Ten years ago, a group of women from Thika constituency decided to invest their hard earned savings on bee keeping, a venture that has made them smile all the way to the bank, today.
The 12 women decided to get serious into their business and registered their group, Twelve Sisters, with the department of Social Welfare with an aim of growing together financially and socially. They leased a land in Mananja area in Maragwa constituency, Murang’a County where they installed some 50 hives which they have increased to over 200 up-to date.
The group’s Chairperson Jane Mugure who spoke to Mt Kenya Star at the group’s shop in Thika town said that despite numerous hurdles in their venture, they have been able to make fortunes from the business, noting that proper bee keeping is highly profitable.
Mugure said despite having the over 200 hives, they have not been able to satisfy the demand for honey to their customers in the region noting that they have been forced to outsource honey from other areas like Pokot.
“A sister (late) to one of our members used to sell honey. And when she passed on, we decided to continue with her idea and even grew it by starting our own bee farm. Despite facing a myriad of challenges we soldiered on and we can attest that we have gotten high returns from the business,” Mugure said.
The Chairperson noted that most of their customers are residents of Thika and its environs as well as members of the Kikuyu Council of Elders who use the honey during traditional ceremonies.
“Our honey is pure and that’s why even the elders prefer it for traditional ceremonies and rituals,” she said.
Mugure quipped that the group sells 4-5 buckets of honey a day when the business is booming and 1-2 buckets when the demand is low. They also sell their honey in 1 Kilogram containers which go for Sh300 per Kg.
“The demand for honey in Thika especially to our clients is beyond our supply and that’s why we are forced to outsource it. We have actually divided responsibilities amongst ourselves, some are mandated to outsource the honey and others are for marketing,” she said.
The group’s Secretary Esther Wangui said that their journey has not been a bed of roses as countless challenges has come on their way.
He pointed out that their farm at Mananja has been marred with theft of their bee hives and honey. She also said that pests like the honey badgers have been their worst nightmares.
“We have suffered a lot in the hands of thieves who steal both the hives and honey and we have incurred extra costs in replacing them. Again the honey badgers have been wreaking havoc on our farm. But despite the challenges we have learnt to overcome them and find solutions,” Wangui said.
Wangui also noted that the group rears its bees on the traditional log hives which are prone to theft and attack by pests and therefore limiting production.
She said that the group didn’t have knowledge or expertise in bee keeping and also has never received extensional services from agricultural officers in the region.
The Secretary said they are knocking doors in quest for information and knowledge to better their practice saying that soon they will revamp their farm with modern hives.
“We have realized that with the latest knowledge and skills in handling or rearing bees we can maximize our production and therefore ensure that the rate of returns is high. We are seeking help from agricultural extension officers in the region so that we can improve our farming,” she said.
Wangui also noted that the group has been aspiring to purchase their own land to cut the cost of leasing but noted that financial constraints has been a major hindrance to their endeavor.
“We are currently pooling resources and consolidating our income so that we can purchase our own parcel of land where we can freely and securely keep our bees,” she said.