Bee Keeping in Kenya has been practiced traditionally for many years, with only 20% of the country’s honey production potential tapped.
Data from the National Farmers Information Service (NFIS) shows that 80% of the country consists of arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) which have high potential in the production of honey, with apicultural activity being a major occupation in these areas.
However, issues like lack of adequate skills, inadequate training, underdeveloped marketing system of hive products among other challenges, have derailed growth in the sector.
We meet with one bee farmer, from Jameson Collection, who shares with us the best tricks to suck money from beekeeping and explains how apiculture plays a key role in steering the country’s economy.
“Bees play a big role in agriculture –they are important in plant pollination process –which is key in farm produce. Bee farming as a whole is vital to the food security and health conditions of the country. The hive produce (honey) is used as food as well as producing non-food products such as medicine, beauty products among others. The benefits of this venture are quite uncountable,” says Mr. Jameson.
He says that most bee farmers, who practice local bee farming, have lost zeal in the sector due to reduced market and lack of enough education and training.
The bee market in the country is infiltrated by manufacturers who have no idea about existing local bee farming, a move that has derailed the quality of hive products sold to consumers.
“These two factors revolving around local farmers and quality of tea moved me to venture into the bee farming sector, understanding local bee farming needs and introducing quality honey to the market,” he adds.
He says that the sector is one of the most lucrative in the economy, however, lack of enough training on best farming practices and recognition of local farmers has cloaked the profit.
“Bee farming has changed my life and that of the community. I am now my boss and I can employ young people –somehow solving the unemployment menace in the country,”
Jameson notes that if taken seriously, the bee-keeping sector can revive the economy especially during these difficult times of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hive products produce food and other products which are vital in generating revenue through sales tax.
Beekeeping is a widespread activity with a wealth of existing local knowledge and skills. The addition of a little technical information, however, can lead to greatly improved harvests of honey and other hive products.
Jameson says the local skills require training and support to instigate growth in the bee farming sector.
To secure the market for the local hive products, Jameson says sensitization and the new media have been his friends in marketing.
“A bee farmer needs to educate his market on the quality of honey and its relevance. I have been able to achieve this through social media marketing and other online marketing tools, which have greatly increased my sales,” says Jameson.
To gain national recognition, he says local bee farmers need to maintain hive product quality, which will compete with the existing competition in the market.
He called on the government, through the ministry of agriculture to pay close attention to the venture, offering extensional support, education, and training to local bee farmers, and “in so doing, the sector will be valuable in the country’s economy”.
“Bee farming is not expensive –one does not need to have large tracts of land but the returns are high,” he notes.
He urges hive product consumers to support the local honey market for quality and recognize local farmers who are the proponents of true bee farming and business in the country.