The rave about beekeeping in Marsabit

Beekeeping

Mzee Abdi Shedo, a beekeeper at Sessi area in Moyale sub-county during an interview with nation.africa.

Photo credit: Jacob Walter | Nation Media Group

Until recently, Abdi Shedo, a resident of Sessi, Moyale sub-county, who doubles as the Moyale Sustainable Food Programme chairperson, was among transitional pastoralists who constantly moved with their livestock in search of pasture and water.

Just like many other nomadic herders, he had increasingly grown weary of trekking long distances in search of pasture and water for his animals.

Then the World Food Programme’s Sustainable Food Programme through beekeeping in Marsabit County came along to promote a supplemental livelihood opportunity for hundreds of farmers.

“It’s unbelievable that honey production from nine beehives is actually improving my family’s income prospects. Like many other men in my village, I thought I was destined to continue as a nomadic herder,” said Mr Shedo.

He told Nation.Africa in an interview at his small makeshift apiary that he felt as though he had forfeited his freedom and the right to dignity in order to scrape a living.

Like many other pastoralists in this region, Mr Shedo had no memory of a time when his life was different or less problematic.

The impoverished existence seemed mandatory - impossible to break and unbearable to live in for many.

However, as the adage goes, there will always be a silver lining even amid bleak moments in life.

When the WFP’s centrally sponsored beekeeping initiative was launched across Marsabit in 2019, Mr Shedo was among more than 20 groups and 1,200 livestock farmers who wholeheartedly welcomed the idea.

Diversifying livelihoods

He took on the challenge of beekeeping, highly acclaimed by the WFP as an important catalyst for maximising agricultural production and a key element in diversifying livelihoods for regions prone to perennial droughts.

Beehive

Some of the beehives donated to the Moyale livestock farmers to encourage beekeeping.

Photo credit: Jacob Walter | Nation Media Group

It is three years now since he ventured into beekeeping and the benefits are enormous.

He talked positively about the initiative because it did not supplant herders’ existing livelihood – it supplemented it.

He received a donation of 12 beehives and nine of them have been fully colonised.

He has harvested four times since he started - reaping 50 kilos of honey the first time, then 40kg, 50kg and 70kg subsequently.

Each kilogramme of unadulterated honey fetches Sh1,000 in the area. In a year, he harvests twice.

He explained that in good beekeeping areas, only three months are enough for honey production. However, some colonies are so slow that they need six months to produce enough honey to be worth harvesting.

Since he began harvesting, he has been able to effortlessly educate his four children, two of whom are in secondary school while others are still in primary school.

He has also built his family a decent two-bedroom house, where he moved from his former humble and congested hut.

He no longer values livestock rearing as he formerly did as he now believes that there are quicker gains in beekeeping.

He is toying with the idea of selling his livestock to expand his beekeeping venture by establishing an apiary a bit farther from the homestead and with over 100 beehives.

He also did not have the required harvesting gear and contemplated selling his animals to buy more if donors failed to chip in.

Mr Shedo is just one of many beneficiaries of the WFP initiative, which intends to make Marsabit a major supplier in the domestic market for honey, beeswax and other high-value hive products by 2024.

WFP Project Associate Joseph Ilkul, for his part, told Nation.Africa that they decided to train pastoralist communities in Marsabit in apiculture to help them increase their agricultural productivity and provide market access.

Have been colonised

He said that since the inception of the apiculture project in 2019, more than 180,000 kilos of honey have been harvested.

Beekeeping

WFP Marsabit Project Associate Joseph Ilkul during the interview with the Nation at Sessi area.
 

Photo credit: Jacob Walter | Nation Media Group

More than 80 percent of the beehives donated have been colonised.

He said the project was an eye-opener among herders as it has played a major role in uniting residents, who have learnt to work collaboratively to achieve a common goal.

The initiative was also key in reducing losses of animals to drought.

Apiculture has also proved significant in reducing resource scramble-related community clashes over pasture and water.

WFP plans to enhance beekeeping among farmers, especially women and youth, and will test the potential opportunity for the production of beehives, value addition and online marketing.

“Mr Abdi Shedo’s testimony is just a representation of how families’ quality of life has changed for the better with the Sustainable Food System Project, especially in beekeeping. But there are many more pastoralists who still require the ultimate mindset change,” Mr Ilkul said.

WFP also intends to strengthen beekeeping activities as a collective endeavour by establishing a beekeepers’ society and aggregate centre through which it can scale up honey production, improve the packaging and marketing of their honey, and produce honey-based value-added products.

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