The possibility of looking after my children, a new house with a concrete roof and floor, the possibility of sending my children to school. Now, when I watch them come back in their beautiful red dress, I feel full of joy and hope and now I don't know how to express all my gratitude ”. The emotion is palpable, very strong, and the eyes become moist.
Many are speaking, men and women, all very grateful, all with a dramatic story behind them. Genocide is no longer talked about, the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups are not named, it is forbidden by law, but how can we forget the rapes, the infanticides, the mutilated arms, the thousands of bodies thrown into the rivers until they turn red. Until 1994 much of the world was unaware of the existence of Rwanda, after the genocide, what remained in the minds of most are the massacres, carried out first by the Hutus on the richest and most educated Tutsis, and then on the contrary, in retaliation. Today the country is in a moment of extraordinary growth, every year the dependence on foreign aid decreases: programs of food sovereignty, in the field of health and education are changing the face of the country. Kagame, the president in office, is a man with some shadows, but he is much loved and has been able to instill the principles of reconciliation in the exhausted population. The establishment of natural parks, the safeguarding of the territory, solid relations of transnational and international foreign policy suggest a solid and harmonious economic growth.
The elderly stop us on the street and greet us warmly. Then they talk to us as if we have always known each other about their pains, about the fatigue of living. Alongside the elderly suffering from an irrepressible memory, a new generation grows: well-prepared young people, university students, intellectuals ready to change the face of the country. This is Rwanda, a wonderful landscape, generations compared, economic growth and subsistence. Many faces, one country. Want to come back a little, I almost stop here. Lisa of the bees.
February 21, 2015
A traditional hive is placed on the eucalyptus at the entrance to CasaMabawa - Wings for Africa, to signal that a new project has begun: beekeeping for the village of Great Nyamyumba. In June, the first basic training course for 18 new beekeepers. Katrine Keller, an enthusiastic new beekeeper, supervises the laying. BZZzzzzZzzzZzz, can you hear the buzz ?!
February 21, 2015
And then the last day also arrives and you have to leave even if there are some things to do: prepare the grilled soy flour paste to feed the bees in view of the rainy season, teach the carpenter how to assemble the frame wires and choose which ones hives buy. Going to greet the Batwa who welcome us with a dance and a song:
Come and see!
Come and see the village where even the last ones have had a home,
Come and see our cultivated fields,
Come and see our rebirth,
Come to Nyamyumba where we have found a new life ...
The two weeks went by in a moment and yet it seems to me to be months away. I struggle to concentrate on the work that awaits me, it seems to me a distant world: I no longer remember the names of the newly arrived families, how many children, nationality. I want to come back for my loves and friends but just as much want to stay. I will miss the calm, the thin drizzle that refreshes the evenings, the passionate evening discussions. In this short stay I met people who have enriched me immensely and I already feel nostalgia.
I liked everything: the work we did, the house that welcomed us, the traveling companions, the affection of the inhabitants of the village, the children, the tranquility of the evening.
There is still so much to discover, to know and I am glad to think that it is not a goodbye but a goodbye.
Rwanda mon amour et il n'y a pas grand chose à expliquer.
February 24, 2015
Life is undoubtedly an extraordinary adventure!
A year ago I came up with this idea: to put what I had learned about bees and beekeeping from my dad at the service of fragile populations. Honey is an extraordinary food and bees are precious insects that reproduce life with their very precious work of pollination. While bees are disappearing in the hemisphere in which we live, African forests preserve highly resistant, nomadic native species that are a true heritage of biodiversity.
Beekeeping and development also means preserving and enhancing this diversity. Thanks to Egidio Cescato who allowed me to accompany him to the Ivory Coast and for the extraordinary work he is doing in these days of mission.
Thanks to Katrine Keller and Isabella Medici for trusting me, accompanying and supporting me in this first extraordinary journey of work, study and happiness. Thanks to my husband Tarek Mirra and Walid Mirra for always waiting for me with patience and affection. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!