Beekeeping can help women farmers manage climate risks

Farmers, especially women farmers, in lower Nyando Kenya are step-by-step introduced to beekeeping as a way to diversify their incomes and build resilience to climate change. Photo: K. Trautmann
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Jul 15, 2013

by

Vivian Atakos and John Recha (CCAFS East Africa Office)

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Video showing farmers in Lower Nyando working with beekeeping to diversify their incomes.

How can Africa feed itself in the face of climate change? This is one of the key questions for this week’s Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW), which kicks off today!

We are here in Ghana, to demonstrate how ongoing research on income diversification - as part of our Climate-Smart Village activities - will provide at least a few answers to this question.

Together with partners, our East Africa office is working with farmers to find alternative ways to ensure an income. This would help farmers build climate resilience, as financial resources would still be coming even if crops failed.

One of the activities the office and partners are working on is promoting beekeeping, in lower Nyando, Kenya.

By asking farmers about different livelihoods that could work in their community, women farmers identified beekeeping as one good way to diversify their income.

Traditionally, beekeeping has been both labor intensive and dangerous. By using hollowed out logs to attract bees, a farmer could spend hours trying to get a good hive. Harvesting excluded women, and created a fear of handling bees within the community.

In addition, average yields were very low, about 5kg of honey per beehive, per year, compared to what potentially could be achieved - 90kg. In 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, and World Neighbors started working with farmer-groups. The partnership introduced improved beehives, and trained women farmers to be more productive beekeepers.

"We wanted to find out whether improved beekeeping by women using improved Langstroth beehives will lead to high quality honey production and increased income for poor households” said Jared Akuku of World Neighbors in an interview.

To promote learning and to empower each other, women have formed self-help groups affiliated to a large community based organization. 

Esther Ouma is a member of the Katu Women Group (KWG). The group comprises 22 members and is undertaking a number of activities, among them beekeeping. The group acquired seven improved beehives and then set them up on Esther’s farm. The site was ideal as it is close to a river and has a variety of flowering plants.

Jared Akuku and extension officers from Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries work closely with the group and the Nyando community providing them technical advice on improved beekeeping.

Esther and the Katu Women Group get Kenya Shillings 8,000 (approx. 95 USD) with each harvest done every 3 months from the beehives. Proceeds are shared among members or are reinvested into other activities such as basket weaving.

Basket weaving. Photo. K. Trautmann 

Other than improved income for the group, Esther Omusi has realized an unexpected benefit where her mango fruit trees are now producing more fruits than ever before. This is because of improved pollination by the bees during the flowering stage.

In addition to bee keeping, other livelihood diversification options in Nyando include improved small livestock production of goats, sheep and poultry, and crop diversification with improved agronomic practices.  

Step by step, a 'Climate-Smart Village' is becoming a reality in Lower Nyando.

Learn more: Kenyan farmers battle hunger with chicken, goats and bees

Read more about the Nyando Climate Smart Village initiatives: Empowering a local community to address climate risks and food insecurity in Lower Nyando, Kenya