Pastoralists in the Kerio Valley region have turned to beekeeping as an alternative source of income rather than depending on livestock keeping.
The farmers from West Pokot, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Turkana and Samburu Counties are now reaping big from the venture after Kerio Valley Development authority (KVDA) trained them on modern beekeeping methods and buying honey from them.
Kerio Valley Development Authority Director Sammy Naporos said that the authority has used Kshs 300 million to buy honey from farmers and use it in honey production in factories.
Speaking after training honey farmers at Weiwei area in West Pokot County, the MD cited that West Pokot and Baringo Counties are leading in honey production, adding that the entire North Rift region produces more than 80% of honey in the country.
“Honey production is the second largest income generator after livestock keeping in the region. We teach farmers on better ways of honey production and improving the craft. Therefore a farmer is able to fetch good money if they access the right markets,” said Naporos.
Naporos said that in general, beekeeping has proved to be an activity that can withstand the harsh weather conditions in the region.
A honey farmer, Mr. Jackson Longronyang from Kacheliba who started the venture in 2006 after quitting selling cattle said he has benefited a lot.
“We were trained and now we can pay fees and feed our families. I have been keeping bees for a long time using traditional beehives. This type of beekeeping had so many challenges especially during harvesting because the logs are placed high on trees, ladies cannot climb them and those who climb end up with fatal accidents at times,” he said “I was introduced to modern beekeeping by KVDA.”
Another farmer, Ruth Maira, lauded KVDA for offering assistance in looking for a market, adding that she has been trained on modern bee keeping methods.
Grace Cheptoo, from Kapachikwa Kodich who started honey production in 2010, said farmers under cooperatives are using modern bee hives. “Bees need clean hives and flowers close in order to collect the nectar. I’ve learned that modern bee hives are clean and easy to access, unlike the log hives,” she said.
She added that the beekeeping investment has proved more beneficial than livestock farming that exposes them to threats of cattle rustling. “This venture could prove to be a game changer in our lives. More people now acknowledge the fact investment in other sources of income can enable them to educate their children and meet their basic needs.”
She said even during the dry seasons when there is no food they feed on honey and sell part of the honey to KVDA at Kshs 500 per kilogram.
“Apart from income generation, the investment has proved instrumental in combating insecurity caused by cattle raids along the common border since most of the youth who participate in the attacks are now actively involved in honey production,” she stated.
KVDA Agribusiness Manager David Biwott said that they want to expand honey production. “We want to produce high quality honey that can be exported,” he added. He stated that modern bee hives have enhanced honey production.
Beekeeping has been embraced by pastoralists who see it as the solution to persistent cattle rustling in the North Rift region. The region has three honey harvesting seasons; March, August and December.