… producing honey, protecting trees AND providing income to small farmers!
A win-win project wherever acacia trees grow!

I bless us in our ability to develop a relationship of deep caring, unconditional love and authentic reverence towards our sisters the bees and all creation. Pierre Pradervand, from his forthcoming book ‘365 Blessings to Heal Myself and the World’.

Kathy Mbondo lives Makueni County, Kenya, an area that receives low rainfall, which translates to low agricultural productivity. Climate change is taking its toll in the region as unpredictable rainfall patterns have led to shifts in planting time. “The business terrain is rough and bumpy, and only meant for those who can raise again when they fall,” she says.

In early 2015 Mbondo realized that there was a resource in her home village that had a lot of potential but had not been exploited. Traditionally communities in Makueni kept bees, but many farmers gave up on the trade as brokers would buy the honey for as low as 50 Kenya shillings (50 cents).She decided to create a market for them.

In her village, people cut down acacia trees to make charcoal, which contributes to deforestation. To conserve the trees, Mbondo came up with the “every acacia for a hive” project that encourages farmers to put hives on acacia trees instead of cutting them down. “I sell the economic value of the beehive to the farmers,” Mbondo says.

When you cut down an acacia tree and convert it to charcoal, you make a maximum of four bags, which in total fetch 1,000 shillings, or $10. When you put a single bee hive on the same acacia tree, you will harvest 20 kilograms [44 lbs.] of honey each year. Each kilogram of honey sold to Proactive Merit goes for 250 shillings, which translates to 5,000 shillings ($50) per year, she explained. She founded a company, Proactive Merit, that buys honey from farmers.

Mbondo started by putting bee hives on the acacia trees on her parents’ farm and urging farmers to stop cutting the acacia trees and instead consider suspending bee hives on them. Farmers began to buy the “every acacia for a hive” idea, and so far 40 farmers have put up 120 hives.

Mbondo has 50 hives on her parents’ farm – a number that she has built over the last seven months. Her goal for 2016 is to purchase 10 tons of honey from farmers, package it, and sell it. The honey goes by the brand name Nature, and she is now selling through several retail outlets in Nairobi. The honey by Proactive Merit is “raw honey” that is collected straight from the hive into the honey jar. It is totally unheated, unpasteurized, and unprocessed. This ensures that all the natural vitamins, living enzymes, and other nutritional elements are preserved. 

Mbondo is confident that the “every acacia for a hive” project will conserve the acacia trees in her village because the honey comes with repeat income.

Source: Esther Kahinga, Thomson Reuters Foundation March 4, 2016 Esther Kahinga, @estakahinga, is a communication and knowledge manager officer at the Kenya Climate Innovation Center

And while on the subject of bees …  
In some areas of Kenya elephants were trampling the farmers’ crop and vegetable plots, and therefore were not welcome near villages.  Many were killed during confrontations. But it turns out that elephants are afraid of bees!  The Elephants and Bees Project is an innovative study using an in-depth understanding of elephant behavior to reduce damage from crop-raiding elephants using their instinctive avoidance of African honey bees. The project explores the use of novel Beehive Fences as a natural elephant deterrent creating a social and economic boost to poverty-stricken rural communities through pollination services and the sustainable harvesting of “Elephant-Friendly Honey”. Three community areas in Kenya have now tried beehive fences as an HEC mitigation tool for reducing elephant crop-raiding. A win-win solution for all involved.

For more information and to support these projects, visit http://elephantsandbees.com/kenya/