Locals tap into sweet bee keeping while conserving mangrove forests

Khamis Omar shows some of beehives within mangroves in Mida Creek, Kilifi County. [Caroline Chebet, Standard]

On breezy evenings on the beach of Mida Creek in Kilifi County, the magical blends of fiery-red and bright shades of orange and yellow cast upon the sky are enchanting.

Often, visitors spend their evenings seated along the beach, where silhouettes of mangroves are cast, sometimes, watching the silvery gleams reflected on the seawater.

But during the day, tens of fisherfolks and tour guides are making a kill for the day-fishing, guiding visitors along the boardwalks.

Often, during breaks, they sneak into the mangroves to check on their beehives, a venture which they engaged to boost their revenue and conserve the mangroves.

"Having the highest concentration of mangrove species means this place is unique and this drove us to protect the area. Bee-keeping within the mangroves has been a more sustainable way to achieve this," says Khamis Omar, a member of Mida Creek Conservation and Fishing.

[Caroline Chebet, Standard]

Tidal inlet

Mida Creek is a tidal inlet that stretches across 32 kilometres square and hosts some of the world's rare concentrations of mangroves.

It is an important breeding and feeding ground for rare fish species including Parrotfish, Rabbitfish, Jacks, Snappers, Groupers, Emperors and Barracuda.

The creek is also designated as one of the largest ornithological reserves in Africa, hosting hundreds of both migrant and resident bird species.

But despite the importance of mangroves in Mida creek, it is a major source of firewood and charcoal for residents.

This, however, threatens the sustainability of the mangrove forest.

"Besides advocating for good fishing practices, we realised we need these mangroves because they offer critical breeding grounds for fish too and we took an initiative to do clean-ups and also bee-keeping so that it eases monitoring of these forests. You will not miss one of our members checking on the beehives whenever they get breaks," Omar said.

In the past, the residents kept bees in dryland forests, but due to changing weather patterns, which resulted in a lack of flowers and water, they had to change tact.

Collect nectar

"Within the mangroves, there is enough water, though a bit salty. Here, the bees are assured of flowers to collect nectar," Omar says.

While honey from terrestrial forests has a sweeter taste, those from mangrove forests have a tinge of saltiness.

Currently, the group of 28 members own 15 beehives and has undergone training in beekeeping.

" The farmers are taught how to observe the behavior of the bees, when they are colonizing and when to harvest. The impact of climate change is being felt everywhere. This means that communities have to adapt.

"As part of a partnership with the communities, we supplied beehives and linked the farmers to training and so far, they are doing great," Francis Kagema, Coast regional coordinator for Nature Kenya said.

He added that while Mida creek consists of rich complex biodiversity that supports the adjacent communities, it is a haven for hundreds of rare species that include those Red Listed by the International Union of Conservation and Nature.

Omar said they plan to package the honey for commercial purposes. "We sell our honey at Sh 1,000 per litre to clients around, mostly visitors within Mida Creek."

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