Beekeeping, the art of managing bees to obtain honey and wax among other products has experienced a positive shift over the years countrywide.
Kenya is the 3rd important honey producer in Africa after Ethiopia and Tanzania as per Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA). Recent studies show that there are over 90,340 beekeepers in the country owning about 2 million hives.
About 80 percent of Kenya consists of arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) which have high potential in the production of honey and apicultural activity is a major occupation in these areas due to the abundance of bee flora.
Traditional beekeeping in Kenya has mainly been a male occupation. This is because traditional hives required physical strength and at times demand the keeper to climb trees to harvest honey.
This was unsuitable for women due to modest reasons. With lots of limitations in using the traditional method which included wasting a lot of honey in the hives, the modern method has gradually bridged these gaps of gender roles in the apiary sub-sector as women are not limited to the practice too.
Modern bee-keeping in Kenya started in the late 1960s and has since become an important enterprise in the livestock sub-sector.
Kiambu County being a non ASAL area, farmers here also practice beekeeping though on low scale.
Farmers in Kiambu County have adopted the modern way of beekeeping and harvesting through the use of Langstroth hives, top bar hives, and log hives that are efficient and increase honey quality production.
This is evidenced Ndumberi area and also in Wendy Farms which is located in Gikambura Kikuyu sub-county run by Mr. Caleb Karuga who is diversifying in agri-business with his slogan of ‘Ukulima sio ushamba’
The production of honey in Kiambu County has risen from 102,397 Kgs of honey produced in 2014 to 114,000 Kgs in 2017. The value of honey in shillings has also increased from Sh 51.2 million in 2014 to 56 million in 2017 according to the County of Kiambu Integrated Development Plan 2018-2022
With more legal structures being put in place, the new Livestock Bill 2021 now states that a person shall not own or possess bees or beekeeping equipment for commercial purposes unless the person is registered under the Act or even allow bees to be kept on land owned by the person unless the land is registered the Act as the location of an apiary. With the certificate of registration being valid for one year from the issue date. Those who disregard provisions of this bill face Sh 500, 000 shillings fines or a prison term not exceeding one year or both.
“A person who becomes a beekeeper only because of the ownership, or the charge, care or possession or bees kept in a device of an approved kind and used for purposes of pollination of the crop is not required to be registered under this section if the bees and device are disposed of in the prescribed manner within eight weeks after the person becomes a beekeeper,” noted Amos Kimunya who sponsored the Bill.
Honey is easily digestible and also a source of natural medicine thus addressing food and nutrition security. The beekeeping industry contributes to the wider rural economy and plays an important part in the economy of county income.
“To me as a farmer, beekeeping is a rewarding occupation with numerous benefits,” said Mr. Karuga of Wendy farms.
Other products from the beehives such as bee wax are now utilized in a diversified way such as making of candles, used by shoe polish making while propolis on the other side is now used by some pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries and in apitherapy, as it is considered to be having anti-viral properties.
Findings from the County Government of Kiambu (CIDP,2018-2022) indicate that having known the importance of honey to human health, adoption of beekeeping in the county has gradually increased leading to an increase in the amount of honey produced as well as the farmers’ incomes.
Beekeeping is a beneficial activity for beekeepers with its adverse impact trickling down the chain to their families, the larger community, and the whole ecosystem.
By Jackline Kidaha and Lydia Shiloya