Watching bees buzz on coconut palms on Mzedu Farm, located three kilometres off Malindi–Mombasa Road, is a beautiful scene.
Josephine Mwashumbe, the owner of the farm, has also populated it with other trees that include sour soup, tamarind, guava, and mkode.
She started the project in 2014 with lots of excitement after buying the two-acre land.
“The first things I did were an experiment. We planted onions, ginger, butternuts, carrots, cassava, garlic and maize. They germinated but I lost most of the harvest due to a challenging weather.”
After the failed experience, she decided to plant trees that include flame trees, white oak and casuarina as well as mango and 46 coconuts.
As the trees grew, she realised in 2016 that beekeeping was one of the most viable projects she could engage in.
“The idea came to me through my mother-in-law. She would give me honey packed in bottles to deliver to hotels in Nairobi.''
The 1990 Bachelor of Arts, graphic design graduate, thus started with five beehives.
“We bought the Langstroth beehives in Mtwapa at Sh25,000, Sh5,000 each, and hang them on trees. The production was bad initially, thus we were advised to construct an apiary,” says the Sarova Whitesands Beach and Spa sales and marketing manager.
To overcome the challenge, she asked the beehive seller to mentor her and from the training, she was able to get 60kg of honey from the hives. And this has improved since then, with the farmer now having 60 hives.
To attract bees in the hives, Mwashumbe says that she smears them with wax.
“It takes up to three weeks for them to populate the hives. One must keep on inspecting to see if the hive has attracted queens. This is evident if the traffic of bees is spotted . Then the beehive is transferred to the apiary and it is checked to detect any invasion of pests.”
She harvests honey after every three to four months, getting up to 10kg from each hive, and plans to increase them to 250 by investing in a 60-acre land in Voi in Taita Taveta County.
She starts the harvesting process by smoking the hives with moderate smoke. Then she removes the whole combs from the hive and places them in buckets where she goes and sieves the unprocessed honey from the combs directly into 750ml plastic jars that she sells at Sh900.
“I buy the jars at Sh27 per piece but I am gradually shifting to glass containers because they don’t suffer from pressure and leakages.”
According to her, her honey is certified by the National Beekeeping Institute, Nairobi.
“When there are adequate flowers, the returns are good but during dry weather, the production is at the lowest,” she states.
Mwashumbe in February trained in bee management, harvesting, royal jelly and bee venom production.
Samuel Mwangani, the director of Eykan Enterprises Limited, which deals in honey, says the quality of the product is dependent on human activities such as providing the bees with sugar solution instead of nectar.
Second, the honey must be left to ripen before harvesting after the bees have worked on the nectar.
During harvesting, the honey should not be subjected to excessive smoke to avoid it from smelling, he offers.
Mwangani says the source of nectar determines the colour of the honey. "Monofloral honey is lighter, and the one collected from various plants tends to be darker.”