Kirinyaga farmers who were supported by Governor Anne Waiguru to engage in commercial bee keeping have started reaping big from the venture with one of the groups already selling its produce to Israel.
For Kanjikomu Self Help Group, bee keeping is turning out to be a gold mine that has seen its 24 members reap fortune as they spread the sweetness of honey far and wide.
Located at Kabare Ward in Gichugu constituency, the group was one of the first 19 organizations which received some 456 bee hives and two honey harvesting kits through Governor Waiguru’s Wezesha project.
Kanjokimu sold its first 200 kilogramme honey harvest at Ksh.200, 000. The group is planning to start packaging its own product.
The success story of Kanjikomu group has aroused renewed interest in bee keeping in Kirinyaga. The group was issued with 24 Kenya Topbar beehives, 18 of which were colonized.
Governor Waiguru says the project was informed by the huge deficit in meeting demand for honey both in the county and the country at large, noting that there has been widespread awareness about the health benefits of consuming honey.
“This project sought to harness beekeeping by supporting the farmers to exploit the untapped potential in apiculture,” said the governor.
This year, Waiguru said an additional 26 groups have been supported with 22 bee hives each as well as honey harvesting kits to boost the program.
Kanjikomu group chairman Evans Kabutu said the farmers harvested an average of about 11 kilograms of honey from each of the 18 colonized beehives. The unprocessed honey was bought at Ksh.1000 per kilogram.
“We have seen the benefit of bee keeping, the demand for pure honey is so huge that we cannot meet it. We sold the first harvest to an Israel whom we got through social media,” he said.
Kabutu says the group members have no regret venturing into bee keeping because unlike other forms farming, it is less capital intensive and not much involving.
“We tried chicken farming but we realized it’s capital intensive because of feeds and requires lot of attention because of diseases. Bees get their own food and reproduce well under the right conditions hence do not need a lot of attention. After building a structure for the bees to inhabit, you just have to give it time and then you can harvest your honey for sale,” Kabutu said.
Josiah Kangangi, the Vice Chairman of the Kanjikomu group said with the venture proving profitable, each of the 24 members have also acquired five beehives that have been placed at their own farms.
“Beekeeping has been highly profitable to us and has helped us have money to pay school fees and cater for other expenses. Overall, it has improved our living standards,” said Kangangi.
Utheri Wa Ngondo Community Based Organization (CBO) from Kangai ward in Mwea is another group of farmers who have benefitted from the support from the county government.
Vice chairman Gerald Muriithi, says the group started as a table banking initiative but later ventured into bee keeping and acquired the first 10 beehives. It was supplied with 24 more from the County government after being taken through training on beekeeping.
“We have harvested for several times and our profit keep on rising. The demand for honey is huge and once we sell, the money is shared equally among members. We are grateful of the initiative by Governor Waiguru,” said Muriithi.
Waiguru said bee keeping is part of Wezesha Kirinyaga economic empowerment program that has enabled farmers to diversify on their agricultural activities to increase their incomes.
She noted that some of the advantages of bee keeping are that it requires less land hence suitable for youth and women and also requires little capital since one can start with even two hives. One can also utilize land that is not suitable for tilling.
Waiguru noted that bee keeping also contributes to the quantity and quality of crops production through pollination.
Currently, there are about 13,000 bee hives in Kirinyaga County which include longs troth, Kenya Top-bar Bee Hive and the traditional log hives which all produce about 359 tons of honey per year.
The governor observed that Kenya produces an estimated 11,000 metric tons of honey and around 2 tons of bee wax annually, only attaining 20pc of the country’s potential.