On a Sunday morning in Kapenguria town of West Pokot, men, women and children joined in an unusual procession.
A visitor would most likely mistake this procession, which is marked by traditional dancers doing what they do best, was probably a cultural day. Better still, being, a Sunday, one would think it is a Sabbath ritual.
It is May 20, the day that the United Nations UN General Assembly, adopted by consensus a resolution declaring ‘The World Bees Day’. The adoption was done in Washington DC.
Through partnership with the National and West Pokot County governments, Apiculture Platform of Kenya (APK) organized for the inaugural World Bees Day at Kapenguria. West Pokot is among the leading honey producers in Kenya, in both quality and quantity.
While there were several exhibitors, the government-owned National Beekeeping Institute (NBI) was outstanding owing to the high-level show of value addition.
The mention of the NBI sends thoughts of people, seated in their offices, maybe formulating policies on the bee sector.
But there is more than meets the eye, so much activity, that especially young people should tap into, and venture into business along the apiculture value chain.
We caught up with some of the innovations that are carried out at the NBI, located in Lenana, Nairobi.
It was here that Ruth Yego, took time to explain to stakeholders in the apicultural sector on innovations whose potential is yet to be tapped. Her explanations and exhibits were especially of interest to bee keepers and honey processors both from the host county and other areas.
“Many people think of bees in terms of honey. While honey itself is great for health, wealth and job creation, there is much more that can be done in the apiculture industry,” says Yego
On her table within the stadium, are wax candles, molded in different shapes — some straight, others fruit-shaped while others have the shapes of dolls, probably to attract different clients with diverse tastes and preferences. The candles are made of bee wax, after being separated from raw honey.
Another interesting innovation is the lip balm, made of bee wax and lulu – purely locally manufactured at the NBI.
For those who are keen on skin beauty and health, there is the Bee wax and Honey and body cream, which apparently, helps in healing dry, stressed, cracked skin and feet. Besides, the cream can be used as an aftershave and for soothing burns. The cream is made from a mixture of bee wax, honey, essential oils as well as a natural fragrance.
Other beauty products that are manufactured at NBI with honey and bee wax as main ingredients include hair shampoo and conditioner.
Besides, NBI processes propolis or bee glue, which is a natural broad spectrum antibiotic. Propolis comes from bee saliva gum which bees collect from backs of trees and use to seal loopholes in hives. The saliva may also be mixed from gum from injured, tender tree buds to make propolis.
Besides, the Institute manufactures soap with the major ingredients being bee wax and honey. The soap is especially, hailed for its skin-soothing effect.
Although there are many possibilities and opportunities in the apiculture sector, it remains lowly exploited.
According to the government statistics, only 25 percent of Kenya’s apicultural potential has been exploited, rendering the country a net honey importer.
Speaking on behalf of Agriculture and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary, Livestock PS Harry Kimtai said that the apiculture industry contributed Sh14 billion to the agricultural GDP in 2016. This placed the sector fifth after beef, dairy, poultry and goats.
He said the government is undertaking several initiatives in a bid to upgrade the apiculture sector and expand markets both locally and internationally. Among these measures is that the Apiculture Development Policy is expedited and facilitated through the remaining process.
Besides, the Directorate of Livestock Production is in the process of developing the National Bee Industry Regulation.
Additionally, the development of a national Honey Residue Monitoring Plan to enhance traceability and compliance to the European Union market is ongoing.
Robin Mbae, the Deputy Director of Livestock Production in charge of Apiculture and Climate Change said Kenya had a potential of producing over 100 tonnes of honey annually if the industry’s full potential was tapped into.
Mbae challenged counties with high potential in honey production to scale up in promoting this sector in a bid to enhance food security and economic empowerment.
Among the areas with high honey production are Baringo, Turkana, Tharaka Nithi, Lamu, Wajir and Machakos.
However, for the full potential to be realized, there is need for all stakeholders to work together, according to Apiculture Platform of Kenya Chairman Stephen Kagio.
Kagio, who doubles up as an apiculture and sericulture lecturer at Egerton University, said most people especially the youth were barely aware of the numerous opportunities in bee keeping.
There are many things one can do to earn from bees including farming, manufacturing equipment, value addition and marketing,” he said
Young people, he added, should not shy away from taking up courses in apiculture as they would open ways for them not only to be employed, but also play a role in creating better health, wealth and food security.
APK is an association of various stakeholders in the apiculture sector including academics, researchers, media, private sector and business people.