Over 7,000 farmers living near the Arabuko Sokoke Forest in Malindi are reaping heavily from butterfly farming with locals terming the discovery their flying gold.
The farmers hunt for butterflies from the forest, breed their eggs for three to four weeks to the pupae stage then sell them.
It has been a rewarding initiative since 1993 with farmers living near the Arabuko Sokoke Forest earning up to 20,000 shillings weekly.
It is believed that Kenya has over 871 species of butterflies with 263 of them found in the Arabuko Sokoke forest.
Taking advantage of their abundance, farmers confine the butterflies in cages and wait for them to lay eggs that take up to four weeks to reach the pupae stage when they are sold for onward export.
With assistance from a local organization, the farmers are trained on how to collect different butterflies and breed them in their home made cages. It is from here that the farmers sort different species especially those that command higher prices at the market.
The farmers however have to contend with the challenge of a boom in production cycle especially during the rainy seasons and competition from high butterfly producing countries such as Philippines and Ecuador.