An analysis of livelihood improvement and smallholder beekeeping in Kenya.
Author: Carroll, T
Awarding University: University College, Dublin, Ireland
Level : PhD
Holding Libraries: Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library ;
The majority of Kenya?s poor live on small scale farms and agriculture is the country?s main economic activity. Recent years have seen rapidly increasing population, land fragmentation and as a result increasingly smaller farms in Kenya. There is therefore a need to diversify livelihoods on small scale farms to tackle rural poverty. Beekeeping is a potential livelihood diversification option with ready local and international markets for honey and other bee products and has been widely promoted in the country by government and development agencies. Beekeeping offers many potential benefits including income, health and environmental. Beekeeping has traditionally been considered an activity of the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands in Kenya. However, with increasing population there has been increasing environmental degradation and reducing forest cover and an increasing need to adapt beekeeping to small scale farms. As a result there has been a move away from more extensive beekeeping systems to intensive beekeeping. This study examined beekeeping as part of smallholder mixed farming systems in mid-high altitude areas of Kenya. The potential of beekeeping, as an appropriate livelihood strategy for smallholder farm households was examined using the sustainable livelihoods framework. The study was undertaken over a 6-year (2004-9) with over 300 small-scale farmers in Kenya?s Rift Valley Province. Secondary data on Kenyan and African bees and beekeeping was analysed including a number of research studies of significance on Kenya beekeeping. In addition farmer beekeepers were interviewed using a survey questionnaire while case studies were conducted with beekeeping groups and data was collected from research apiaries in combination with an action research process carried out with beekeepers over a two year period. Beekeeping was found to be a valuable and largely unexploited livelihood diversification option for small scale farmers. Important benefits from beekeeping in the study area were income, food, medicine, an improved sense of well-being and enhancement of the natural environment. Honey, the main bee product traded by beekeepers, obtained good local prices and there was a strong local demand for honey. Compared to maize, the staple crop of most Kenyan farmers, it was found that a typical 10-hive enterprise generated earnings equivalent to the average local production from 0.86 ha of maize. While markets exist, honey yields and returns remained low compared with their potential. Beekeepers had many challenges to contend with such as defensive bees, pests, absconding by bees, low hive occupation and low yields. The defensive nature of the bees with potential livelihood risk was found to be a likely deterrent to more small scale farmers keeping bees.