By George Munene
Kenyan honey exporter Savannah Honey is looking to recruit 7,000 contracted honey farmers across East Africa.
Founded in 2013, the for-profit social enterprise based in Utawala markets honey for Sh500 a kilogram; bee pollen for Sh6,800 per kg; propolis, used in the management of diabetes, and sores, at Sh1,900 a kg; bee wax at Sh700 per kg; royal jelly, a supplement/ additive in skin cream harvested from the secretion of queen bee cells for Sh38,00 per kg and bee venom for 4,000 per gram.
The company which currently has 4,000 farmers in the region, contracts farmers for five years and is looking to tap not only into the burgeoning local honey market where one-kilogram costs between $4-$12 (Sh472-Sh1,416) but into the more lucrative international one– a jar of honey in the Arab market can fetch almost double this amount.
The global honey market was valued at USD 8.58 billion in 2021. Increasing demand for nutritious food products (honey is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, calcium, and antioxidants) coupled with growing health concerns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic during which honey gained wider acceptance as an effective medicine to treat acute cough and throat infection has seen the honey market predicted to grow at a CAGR of 5.2% from 2022 to 2030.
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“Despite having ideal flora and climate for all-year bee-keeping, the practice still remains largely traditional in Kenya. This has meant the country produces a fraction of its potential, leading to an overreliance on Tanzanian imports. Savannah is looking to change this through commercialisation of the Kenyan honey sub-sector,” said the company’s CEO Kyalo Mutua, aka “the King of Bees”.
To this end, Savannah’s contracted farmers are equipped with Langstroth beehives, currently on sale for Sh5500. With a multi-layered structure and removable frames, farmers can more than double their honey yields. Farmers harvest 10-20 kilograms three to four times annually.
With Langstroth hives, you do not destroy combs or crush the queen when harvesting avoiding bees absconding from their hives. This ensures there is uninterrupted production.
The company harvests the first batch of honey for free. The farmer can then purchase a small plastic honey extractor for Sh28,000 or a metallic one for Sh35,000.
Savannah also offers training on modern beekeeping; apiary management; colony division as well as technical and marketing support.
The firm ensures that all their client’s beehives are well colonised and have a strong healthy queen. Requeening (queen replacement) and repopulation (restocking a hive with less than 60,000 bees), which cost anywhere from Sh9,000 to Sh20,000 are also offerd at no cost.
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Keeping bees can run concurrently/symbiotically with other agriculture practices and requires little in input costs, labour, time as well as space. This makes it an ideal source of passive income.
“With just 10×10 feet of space, a farmer can fit up to 20 langstroth beehives which have a greater earning potential than 20 acres of maize,” illuminated the King of bees during an interview.
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