Beehives in Kenya: Having lived in the city for eight years, Danson Kithinji never thought that he would, one day, return to the village to farm. But the 2007/08 post-election violence forced him out of Nairobi city to his rural home in Kavutiri village, Manyatta constituency, Embu County.
“I returned home and decided to try my hand in bee keeping. I had some experience in this because the relative I was living with in Nairobi’s Kawangware was doing it,” he says. In 2009, he established Nyukiz Care Services project a journey, which was filled with various ups and downs before he finally became a respected bee farmer in the area. “Starting was not bad because I had some experience. I had done bee keeping for the years while I lived in Nairobi. I knew the tricks of the game. But my focus was making and selling bee hives,” he says.
Kithinji used his Sh5,000 savings to buy timber, which he used to construct five bee hives. “I went round my neighbourhood and managed to sell all of them making Sh25,000. I bought more timber and built 15 hives, but it was not easy selling them. It took some time before I sold all of them,” says the farmer.
When the hives were not selling, he got discouraged and almost gave up. “There was a time nobody was buying my hives and at some point, I wanted to quit. But somebody advised me to go to the Ministry of Agriculture offices and they would advise me on what to do,” he says. The ministry gave him valuable insights and offered to train him on marketing the structure. He was also trained on how to come up with modern bee hives that stored more honey, which was easy to harvest. That was his turning point.
“After that experience, I started making modern hives and people noticed that they were more superior than the traditional one. Slowly I started making good sales,” he says. After a year in the business, he starting getting good returns. He now has clients from his home area and has orders from as far as Uganda.
Between September and December last year, he sold 120 hives at Sh5,000 each pocketing a cool Sh600,000. Farmers also flock his farm to learn about best practice in bee keeping.
Kithinji uses pine and cypress to construct bee hives since it produces some scent that attracts the insects. After, selling bee hives to his customers, he stocks them with bees and advises the farmer on good bee management. “I have constructed my own small-sized bee hives, which I have placed on top of my house to trap bees and transfer to customers’ hives to ensure their hives are stocked. I sell hives stocked with bees at Sh6,000 each,” he says.
His apiary, which has 40 modern hives is situated at a forested area. Other than making hives, he also keeps bees. He harvests honey after every four months and sells each kilo at Sh. 600. In December last year, he sold 200 kilos of honey. So what is his secret to being a thriving bee farmer? “Easy. I harvest my honey in four months yet it normally takes six to seven months. The trick is to place the hive near a source of flowers and water. Bees also love a cool environment so direct sun light is a no-no,” he says.
Kithinji challenges other youth to embrace the venture because it is promising. Njaunini Kimotho, a bee-keeping officer based in Runyenjes Sub-County, agrees that bee keeping is rewarding fetching high returns if farmers get it right. “Unlike other farming ventures, bee keeping is stress-free. If you make an apiary near a forest, you are assured of plenty of honey because the bees have easy access to nectar,” he says adding the venture is viable in a small piece of land. Kimotho says the hives should be placed where the farmer can easily reach and harvest within shortest time. “They don’t need heights for easy harvesting. One and a half metres height is good,” he says. The major challenge in bee keeping is honey badgers. To curb this, Kithinji uses galvanised wire to suspend the hive.
Sugar ants and safari ants are also a menace, but he smears grease on the wire and applies ashes at the base of the trees around the apiaries. Beehives in Kenya. Beehives in Kenya.