A decision by a group of beekeepers in honey-rich Koriema area in Marigat District, Baringo County, to form a self-help group is paying off as they have managed to reduce exploitation by middlemen and increased their profit margins.
The Koriema Honey Producers group brings together more than 200 beekeepers from Koriema, Kimalel, Sabor and Arabal areas of the county.
According to group manager William Arusei, their coming together has helped them market the honey and keep off middlemen, who used to purchase honey at throw-away prices.
“The venture has also gone a long way in improving the livelihoods of locals and curbing rampant cases of insecurity in volatile areas of the county, like Arabal which produced more than 18,000 kg in 2008 alone,” said Mr Arusei.
He said the major market for their products are Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA), learning institutions and women who sell it at the neighbouring Koriema centre, Marigat and Kabarnet towns.
The group also sells its products to liquor making companies in Nairobi and other towns.
The group buys raw honey at Sh165 a kg from farmers then sells processed honey to clients at between Sh200 and Sh300 a kg.
Mr Arusei says it was difficult at first to start the group as people viewed it with suspicion but they later embraced the idea.
This is against a backdrop of reluctance by many farmers to join or form co-operative societies due to previous records of poor management of such groups.
The group started off by getting capital of Sh100,000, as a revolving fund (loan) from Site Enterprise Promotion in 2006, which they entered into partnership with in mobilisation and marketing honey products from the area.
Mr Arusei said the business was doing well as they have repaid the loan and the business turnover now stands at more than Sh300,000.
The group hopes to hit Sh500,000 by the end of this year, an amount that will enable them collect all honey produced in the region with minimal financial constraints.
The county has two honey harvesting seasons a year, with the major season being between July and February. May to June is the off-peak season, with an average of four tonnes being produced.
The highest amount of honey ever produced by the group was 14 tonnes in 2008.
According to Mr Arusei, proceeds from the business are saved in the group’s bank account and members benefit from loans for emergency purposes and for other needs such as school fees.
Koriema beekeepers and their colleagues in Kerio Valley region are set to benefit from a bee keeping equipment production centre set up by the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) in Kabarnet, Baringo county, at a cost of Sh17 million.
According to KVDA managing director David Kimosop, the centre — which will serve West Pokot, Baringo, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Turkana, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Samburu counties — will see the production of bee hives increased in the region from the current 5,000 to 10,000 annually.
“Bee keepers will also be trained on honey processing, which will boost the processed 100 tonnes out of 700 tonnes produced annually in the North Rift region,” said Mr Kimosop during the commissioning of the project recently.
He said KVDA, in conjunction with governors from arid counties, were in the process of mapping out resources in the area in a bid to establish how they could be exploited.
“Kerio Valley sits on very important resources. We want to come up with a common plan in a bid to alleviate poverty and improve the economic welfare of the people,” said Mr Kimosop. He added that this would also curb rampant cases of insecurity in the region.
He said that a mango processing factory had been put up at Tot area of Marakwet East district, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, which is the highest mango producer in the region, with Sh30 million already set aside for the project by KVDA in conjunction with Apac, a firm from Holland.
Baringo County Governor Benjamin Cheboi called on KVDA to zone off some areas, in collaboration with the forest department, for honey production as a way of conserving the environment.
“Residents of these areas should minimise charcoal burning, which is harmful to honey production as it scares away bees and reduces forest cover,” said Mr Cheboi.
To create employment, the county government will help the youth acquire bee keeping production equipment from the centre, he said.
He added that apart from honey production, Kerio Valley region is rich in livestock products, with Baringo County having an estimated two million goats and one million cows.