Over 400 Pokot women are now exporters of unique honey in an initiative that is empowering them economically while opening up job opportunities in an area that has been frustrated by traditional crops.
The Cabesi project as it is known, aims at modern beekeeping and high-quality honey and has already trained over 1600 beekeepers, mostly women, since it was first conceptualized in 2007. Beekeepers are trained in beekeeping, management of beehives, and honey harvesting. Once the women harvest the honey, they take it to six Cabesi collection centers. It is in these centers that the honey and the by-products like beeswax and propolis are processed into end products.
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While there is a huge market for processed products locally, there has equally been a growing appetite for the honey from export market with the honey having met international standards. The honey is even offered on Kenya Airways flights.
The most recent project phase included further training and recruiting professional staff for administrative and financial functions. “We hope to develop more products and transform Cabesi into an independent and competitive business venture. I have confidence in our potential and believe in a successful future for Cabesi,” said Mercy Kiyapyap the manager of the Cabesi project.
While the project wouldn’t divulge how much they make after every honey harvest, officials say the returns are divided among group members based on quantities delivered and has been a lucrative venture. This has been rubberstamped by the commitment of women to the project to the extent of neglecting traditional obligations like crop production and livestock keeping.
“The beauty with beekeeping is that you are assured of harvest every harvest. Bees are in plenty here. With crops failing due to poor weather, this is our sure bet. We are glad it has paid off handsomely and we are now economically empowered,” said Walethu Kiaki a group member.