Kenyan beekeepers in Bomet are appealing for support in terms of knowlege and skills on sustainable beekeeping.
Beekeeping is one of the lucrative farming or income generating activities that have not been exploited to the optimum by farmers in the Kenya.
A report from the Ministry of Agriculture shows that in 2020, Kenya produced 17,801 tonnes of honey up from 13,877 tonnes the previous year which represented an increase of 28.28 percent.
According to Kenya’s National Farmers Information Service, the country is only producing 20,000 metric tonnes instead of an estimated 100,000 metric tonnes required in the country per year.
Kenya is currently facing a shortage of honey, forcing it to rely on neighbouring Tanzania to sustain its honey demand. Deforestation and pollution of the environment through the use of farm chemicals among others is said to affect the bee population in areas where farmers depend on or want to practice bee farming.
A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that raw honey is a good source of antioxidants. Raw honey is said to contain an array of plant chemicals that act as antioxidants.
Secondly, honey is said to contain some antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help in the healing of wounds. Honey also helps in digestive issues, boosts immunity, and soothes a sore throat.
Kenyan beekeepers in Bomet
In Bomet County, Abai group Self- Help from Chororoita in the Sotik sub-county consists of 15 members who first started their group as a merry-go-round in March 2014 but after one year they ventured into a beekeeping project.
But the group is yet to achieve its potential in beekeeping as they are grappling with various challenges in the beekeeping project.
The idea of beekeeping came from one of the members; Christopher Kitur who says he had earlier ventured into keeping bees as a passion with only two beehives and started selling honey locally which gave him a good income thus, he decided to sell the idea to his group members.
Six members of the group embraced the idea and they constructed seven beehives each thus getting a total of forty-two beehives.
The group also ventured into beekeeping because it’s cost-effective as materials for building beehives are easily available in the area and bring in faster and better returns.
Each of the members now has at least two beehives.
The group leader; Charles Cheboror says that there are many types of beehives that include the top-bar, Langstroth and the Warre hive adding the choice of one’s bee hive depends on the preference of a farmer but they chose the top-bar as it’s easy to construct.
Cheboror explains that there are different species of bees and how they live together in their colonies. He adds that in every colony there is a queen whose only job is to lay eggs and is highly protected by the other bees.
The farmer also identifies worker bees and the drone. “The worker bee and the queen are both females, but only the queen can produce. The drone is a male bee, Worker bees ensure the cleanness of the hive and collect pollen too,” Cheboror says.
“Pollen is a source of food for bees, but also pollen that is dropped by bees which are in flight helps in pollinating crops,” he adds.
Honey production within the group is still low with each member producing an average of around 10 kilograms per harvest. Yearly, they produce around 120 kilograms which fetch them about Sh. 9,600 as a kilo of honey sells at Sh. 800 on the market but locally they sell at Sh.600.
He adds that they sell their honey individually however, members are expected to remit at least five percent of what he gets to the organization in order to support its growth.
John Chirchir, a group member says their local customers are mainly the elderly who know the value of natural honey and others use it on the advice of medical doctors.
It’s a great alternative to sugar but only when consumed in moderation. Honey also contains a variety of nutrients that helps in boosting human immunity.
Bees, on the other hand, play a vital role in the environment, they help in the life cycle of most plants through pollination thus becoming vital to the nourishment of the biodiversity.
Chirchir says they are experiencing challenges that need the intervention of beehive experts who, however, are not available in the county to help their beekeeping enterprise become sustainable.
“Lack of adequate and professional equipment for harvesting honey is a big challenge thus I have to look for a brave local resident who can help me harvest the honey. He sometimes ends up destroying the combs containing the young ones, making the bees migrate,” Chirchir says.
The group is, however, optimistic that their project will succeed through the intervention of experts. They are appealing to the county government to employ agricultural extension workers to educate and support farmers.
Value addition in honey production will attract individuals who want to create opportunities for employment and by extension improve their lives.
Despite the challenges facing this and other beekeeper groups in Bomet, they are determined to keep forging on and help bridge the existing deficit in the production of this vital product in the country.
By Mabel Keya–Shikuku and Anderson Korir