Over 30 metric tonnes of Kitui honey is procured by middlemen annually in a mission to fleece bee farmers, says
Eutchus Katungi, Chairman of Kamaki Beekeepers Cooperative Society in Kitui South.
Katungi admits that unscrupulous middlemen have infiltrated the multi-million Kitui County honey industry and are profiteering from it at the expense of bee farmers due to lack of proper market linkages.
Against this backdrop in Kenya, the National Farmers Information Service claims only 20 per cent of the country’s honey producing potential estimated at 100,000 tonnes is being tapped.
Speaking to pressmen outside the cooperative society’s offices in Kitui South, the chair disclosed that beekeeping greatly contributes to food security, poverty reduction, employment creation and income generation in arid and semi-arid rural areas.
The government of Kenya, in its strategy for the development of apiculture and emerging livestock, has identified honey production as one of the means by which people in ASAL areas can earn an income.
This strategy aims to make communities in ASAL areas better adapt to climate change without damaging the environment they depend on to survive.
Katungi noted that bees are found in habitats ranging from forests to deserts and flourish in areas where there is
sufficient pollen, nectar, shelter and water to fulfill the needs of the colony.
Although there is unmet demand for honey in both national and international markets, he said that beekeepers face a number of problems that prevent them from taking advantage of existing opportunities.
“We lack transport to ferry crude honey from farmers. This area is vast. We call upon the county government of Kitui to open up collection centres and provide a tuk tuk to help us transport the honey to our processing plant in Kamaki,” said Katungi.
He lamented that farmers who cannot afford to bring their produce to the society end up selling crude honey to middle men who swindle them as their profiteer out of the ignorant farmers.
Commenting on chemical residue used by ndengu farmers, the chairman urged for controlled usage of the pesticides which may negatively affect honey production and quality in the future.
The farmer disclosed that beekeeping contributes to incomes as well as food security through provision of honey, beeswax and pollen as food and propolis, bees’ venom and royal jelly in medicine in addition to pollination services.
The main honey producing areas of the country are Baringo, West Pokot, Mwingi Kitui, Tharaka, Western and Coastal Regions.
The average honey production in Kenya is 25,000 MTs/Annum from approximately 2 Million hives according to 2014 statistics from the Directorate of Livestock Production and the National Bee Keeping Institute.
Much of the honey produced in Africa, according to the United Nations commodity trade data base, is sold in the United Arab Emirates, the world’s richest honey market where it sells for upto Sh. 2,000 per kilogram compared to between Sh. 500-800 per kilogram.
Ethiopia which in 2014 was producing about 43,000 tones is the regions power house of honey production.
David Ndambuki, Chairman of Mwingi Beekeepers Cooperative Society singled out continued natural resources degradation, climate change, inefficient beekeeping methods, lack of market information and farmers’ difficulties in getting their honey from remote rural areas to urban-based buyers.
“The largely employed traditional techniques in beekeeping in Mwingi are vulnerable to climate change impacts,” said Ndambuki.
He said that climate change effects have denied even the renowned beekeepers from producing reasonable honey quantities as a result of bees’ migration when there is no water or forage.
During the prolonged dry spell, bees migrate to higher grounds leaving empty hives, lamented Ndambuki.
By Yobesh Onwong’a