Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Beekeeping in Kenya

The difficulties of being a beekeeper in Kenya and how Europe can help developing country farmers by sharing knowledge. 

by Edgars Skvariks 

Photo by Edgars Skvariks.

"We don’t have to be afraid of diseases, but of the people. Thieves like this adhesive and sweet snack," laughed one of the ten Kenya’s Nyanza Honey Processing Group cooperative farmers, who have been making a living with beekeeping since 2008. Just few years ago beekeepers from the Nyanza Province in Kenya had 900 bee colonies collecting more than 1.2 tons of honey. “This isn’t the final size of our project,” said one of the beekeepers, showing his hives. “We will increase the number of hive colonies to 1300.” 

Bees are not fed with sugar like in some European countries. In some parts of Africa bees are able to collect nectar almost all year long. But when the drought or rain season comes, farmers plant the calliandra trees all around the hives. It has been found that these exotic tree species have high nectar content that can boost the annual honey production. 

Photo by Edgars Skvariks.

A similar system is used in Indonesia, but it is only one of the many ways to ensure the diversity of honey flavor. The hives are transported from one place to another, so the honey is extracted from various flowers. It's a little bitter, with a banana flavor and it crystallizes quickly; therefore it is a sign of quality. 

Cooperative farmers hope that beekeeping can help their communities. This is the main reason why farmers from Nyanza have put so much effort and high hopes into this little-known and unusual industry. “At first we want to help our people with jobs. To do so, we have to expand our market in Kenya. After it will be done, we have a dream to start selling our cooperative honey in the European markets.” 

However, even farmers have to face bureaucracy. Ministers and government organizations are only interested in developing projects that can make profit. “Apparently, beekeeping is not as welcomed as other projects. In order to sell honey in Kenya’s supermarkets, it is necessary to obtain special government certificates,” said one of the farmers. But getting one can take up to six months. 

"We will get it. It's just a matter of time. We are sure that everything will be fine. We do not think that something may fail, we are optimists."

Photo by Edgars Skvariks

Africa needs new green development innovations that can boost its economy and eradicate poverty. And Europe can use its expertise and experience to help get it done by enabling developing countries to gain access to researches on agriculture for free. Similar programme has been launched by World Health Organization. HINARI project has allowed hundreds of health organizations from all over the world to gain access to more than 8500 e-journals and 7000 e-books in 30 different languages. It has been already proved that such platforms can make huge differences and for both sides it can only be a win-win situation.   

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