Bee keepers in Tana River County have doubled their income after adopting modern techniques in honey harvesting and forming organized marketing groups.
In this, honey is refined and processed in three collection centres. The packaged honey is sold in Hola, Bura, Garrisa and Mombasa. The price of honey has increased from Sh150 to Sh300 per kilogram.
In the County, beekeeping is mainly carried out by the riverine communities as an alternative livelihood. It supplements mango crop as an immediate source of income.
Initially, the beekeepers lacked adequate skills on bee management. This is according to a survey by the Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project in 2010. They did not know how to handle hive products due to inadequate training and lack of extension service support. They mainly use log hives whose yields are variable and low, at 10 kg harvested per year. These beekeepers had more problems: market network for hive products was underdeveloped and they lacked organized marketing strategies.
An exhibition of honey produced by farmers in Tana River. Courtesy
In many instances, they used the traditional honey harvesting methods which lower honey quality as fire is used. As a result, the bees are burnt and the harvested honey is a mixture of smoke, ash, larvae and bee body parts.
Such honey was downgraded and thus fetched low market price. The bee keepers sold their honey to brokers individually at an average price of Sh100 to Sh150 per kg of semi processed honey. The farmers could not add any value to the product apart from limited semi processing at individual level.
This was not until KAPP implemented a project in the county, from 2010 to 2015, to improve productivity and income from beekeeping enterprise. KAPP worked in partnership with various institutions and bee keepers.
Working with the beekeepers, KAPP identified and contracted the services of TRADE. TRADE’s role was to identify the existing opportunities and to build the capacity of the beneficiaries to improve productivity and income of smallholder farmers. TRADE worked with the farmers and flagged beekeeping as an enterprise with great potential in the county with farmers forming a cooperative society with 1,452 members.
Maurice Kadenge from Ngao location in Tana Delta Sub-County for instance is one of the youths who has joined beekeeping enterprise. In 2014, he sold 100 kg of honey to the Tana River Beekeepers Marketing Co-operative Society Limited, earning him Sh50,000.
He bought four piglets using Sh7000 from the income. He has since increased the number of piglets to 12, opening a new chapter of business in his farming activities. He intends to be selling pork at Sh400 per kilogram.
Using earnings from his beekeeping business, he has built a 16 iron sheet semi-permanent house. He bought the iron sheets at Sh9,800. He is also paying school fees for his daughter who joined Ngao Girls Secondary School in 2015. He used the remaining Sh10, 000 to meet his family needs. “This is a viable enterprise,” he says, while advising other youth to join beekeeping and the co-operative.
The demand for honey in Kenya is currently high with the production estimated at 7300 tonnes annually against a demand of 100,000 tonnnes according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
To bridge the supply gap, Kenya imports honey worth approximately Sh23m every year from Tanzania, Egypt and Australia according to the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics.
According to USAID, Ethiopia is the largest producer of honey in Africa generating 45,300 tonnes per annum. Tanzania is the second largest at 8,000 tonnes followed by Kenya, Ugandan and Rwanda at 4,000 tonnes a year.