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Earning big from beekeeping with less than Sh100,000

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By BY LILLIAN KIARIE | November 19th 2013

BY LILLIAN KIARIE

KENYA: Having a venture with sweet returns is what many prospective business people envision.

And since Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas make up more than 80 per cent of the country’s landmass, bee keeping is an endeavour that can mint farmers huge returns.

The venture requires a small piece of land that does not have to be fertile. The capital required to start the venture is low compared to other farm enterprises. For instance, it does not require natural resources such as space, light, moisture and soil fertility.

The venture requires minimal labour such as inspection and harvesting, which can be done over a stretch of time.

Unlike the popular belief that bees are only used to obtain honey and wax, a creative farmer can obtain over 10 income-generating products from bee keeping.

This includes pollen, propolis, bee venom, royal jelly, bee colonies, bee brood, queen and package bees and many others. Bees are good pollinators of plants and play a huge role in bio-diversity and improvement of crop yields.

 Products from the ‘little soldiers’ are also said to possess medicinal value, and are remedies for several ailments.

Patrick Muasia, a Kitui- based beekeeper, who ventured into the business in 2007 used to harvest over 32 kilos of raw honey each year. This yielded about 22 kilos after it was refined.

Bee products

Muasia used to sell a kilo of honey at Sh150 in the local neighborhood, which saw him fetch him about Sh3,300 from 22 kilos. From the 32 kilo-harvest, honeycombs made up about 30 per cent — equivalent to about 10 kilos.

Only a small percentage of the combs could make beeswax.

Muasia says he got less than Sh200 from the beeswax sale, bringing the total venture to about Sh3500.“I realised that working as an individual did not bring me good returns and joined a group so as to attain a greater yield and better profit margin through many hives,” he says. He then joined hands with five of his friends to set up 100 beehives.

The hives now bring in over 2200 kilos of refined honey. “Selling a kilo of honey at Sh200, we make over Sh400, 000 per year. The combs fetch about Sh25, 000. As a side-hustle that requires less labour and time, we are pleased with the returns,” Muasia says coyly.

Start-up

Starting off the venture requires one to get acquainted with the local bee-human relationship. Bee stings are an integral part of beekeeping and a beekeeper has to deal with them.

Beekeeper need bee suits, veils and smokers - controllable smoke used to relax the nerves of the bees so as to prevent them from stinging during harvesting.

They also need a set of hive tools, gumboots and gloves which in total cost around Sh5,000. The cost of setting up a beehive varies according to the type of hive used. A Langstroth hive costs around Sh5,000.

But you can construct them using locally available materials to cut costs. Other necessary materials include holding racks and poles.

It is advisable to set up a beehive on farms or bushy areas with flowers.

If you do not have a farm, you can negotiate with farm owners with the argument that bee’s aid in pollination, which helps vegetables and fruits to grow.

Typically, one beehive provides enough bees to pollinate one acre of crops.

Managing a beehive is simple as it doesn’t require your presence. You don’t feed them; you don’t do any clean up.

Thus you can visit your site once a year or once every six months as long as you are well aware of harvest time.

Harvest period

Harvesting is normally done between 10 to 12 months after set up. The second harvest takes place eight months later. Afterwards, harvesting can be carried out every four months.

Gatundu based beekeeper Mike Kigicha says that attracting bees to your hive is an art which requires good knowledge.

“One can start by dabbing the juice of pineapples, mangos or oranges inside the hive. The juice attracts bees to your hive and if it is conducive, they will colonise the place,” he says.

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