It is estimated that Migori County produces a paltry one metric ton of honey, while its total consumption stands at 50 metric tons.
County Livestock and Fisheries Director Charles Nyaanga says the production is far much below the figure of 20,000 metric tons produced nationally, against a consumption rate of 100,000.
This indicates a huge demand for honey in Migori and Kenya as a whole to satisfy consumer needs, according to Mr. Nyaanga.
For many years, Migori has been disadvantaged to produce more honey and its other products due to a serious slump in forest development, a key factor in honey production process.
The fact that the region became a tobacco growing hub as early as 1970 made it a big forest deficit area as the leaf curing process turned into gobbling millions of tons of wood-fuel every year.
The tens of tobacco farmers were engaged in wanton felling of trees to make their tobacco treating kilns operational. The end result therefore was a serious forest clearance, a move that immediately threatened the existence of bees in the area.
Today, the forest cover in Migori stands far below the 10 per cent recommended figure to the detriment of bee farming activities by the local people.
However, the recent slump in tobacco growing activities in the area, a ban on charcoal and a raised campaign to increase forest cover by planting more trees has set a great milestone for the county in scaling up bee keeping activities as trees are key to honey production process.
Nyaanga says bee keeping has a wide variety of profitable businesses such as honey, hives and wax.
“However, none of them has been fully exploited by the local people,” he told KNA in Migori town, adding that farmers should embrace bee farming as it is a lucrative activity.
He urges the local farmers to take advantage of the growing beauty, candle and other industries whose raw material is wax, and venture into apiculture.
“Having a venture with sweet returns is what many prospective business people envision. With proper management, a hive can turn a profit relatively quickly, especially if the beekeeper is willing to consider all potential streams of revenue.
Mr. Felix Owino, a bee farmer in Awendo Sub County admit that this type of farming can change the life of a person who has made a firm decision to go full throttle into bee keeping without fearing the odds it carries with it.
Owino who has about 20 bee-hives says he has been able to educate his children and fend for his family well using proceeds from the sale of honey and other by products like wax.
“Yes, it is a paying effort if only one would not be shaken by the obvious problems faced by almost all bee farmers,” he said.
Some of the challenges Owino faces in producing honey in the area include thefts of ripe honey hives, lack of market, lack of bees due to diminished forest covers and, inaccessible modern equipment for honey harvesting.
“We also lack proper extension services from experts to enable farmers to earn proper incomes from farming bees,” he explained.
By George Agimba