This major project, funded by UK Department for International Development (DFID), targeted the entire semi-arid Laikipia County and parts of Samburu County (>400,000 people), training 1000+ beekeepers. The formal project (entitled the Bee Product Enterprise Development – BPED project) has ended, and was DFID-rated A+, indicating it had exceeded expectations.
Laikipia County is one of the semi-arid counties of Kenya, characterized by a cold and dry climate coupled with frequent and long droughts. Over-grazing by cattle, and an increase in intense long-lasting droughts have led to desertification, causing major food shortages for much of the year.
Until recently, many communities relied on selling locally-crafted bead jewellery for income-generation. Now prices have plummeted due to cheap imports flooding the market. Beekeeping provides a new income stream for both women and men; it requires minimal land and has low capital costs
Impacts and setbacks
Household incomes increased on average by around 15% for households keeping bees. Around half the increase is from value-added products such as skin creams – generally made by women. This income buys more and varied foodstuffs, and helps with school fees and hospital bills – the main uses highlighted by the women.
Even very low income households own mobile phones, and phone-banking has allowed quality honey to be sold ‘on the doorstep’. Beekeepers are selling high quality semi-processed honey, and using the wax to make skin creams etc.
The project highlighted the importance of bees in pollination. Seed sharing allowed farmers to grow more diverse crops with improved pollination and has allowed households to eat an improved varied diet.
These changes have increased the self-esteem of the families involved – particularly women, who now earn income and run bank accounts.
Additional funds are being sought to expand the initiative geographically, and to develop the market more fully where the project proved so successful. Some project staff are still voluntarily giving of their time, but extra funds are needed if the full impact of this initiative is to be achieved.