What you need to know:
- Bees like to settle near water towers where they can quench their thirst.
- In the past, bee farmers have been using lemongrass oil to attract bees.
Honeybees prefer where there is plenty of flower gardens, orchards and woodlands. However, climate change has affected apiculture, which is why modern beekeepers have adopted new technologies to attract more swarms into their hives.
Seeds of Gold spoke to Kyallo Mutua, the Director and Founder of Savannah Honey in Utawala, Nairobi.
How has climate change affected beekeeping?
Beekeeping revolves around maize, fruits and horticulture farming. If the bee population goes down, the agriculture sector is likely to suffer. Apiculture supports crop production as bees act as useful agents of pollination, increasing plant yields.
Human activities such as deforestation lead to global warming and as a result immense loss of biodiversity.
Climate change also leads to variations in rain patterns and is commonly associated with floods, drought and intense heat. When trees are cut down, they release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which destabilises the existence of flora and fauna in their natural habitat.
With scarcity of vegetation, fewer bees will stick around because the ecosystem is not favourable for them to thrive.
Bees also like to settle near water towers where they can quench their thirst.
Astic plays a vital role in boosting the bee population, what does it entail?
Astic is an advanced bee lure, one of our own local innovations.
We came up with the technology upon realising that the bee population in beekeeping counties, (and of course all over the world) is dwindling.
In hot areas, for instance, the hives are taking too long before they get colonized.
In the past, bee farmers have been using lemongrass oil to attract bees. This is put at the entrance of the hive to attract bees from afar. Our innovation, Astic, has proved to be more reliable in addressing the global decline in bee population.
Apart from the technical support that you offer to farmers, which other measures have you put in place to foster the bee population?
We do free installation of bee hives for member farmers. The installation incorporates citations in relation to the direction of the wind to attract bees.
The deviation of bees is greatly affected by wind speed and direction. Strong winds may affect bees such that they may drift from their usual routine paths.
For hives that take too long to be colonized, we do colony division, a process that entails analysing their population.
The beehive is said to be strong when it hosts between 60,000-90,000 bees, but when its population is less than 30,000, there is a need for colony strengthening.
We also look at the health of the queen. A healthy queen lays between 1,500 - 2,500 eggs per day.
Sometimes they become dormant, and to curb the situation, we superimpose to get an agile queen.
Why should farmers be encouraged to produce a variety of bee products?
They are lucrative. Products such as bee venom, wax, propolis and the royal jelly have a huge market.
Kenya imports over 90 percent of those products and they fetch good market prices.
In addition, bee products such as bee pollen have significant health benefits for those suffering from diabetes, inflammation and skin rash.
Bee venom that is incorporated with honey is helpful to those suffering from arthritis, while bee venom creams have anti-ageing agents. From a single hive, bee venom can be harvested twice a month, with each harvest giving between 0.5 to one gram, with a gram fetching Sh4,000.
One can also harvest a kilogram of propolis per harvest, 24 times a year, with a kilo going for Sh1,900.
Are you working with other partners to grow your business?
The Youth Fund has so far supported more than 10,000 youths in this field who are either working as individuals or groups in every county.
They have benefited from free training, installation, technical support and marketing know-how.
German Agency for International Cooperation, GIZ, which supports youth in agri jobs, is supporting 2,000 youths in Kisumu, Siaya, Kakamega, Bungoma and Vihiga. The organisation ensures they are empowered to be self-employed.
We partner with Kenya Farmers Association to stock bee-keeping equipment, besides, our client can reach them easily.
Through the Kenya National Farmers Federation, we are reaching farmers in their organised groups to transfer skills.
We are also collaborating with the Avocado Society of Kenya. Here, farmers are advised on how to seek alternative means of livelihood in avocado farming as they wait for their honey to be ready.
Any challenges you are facing?
Most farmers are given technical support for free but they end up selling their products to exploitative brokers at low prices.
Also, there is still low adoption of apiculture, as more farmers consider it a venture for low-income earners or the poor, and as a result, they can’t use their land for apiculture. There is also a need to invest in modern beekeeping technologies to reap maximum benefits from beekeeping.
Five years from now where do you see yourself?
Savannah Honey will be a household name in Africa. Currently, we are in Somalia, Angola, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. We want to empower families and communities out of poverty by encouraging them to keep bees.