[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Maasai community is traditionally known to keep cows, goats and sheep. However, with the changing realities, it is slowly embracing other ventures, including commercial bee farming.
The practice of keeping livestock in large numbers is slowly dying out following the demarcation of communal land to group ranches and finally to individual parcels.
This has made the community opt for other means of earning a living that do not require huge chunks of land.
Speaking on World Beekeeping Day, which was marked on May 20, Victor Ole Nayioma, a resident of Loita ward in Narok South sub-county, began beekeeping in 2016 after he realised it fetches a lot of money.
“I started with two bee-hives and fetched 24 Kilogrammes of non- refined honey from the two hives after only four months. When refined, I got 16 litres of honey and sold Sh.400 per litre making Sh.6, 400,” explained Ole Nayioma.
“Currently I have 20 hives and harvest honey at twice a year. The minimum profit I get from the harvest per year is Ksh 100,000,” said the young farmer, who encouraged other young people to venture into the business.
In a bid to market his honey, Nayioma joined a cooperative society that has more than 20 bee keeping farmers.
He acknowledges that through the society, marketing and selling their products has been easy as they have a strong bargaining power.
Nyuki Hubs Kenya Ltd, which is headquartered at TM area along the Narok-Bomet Highway, was founded in June 2017 with the aim of helping farmers sell their products easily without involving the middlemen.
Apart from marketing the honey, Ole Nayioma says he can access loans from the society at a small interest fee.
Victor Bett, the production and processing manager at the Nyuki Hubs, said the purpose of the hub was to bring all bee keeping farmers together and encourage more people to venture into the practice.
“We aid farmers by selling to them beehives, bee colonies, setting up the beehives for the interested farmers, training on how to handle bee colonies without getting attacked, helping them harvest honey and providing a ready market for them to sell,” said Bett.
The production manager reiterated that most of the parts in Narok County were good for keeping bees as there are many trees and shrubs that grow in the area that are a source of nectar to the bees.
“We encourage many farmers to organise themselves into groups so that they can learn from one another,” reiterated Bett.
If the hives are well maintained, Bett said, the farmers can harvest up to three times per year; that is in March, July and November. The main harvest is normally expected in November and for each harvest, at least each hive produces 10 Kilogrammes of honey.
“After harvesting, two types of honey are produced – combed and liquid honey. Usually, we buy combed honey at between Ksh 250 and Ksh 350 per kilogramme while the liquid honey sells at between Ksh 350 and Ksh 450,” he revealed.
The main market for the honey is in Nairobi and Mombasa where there are ready markets.
The market in Narok is limited because of competition from local honey sellers who sell their product at a relatively lower price of between Ksh 100 and Ksh 150 per half litre of honey.
“Usually, half a litre goes for Ksh 400 and a litre sells at Ksh 750 in Nairobi and Mombasa. Most of the shops in Nairobi like our honey because we have proved to be original and maintained the quality,” the production manager explained.
According to Bett, the major challenges the society faces is language barrier as most of the grassroots farmers need
interpretation during trainings by experts.
Marketing their products locally is also a major challenge as major restaurants and individuals claim honey is too expensive and sometimes people prefer buying it from small scale farmers who do not keep bees for financial benefits.
A lot of fake honey that has flooded the market is also a major challenge for the bee keepers as they have to compete for the same market whereas their products are more expensive.
Saitoti Kutondu, a veterinary doctor, explained that there were many benefits of consuming honey.
“Honey has many advantages including wound healing, a source of food, medicinal, a source of energy, sports nutrition and a good source of sugar for the diabetics,” said Kutondu.
By Ann Salaton/Maubi Miriam