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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Bee keeping improves livelihood of farmer

By Bob Aston 

Apiculture (Bee keeping) has become an important enterprise in the livestock sub sector. Kanja Waweru, 60, a farmer in Muhotetu Division, Laikipia County started his bee keeping agri-business in 2013 and says apiculture has a high potential for promoting food security in the country.
Kanja says that Muhotetu has a high potential in production of honey and apicultural activity. He said that capital investment in bee keeping is low compared to other farm enterprises.  The enterprise also requires little land as fifty (50) colonies require a quarter of an acre. One beehive provides enough bees to pollinate one acre of crops.
“Bee keeping can improve a farmer’s livelihood as the income is good and demand is also high. One can also integrate bee keeping with other farming activities,” said Kanja.
Some of the beehives

 Kanja has kept 25 Langstroth hives. The cost of setting up a beehive varies according to the type of hive used with the Langstroth hive retailing at around Sh5,000. He said the price should not deter a farmer as they can be constructed using locally available materials.
“I decided on the Langstroth hive as they maximizes honey production while its strength ensures that there is less chance of damage to combs during removal from the hives and extraction .The whole honey supers can also be harvested without disturbance of the brood box,” said Kanja
He has already harvested two hives and he got eight litres. He sold 30 kg of unrefined honey. He is now set to harvest for the third time.
Kanja has been selling 300g of refined honey at Ksh 200 and 500g at Ksh 350. He has already been certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and thus he is authorized to process and package honey.
“Beekeepers should aim for the highest grade of honey to maximize returns from beekeeping,” said Kanja.
Bees are good pollinators of plants, trees, fruits and crops, thus playing a big role in bio-diversity and improvement of crop yields. They also encourage environment conservation.
He says many products can be obtained which are great source of income like; honey, bees wax, pollen, propolis, bee colonies, bee brood, queen bees, and package bees.
He has been trained by the National Beekeeping Station (NBS) on bee management. This has enabled him to get acquainted with the local bee-human relationship.
“Bee stings are an integral part of beekeeping and a beekeeper has to deal with them,” said Kanja.
Kanja said that harvesting is normally done between 10 to 12 months after set up. The second harvest takes place eight months later. Afterwards, harvesting can be carried out every four months.
The current policy on Apiculture is to develop a modern beekeeping industry in the country to provide additional income to rural households.
House where some of the beehives have been kept
Kanja says that bee hives should be at least 100 metres away from the homestead in a farm or bushy areas with flowers. In case a house has been constructed for the bee hives a fence over 600 feet should be constructed around the house. This will reduce their hostility.
Kanja says that hives should be properly protected from intense sun so that the bees will be able to get about the business of collecting nectar to feed the hive instead of water to cool it, thus increasing yields. Also shading where the bee hives have been placed makes them less irritable hence facilitating harvest.
He says attracting bees in a hive is an art that requires good knowledge. He has been using baits, catcher box and hives to attract bees.
Kanja has urged farmers interested in bee keeping to critically look into the issue of bee space when constructing hives. He said bees require space between the sides of each frame and the walls of the hive.
“When proper bee space is not followed, bee keeping will be difficult because the bees will be building burr combs,” said Kanja.
He has been using Sokopepe to get market tips and also query market prices. He now plans to also use Sokopepe to sell his honey. He believes that the Sokopepe market will provide him with a good opportunity not only to market his honey but also to sell at a good price.
“Sokopepe has been connecting producers with buyers and I believe it will also connect me with a buyer,” said Kanja.
Kanja also wants to start keeping proper record of his bee keeping business. He has joined Farm Record Management Information System – Kenya (FARMIS Kenya) which has been introduced by Sokopepe Ltd to help farmers automate their farm records.
Some of the challenges he is facing is pests and lack of proper harvesting equipments. He still does not have bee suits, veils and smokers.
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