Smart Harvest

Agripreneurs narrate how bee keeping venture has changed their lives

Nyabwaroro Self-Help group chairman Ezekiel Ndege (right) inspects a modern bee hives in Mawawa sub-location, Nyamira County. [David Mwitari]

Ezekiel Ndege, a veteran beekeeper is looking forward to harvesting honey from his 30 bee hives, this season.

This year, the Nyamira-based farmer, hopes to harvest more honey because he has wisened up.

Instead of harvesting using traditional methods, he has employed use of smart technology.

Mr Ndege who is the Nyabwaroro Self-Help Group chairman in Mawawa sub-location in Nyamira, has invested in a centrifugal extractor.

“The first time our group used the tool, we collected 10 litres of honey from each bee hive up from the four that we used to collect when we used traditional methods,” Ndege says.

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The machine he says, is a game-changer for bee keepers.

The extractor he says, is saving bee keepers in his group up to three litres of honey per bee hive, that is often lost during manual harvesting.

Ndege for instance, says the use of the centrifugal extractor in harvesting honey has seen him reduce amount of honey wasted during harvesting by almost half.

“We are able to save close to 30 per cent of honey lost through traditional methods of honey extraction using a quick manual centrifugal machine, which extracts honey in a clean and targeted way,” he says.

In Machakos County, Smart Harvest met Christopher Nzuki, another farmer who has also seen the magic of using the honey-harvesting machines.

Nzuki says he used to make losses of up to Sh2,400 per bee hive when he used traditional bee harvesting method.

The traditional honey methods he says, were messy and wasteful.

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Thanks to the centrifugal extractor, he harvests an average of 25,000 kilogrammes annually, saving more than half of his harvest.

“I have managed to boost the honey collected from my 200 CAB hives in my eighth of an acre piece of land by the use of this modern honey harvesting machine,” Nzuki says.

But how do these honey harvesting gadgets work?

The centrifugal extractor ensures there is no soaking or leakage as the highly viscous liquid drains to the collecting tap with ease, unlike manual methods.

“The extractor works by squeezing the dense liquid that remains in both the equipment and mulled honeycombs where most of the honey is lost when the traditional method of honey extraction is employed,” Ndege explained.

According to Ndege, who also took Smart Harvest team through the entire process of harvesting, at every instance, three one-litre bars of honey-filled combs are inserted into the machine and later rotated by hand which saves a lot of harvesting time.

“The centrifuge extractor is time-saving m,ore so when one has many hives. Within five minutes, one can package as much as three litres of pure honey,” Ndege adds.

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Nyabwaroro Self-Help Group which has 15 members is now earning upwards of Sh600, 000 per year from honey.

According to Ndege, bee-keeping has turned out to be among the most profitable ventures especially in this era of climate change when rainfall patterns are erractic making crop farming futile.

Kepha Okeyo, who is an agricultural extension officer in Nyamira County says Kenya’s honey market, though untapped has huge potential.

However, low production levels make it even more lucrative.

“Bee keeping can do well in semi-arid areas where there is water and forages. This means areas such as Eastern, Rift Valley and many other semi-arid areas have a great potential. Unlike crop and livestock farming that requires reliable rainfall patterns for the produce to thrive, with bee-keeping a dry area can be made useful,” Okeyo says.

Bee-keeping is also not expensive to start compared to other farming ventures.

“The investment is little. One bee hive costs only Sh7,200 and that’s it,” he says.

If done well, the returns are guaranteed. Okeyo says for instance, one bee hive can produce an average of fifteen litres of honey and if sold at Sh1,000 per litre, this can fetch a farmer some good money.

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