Beekeeping in Kenya has turned a lucrative livestock venture as the east African nation grapples with vagaries of climate change, which is characterized by dry spells and increased pests and diseases.

Bees thrive better in arid and semi-arid areas and during dry spells and are not affected by diseases and pests as compared to other livestock, making farmers with large swathes of land to cash in on them amid climate change.


According to bee experts, the insects need good foliage, housing that protects them from bad weather and water to thrive.

The foliage includes drought-resistant plants like acacia trees and shrubs that grow in abundance even during dry spells.

Thanks to their ability to flourish in times of scarcity, bees are helping farmers across the east African nation improve their productivity.

Traditional areas where beekeeping was practiced in Kenya for years are Kitui, Machakos and Makueni in eastern Kenya, Baringo in the north and at the coast, but bee-keeping is spreading to other places, including the capital, Nairobi.

Joel Masobo, a bee expert from Egerton University, notes that with the changing climate, bees have become an important livestock due to their ability to survive even in harsh conditions.

“For safe beekeeping, one needs a 100 meter radius without human activities and you are good to go,” he said, noting the area should have foliage that offers the insects nectar.

“In the production of honey, a farmer only does 5 percent of the work,” such as building the house, providing hives and plants for nectar.

“The rest of the work is done by bees, making bee-farming a very lucrative venture,” he said.

According to Masobo, unlike chickens, cattle, sheep and goats, which require huge houses, bees thrive in a very small space in terms of the housing.

“The good thing with bees is that you can still engage in other activities that do not disturb them. You can plant crops and fruits, which will still be pollinated by the bees making the insects more beneficial as long as you maintain the 100 m radius to prevent destruction,” he said.

Beatrice Macharia, of Growth Point agro-consultancy, noted that an increasing number of farmers in Kenya are keeping bees alongside crop-growing.

“The farmers are using the bees as pollinators but the bigger picture is that the insects are helping them mitigate climate risks,” he said. “In case it does not rain and crops fail, they can still harvest honey.”

An average hive offers at least 15 kg of honey per year for those keeping the insects traditionally, but commercial farmers harvest at least 50 kg.

Kenya produces some 15,000 tonnes of honey annually, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, while bee colonies stand at 2 million. Enditem


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