Lack of capital to acquire modern beehives was a blessing in disguise for Tom Okello who hatched the idea of creating an improved version with palm trees, which has now grown into an empire housing 170 beehives and earning him Sh3million yearly.
Palm tree known as Tugu by the Lang’o community in Uganda grows freely in the area and is heavily underexploited. Okello decided to cash in on this. “I had been inspired into the agribusiness sector after a visit to two farmers in Masaka and Mityana in 2011 during a leadership retreat at Kyankwanzi.
Despite the desire to venture into agribusiness, I had little capital and therefore had to be more sharp, hence the use of palm tree to develop the hive,” noted the father of two. The little capital he had saved for agribusiness was already budgeted for other projects like Citrus and mangoes orchards as he believed that he could maximize returns through mixed farming.
The mature Palm trees are recommended for making of the best hives. The inner part of the palm is carefully extracted in order to make a hollow section. The hollow section is then cleaned and the hive is then separated into two sections. Separation of the sections is done using a woven wire and according to him, one of the section is meant for the queen bee namely Queen chamber and the other one known as the store where the honey collects itself.
Both open ends of the hollow palm are closed using iron sheet with one end having holes meant for entry and exit of the honey bees. The palm tree hive which is about 9 feet long is then rested on a metallic stand under a tree. The final journey of the hive preparation is the insertion of bee wax in the queen chamber and waits for the colony formation.
On a good season, a farmer using these improved palm tree bee hive collects 25 kilos while on a low season the amount of honey harvested does not go below 10 kilos. According to Okello, this yield is far much beyond the current production from the conventional hives which on a high side can produce about 10 kilos and some low season producing as low as low 3kilos.
The success he has registered in apiary has seen him expand his investment with an initial start with 20 bee hives; he has quickly multiplied his hives and now boasts of over 170 hives. “I have over 170 ‘palm tree’ bee hives from which I harvest honey twice per year.
On average, each hive produces between 18 to 25 kilos of honey.” Each kilo costs about UGX 20,000 equivalent to Ksh700 and on a lower side, Okello pockets about UGX100 million or Ksh3 million. He has also dedicated part of his time train youths in apiary and as well as offering ready market for any of his trainees that grapple with market for their honey.