BEES AND TEAS – In Kenya, tea factories and beekeeping come together for business sustainability.

The Kenya Tea Development Agency in Meru County is implementing a long-term revenue diversification strategy as well as an environmental sustainability program. Five tea factories they manage have embarked on a beekeeping venture.

The five factories are: Weru, Imenti, Githongo, Kionyo and Kinoro. They set up 200 Langstroth beehives at their Mwigiki wood fuel farm along the Timau-Isiolo highway. Since it began, the project has raised more than half a million Kenya shillings. To achieve the full potential of the farm, the number of hives will be increased to 500 very soon.

The average honey yield per hive per year is 60 kilograms. This indicates the planned 500 hives will have the ability to produce 30,000 kilograms of honey in a year. This represents about KShs 20 million in revenue to shareholders. 

This unrelated 2:17-minute video by CWS gives more insight into how beekeeping is transforming the lives of people for the better around Kenya:



KTDA Forest Officer, George Oselu, says the main objective is to implement conservation and sustainability while at the same time increasing the earnings of farmers.

The honey from this area, he said, is unique and is some of the best honey available. The bees have plenty of land where they gather nectar and pollen, especially from the eucalyptus trees on the farm. The entire concept behind this project is environmental conservation, sustainability and revenue generation.

Their goal is to encourage all farmers, even at household level, to have at least one or two beehives because they are easy to manage. They intend to replicate the project to all the wood fuel farms across the country.

Stephen Macharia, Regional Operations Manager, Region Four, says plans are in place to upscale the project for enhanced revenues soon.

The exceptional quality of the honey harvested at this farm is sold through the regional office and the demand is overwhelming due to the fine quality. There are currently plans for two sites like this one.

The apiary is located inside the tea factories wood fuel farm, so a strict tree-felling plan is adhered to. This ensures that the bees’ ecosystem is undisturbed so there is always enough forage for them.

The benefit of this farm to those five factories has led to substantial savings in thermal energy costs. The wood harvested from this farm has high calorific value, so it saves these factories 20%-25% in energy costs. This is about Sh30 million in direct savings to these factories over the eighteen months, and these savings are passed on to the farmer, according to Stephen.

KTDA-managed factories across the country have about 21,000 acres for wood fuel production, and there is a plan to acquire and develop a total of 40,000 acres towards their goal of fuel wood self-sufficiency.

In other bee-related news from Kenya, it looks like beehives are replacing tourism and livestock incomes.

The World Vision charity donated 20 beehives to a group of women in Kenya, the Nashipa Ramat Women’s Group in Laikipia County. These women used to rely on selling livestock and beaded ornaments to tourists before COVID changed everything. Now their ability to harvest honey is a lifesaver for them and their families.

The group’s apiary caretaker said they recently harvested 46 kg of honey from these hives. It is very important to women in Kenya to be self-sufficient and independent earners, and this honey is helping to increase their household income.

The livestock markets have been closed due to Covid-19 and tourism has dried up. The beehives arrived at just the right time. Their freshly harvested honey can be sold to their Naitumtum Lotoro Beekeepers Co-operative society.

The co-operative societies in Kenya play a key role by providing a ready market for honey harvested by their members. This helps to sustain small beekeeping businesses. The honey is then sold on to external markets at lucrative prices, which in turn boosts the share value of members and lets them get more income through annual dividends.

World Vision also trained the recipients on beekeeping strategies and supports community groups so they can create business ventures that also help to conserve the environment.

This is a sweet business for all concerned.