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Sunday, 28 February 2016

In Kenya, honey sweetens resilience

By Esther Kahinga, Kenya Climate Innovation Center
"The business terrain is rough and bumpy and only meant for those who can raise again when they fall," says Kathy Mbondo an entrepreneur who speaks from her own experience.
Mbondo was exporting flowers in 2011 when the euro crisis happened and her business was wiped out in two months. In the spirit of entrepreneurship, in 2014 she ventured into traditional vegetables farming which did not work out well either. In March 2015 after thinking about what to pursue, she realised there was a resource in her home village that had a lot of potential but had not been exploited.
Mbondo comes from Makueni County, Kenya an area that receives low rainfall which translates to low agricultural productivity. Climate change is taking its toll in the region as unpredictable rainfall patterns have led to shifts in planting time.
Traditionally communities in Makueni kept bees but many farmers gave up on the trade due to poor honey prices. Brokers would buy the honey for as low as Ksh 50 (50 cents). Mbondo realised that farmers could fetch better prices for honey if only she would get a market for them.
Bee hives hanged in an Acacia tree in Makueni County,Kenya.CREDIT:Proactive Merit
In her village, people cut down acacia trees to make charcoal which contributes to deforestation. To conserve the trees, Mbondo came up with the "every acacia for a hive" project that encourages farmers to put hives on acacia trees instead of cutting them down. "I sell the economic value of the beehive to the farmers," Mbondo says.
What she tells them is this: "When you cut down an acacia tree and convert it to charcoal, you make a maximum of four bags which in total fetch Ksh 1000 ($10). When you put a single bee hive on the same acacia tree, you will harvest 20kgs of honey each year. Each kilogram of honey sold to Proactive Merit goes for Ksh 250 which translates to Ksh 5000 ($50) per year.’ she explained.
Proactive Merit is the company founded by Mbondo that buys honey from farmers.
Mbondo started by putting bee hives on the acacia trees on her parents' farm and urging farmers to stop cutting the acacia trees and instead consider suspending bee hives on them. Farmers began to buy the "every acacia for a hive" idea and so far 40 farmers have put up 120 hives. Mbondo has 50 hives on her parents’ farm – a number that she has built over the last seven months. Her goal for 2016 is to purchase 10 tonnes of honey from farmers, package it and sell it. The honey goes by the brand name "Nature and she is now selling through several retail outlets in Nairobi.
The honey by Proactive Merit is "raw honey" that is collected straight from the hive into the honey jar. It is totally unheated, unpasteurised and unprocessed. This ensures that all the natural vitamins, living enzymes and other nutritional elements are preserved. 

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