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There is more to bees than just sweet honey

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By Bernadette Murgor bmurgor@smartfarmerkenya.com

Beekeeping is sweet news for consumers, but should also be for the farmers, who make it happen. Honey is popular all over the world. It is a versatile product that has a huge potential. Unfortunately, though, beekeeping remains largely untapped in Kenya and other African countries.

In Kenya, honey is used as a sweetener in teas and bread, cakes and for its medicinal value. Beekeeping is, indeed, nature’s sweet secret waiting to be tapped.

This 51st issue of the magazine has a special focus on bee farming, showing the challenges, achievements, and what needs to be done to get the best out of honey and the byproducts. However, sadly, Kenyan farmers only produce 25,000 tonnes of honey, yet we have the potential to get even more than 100,000 tonnes! We give you insights into where and how beekeeping can be beneficially carried out. We also provide a step-by-step guide on how to become a successful beekeeper.

To demystify bee farming, we also shed some light on the technology that brings out the best in this venture. Poor technology and the use of traditional methods do not bring out the very best. The most important equipment to a bee farmer is a beehive. This, as the home of those hardworking and productive insects, calls for attention or else the quality and quantity of honey can be compromised.

A really inspiring story on beekeeping that confirms that it is possible to do is that of a young woman, who has ventured into making and selling beehives. Hers is a really sweet initiative. Also, as we found out, thanks to our visit to Havila Resort in Kirinyaga County, that there is more to beekeeping than just honey. There is value addition that has several equally lucrative byproducts. They include bee venom, moisturisers, oil serums and supplements.

At the coast, a combination of fish and honey being bred in mangroves is boosting the livelihoods of the locals. Mangroves are home to lots of biodiversity, including insects, birds, crabs, and shrimps. Conservation of mangroves, which have been subjected to wanton cutting down in the recent past, also promises to boost honey production. Beekeeping is one of the key income generating initiatives that people have been engaging in to ease pressure on the mangroves.

Also in this issue, there is an interesting article on raising crabs. An initiative that began also at the coast as an effort to stop environmental degradation over 20 years ago, has become a lucrative business enterprise that combines crab farming and eco-tourism in a beautiful mangrove forest. Crabs are a delicacy that brings handsome returns to those who rear them.

We also highlight how nearly 547,440 people are supported directly by the livestock sub-sector, and more to be done to streamline policies, rules, and regulations of the industry, to realise its full potential.

There is also good news in the fight against the voracious Fall armyworm that has been wreaking havoc in the bread basket of the North Rift and other areas. It is a new technology that disrupts the pests mating.

On yet another front, progress is being made in the fight against one of the major livestock diseases, East Coast Fever. It will now be possible to accurately predict whether a cow is likely to survive an infection or not, following the identification of a genetic marker that can do this. This will enable breeding programmes that will improve the lives of millions of smallholders.

And Guinea fowls, those elegant birds, are not just good for meat, eggs, feathers, they are also useful pest control. Interestingly, the birds also serve as a watchdog, sounding the alarm whenever something unusual occurs on the farm. The noisy guinea fowl also discourages rodent invasions. Our interviews with farmers across the country indicate that they are upbeat about better things to come once the new Kenya Kwanza administration gets down to work. Their expectations revolve around irrigation, cost of inputs, financial support, marketing, and extension services.

Now, just sit back and enjoy reading what we have put together especially for you to sweeten your time.

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