A project to draw farmers to the neglected bee farming is yielding results with farmers in the trade now earning upto Sh400 for a kilo of honey and spending less on space and expenses.
The initiative by Tendo Micro Invest already has 200 farmers from Western, Coast and Central Kenya one year on and is riding on the promise of quick returns with farmers earning upto Sh240, 000 annually with ten hives. “We realized that most farmers lack knowledge on the economic and agricultural importance of apiculture. Although many players in the agricultural sector are supporting agribusiness initiatives, most of these projects ignore bee keeping a fact that has made the venture be shunned by many rural farmers,” said Peter Mbugua the Chairman of the group.
The less attention accorded to this promising sector prompted Mbugua to enlighten farmers on the less labour intensive venture that guarantees huge returns. “Bee keeping unlike other agricultural ventures requires less attention and space. You just hang the hives at an appropriate point and wait to harvest the honey after four months. Bees do not need medication, feeds among others,” added Mbugua.
Tendo Group having realized the bottlenecks to successful commercial beekeeping set out to eliminate them with their main focus being providing farmers access to modern bee hives and other accessories. Mbugua explained that to curb this problem, the group offers farmers bee hives on credit whose main security is the input itself. “We offer inputs and advice to any farmer willing to practice beekeeping. The loans on the hives are very affordable as they only attract an interest rate of 5 percent per annum. Our clients are allowed to repay a portion of the loans after every harvest.”
The group’s campaign which has pooled over 200 farmers spread from Western, Coast and Central Kenya is also rooting for quality honey production. The honey market is filled with a lot of fake honey a fact Mbugua warns if not dealt with now may work against the sector’s growth. “When we ventured into the industry, we realized that it was hard for one to get pure honey with some unscrupulous traders going to an extent of faking clients with molasses.” In addition, most farmers use the traditional bee hives and lack the needed accessories for honey harvesting leading to poor quality honey as well as killing of the bees with fire during harvesting which leads to colony collapse disorder. The steady increase in Colony collapse disorder has sent shock waves to many environmentalists who argue that the situation may in the long run impact negatively on food security given the vital pollination role the insects play agriculture.
Bee’s vital role in pollination is highlighted through a 2008 study by French and German researchers, who estimate the insects’ contribution to the production of crops used directly for human food at about $210 billion globally, equivalent to 9.5 percent of the total value of agricultural output for producing food for humans. A second similar training is planned for June 2014 for francophone countries.
In order for a farmer to successfully practice a commercially viable apiculture, Mbugua advised that, one must shift from the traditional mind set of having one or two hives. “An ambitious farmer in the venture can reap gains if only he acquires about 10 modern hives.” The hives cost about Sh4000 and the package comes together with a kilo of sunflower seeds which farmers are advised to intercrop with other crops on their farms. Our hives have two compartments with lower part meant for the queen bee and the upper one housing the worker bees. If well catered for the hives can last for over 20 years. “For the hives to last longer, one must keep them under a tree shade away from excessive rain water and heat from the sun’’.
Quality honey being a key point in the group’s work has driven them to partner with the farmers and provide accessories for harvesting honey. Mbugua noted, “The cost of accessories for the job are quite costly with a set going for over Sh20,000 and as a result we decided to provide such services to some of our farmer partners. We offer ready market for our farmers offering Sh400 for a kilo of honey, however, those farmers who request us to harvest for them pocket Sh350 for the same quantity.”
According to Mbugua honey is harvested after every four months with each harvest able to provide over 20 kilos per hive. Out of over 200 farmers that have partnered with Tendo, the average number of hives owned by them is about 10. According to Mbugua, “At the retail price of Sh400, one is able to earn about 80,000 just in four months translating to over Sh240, 000 annually. He boasts that this is money one earns without much hustle as the bee do not require feeds, medication and other cost related needs as is the case with ventures like dairy, poultry, piggery among others.”