Beekeeping is an ideal income generating activity for groups such as women groups, youth, and church members, Clubs engage in bee farming to earn income. To start out, it does not require land or larger spaces. One can even hang a beehive on a tree and he or she can still harvest honey and process honey products.
Bee keeping for the purpose of honey production dates back to 700 BC.
In China, it had Medicinal properties. In India and other Asian countries i.e. North Central and South-East Asian, it formed an integral part of traditional medicine. In African honey is used as a food medicine for certain ailments. It is used as a substitute for sugar sometimes or a flavor to enhance sweetness.
Honey is a precious gift to mankind. Honey is loved and comparable to none in terms of taste and sweetness. Long ago honey was used as the most liked gift one would give to a relative or a friend. It has several health benefits apart from being a feast for the senses. Human-kind has used honey for nearly 3000 years. Honey is also used for weight loss.
Bees are social insect living in groups. One can tame theme by keeping flowers around. They suck nectar from a variety of flowers to make honey. One can keep bees for honey or can hunt for a place with a lot of flowers for a naturally grown honey.
Honey contains up to 85% sugar. A good quality honey should contain about 19% water. It is ever in demand and it a good way to earn oneself some cash. Honey has properties for treating burns and wounds effectively. It has lived long for this purpose in traditional African society. Bees collect propolis from plants; this is a bee product with high medicinal value. It is used as antibacterial, anti fungal, and anti-viral, according to the National Bee Keeping Station, Annual report: 2003
Bee Species and Varieties:
There are four main types of bees in Kenya. These are:
- Apis Mellifera scullata. These are common and wide spread in larger parts of the country. They are highly aggressive and like to migrate.
- Apis Mellifera Monticola. These are also known as the Mountain Bee. It is the largest in Africa according to Carroll. T (2006) They are dark in color with long hair, and mainly found in the Kenya Highland.
- Apis Mellifera Yemenitaca. These are smaller in size with a slender abdomen,. mainly found in semi-arid and arid zones.
- Apis Mellifera Littorea. This bee likes the lowlands. It is found along the coast of Kenya. It does not migrate.
Kushiro, a bee farmer with the South Abardere honey farmer’s society in Kijabe in central Kenya, wished the government of Kenya could shift their attitude and commit to bee farming, because honey demand is high both locally and abroad.
According bee farmers, bee keeping is easy and makes more than 200 percent profit for all its operations. Farmers wonder why this lucrative business is neglected by the government, and it could create a good country foreign exchange in return for the honey products.
Many people search for jobs everywhere but if these people could do bee keeping, it would be a well-paying job. Many could employ themselves by embracing the bee keeping business. One may ask him or herself which other business can give over two-hundred percent profit. Honey harvesting is normally 3 – 6 times a year according to the South Abardere honey farmer’s society. One single beehive can produce up to 10 kilogram’s of honey per harvest.
One can imagine that if people in African were trained in the bee keeping business Africa could target the whole world in supplying honey products. If farmers were given capital to start the business it would be extremely good. The bee keeping business is cheap to start. You only need a beehive and a harvesting jacket. There is a market readily available within the country and internationally.
Setting up of national and county honey farmers board is a way of reaching and exploiting the market. Every family can start a bee keeping activity as an income generating activity. Bee keeping wastes no time but it does require some patience. Once you set up your bee keeping business, you are done. You only wait then to harvest and your income flows as long as you live. It is just an amazing self investing business.
Where the government needs to shift in is in the training of farmers and researching the market. Honey farming can become a second income for many people in Kenya. For instance: if the government could sponsor the making of millions of beehives and provide them free of charge to farmers in the entire country, there would be a large scale product of honey, an excellent investment. According to the farmers, one beehive can produce up to ten kilograms of honey in one single harvest. The harvest is normally four times a year which means that one beehive can give up to 40 kilograms in a year.
My wish is that the government would allocate funds to honey farmers just like what is done to fish farming, where there are fish ponds being constructed in every constituency. Honey has health benefits and nutritional value for our bodies. It is rich in carbohydrates that are easily digestible. It contains glucose and fructose types of sugars which are absorbed into our body to supply instant energy. It is easier to digest than sugar. Athletes can benefit most has it provides immediate energy and reduces muscle fatigue.
This tells us that where an athlete comes from in Kenya, there must be a bee hive. Most areas where athletes come from in Kenya grow honey . Our body needs vitamins and minerals salts for growth and proper and development. We can get these vitamins from honey, these include: – vitamin B2, B6, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and many other elements. The contents of minerals and vitamins depend on the variety of flowers where the nectar is picked by the bee.
The nutritional value of the honey differs as the type of flowers where the nectar is collected varies. The texture and taste too depends on the type of nectar. That means if we commit to the honey business in the whole country we can produce varieties of honey to serve different functions.
Honey stimulates the immune system to fight against pathogens. It is known as antibacterial, anti-fungal and antimicrobial. This gives it the ability to heal wounds, cuts and minors burns. It speeds up the healing process, improves pain and inflammation.
Honey has properties that help reduce cholesterol levels, especially bad cholesterol which is responsible for clogged arteries. On the other hand, it raises the good cholesterol level that is known for reducing risk of heart diseases. The use of raw honey as food medicines can easily lead to avoidance of some common problems we experience in our day today life i.e. allergies and anemia.
Others ailments and sickness that can be improved with honey include appetite, conjunctivitis, and fatigue and headache exhaustion such as migraines, heart disease, high blood pressure, stomachache, skin problems, and sore throats. The use of honey costs much less than the hospital treatment of these diseases.
The equipment for bee farming can be constructed locally or bought from the market. There many companies that can provide bee keeping equipments cheaply. If you can not afford to purchase then one can make a traditional one.
In Kenya the well-known beehives are the top bar bee hives, which acts as a log. It is more popular and it has many advantages over the Langstroth hive. Most communities just use a log to make the hive.
Members of the beehive include:
- The Queen; which is an asexual female bee.
- The Drone; a male bee charged with fertilizing the queen.
- The Workers; young female bees.
- The Young or Brood.
Carroll . T says in his Book, A Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping in Kenya, that beekeeping is a way to manage honey bees in order to obtain honey. Honey products include:
- Honey drinks
- Baking uses
- Food and food sweeteners
- Food preservatives
Carroll T. A Beginner’s Guide To Beekeeping In Kenya.(2006)
Nyuki Newsletter. A bulletin for the the National Beekeeping station.Vol.III. Issue No.1
National Beekeeeping Station. Annual report (2003)