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Sweet dream for women as honey venture thrives

By Jacinta Mutura
Members of Twala Tenebo Cultural Women Center in Laikipia North. The group has 100 hives hung in a 40-acre land located within Naibung’a Conservancy. [Jacinta Mutura, Standard]

Before she embraced bee keeping, Ms Eunice Kaparo was totally dependent on her relatives to earn a living.

But her fortunes changed when she joined a women group doing commercial bee farming at Ilpolei area in Laikipia North, Laikipia County.

Ms Kaparo is part of the 207-member Twala Tenebo Cultural Women group doing commercial bee keeping at Ilpolei. Like other women, she can now support her family comfortably.

Conservation

Through the group, Kaparo and her fellow women have broken traditional barriers and by taking up beekeeping which is considered a man’s turf in the Maa culture.

“Traditionally, women were only responsible for household chores while the men managed livestock like grazing livestock and beekeeping. Now the women are enlightened and are embracing ventures like beekeeping,” says Ms Kaparo.

The group started bee farming in 2014 through the Climate Smart Initiative in effort to support women empowerment and contribute to environment conservation.

Ms Kaparo says they settled on beekeeping because it is easy to manage and has few risks as an investment option.

“With beekeeping, you only need to identify an ideal location and set up the hives,” she says.

On the day of the interview, it was honey harvesting day. Ms Kaparo was in the company of five other women and had hired two men - an elderly man knowledgeable on traditional harvesting method, and an extension officer to help with the exercise that is usually done at night. In a field of buzzing bees, the team prepared to harvest honey from colonised bee hives hanging from acacia trees in a wild habitat.

Honey harvesting

Dressed in bee suits, gloves and netted masks, they slice off combs filled with honey in the hexagonal cells and put the combs in buckets as others filled up buckets. Moving from one hive to the other, they harvested 40 kilograms that night.

“We harvest at night when there is little disturbance. It is also safe for us because bees are less active at night,” says Kaparo. She says bees can be harmful when provoked but they have learnt how to keep them calm.

When the bees get agitated, a metallic smoker is filled with a flaming pile of eucalyptus leaves sending out puffs to calm them.

The women group have set up 100 bee hives on the 40 acres within Naibung’a Conservancy.

The women harvest 800 kilograms per harvest - assuming all the hives are colonised with each producing eight kilograms of refined honey. Harvesting is done three times a year. A kilogram of crude honey is sold at Sh400 while the refined one goes for Sh800.

In a good season, the women earn Sh300,000 per harvest and share dividends at the end of the year.

Having been at it for five years, the women are now master beekeepers. They know how to get quality from honey.

“We have eight acres of aloe vera and the integration with the bees is good as they are good source of nectar. Aloe are drought resistant and so they keep on flowering especially when it rains,” says Sentina.

The project is indeed changing the women’s lives.

Ms Priscilla Sentina, an assistant manager at the centre, says the project has seen 56 daughters of the women members go to school with some joining universities.

In addition, from the proceeds of the venture, the women have built a three-roomed guest house that boosts their income.

To sustain the project, IMPACT organisation helps the women with marketing their honey and aloe products locally and outside Kenya. Laikipia Permaculture Centre gives them advisory support.

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