By ANTHONY MUTAI
In 2011, Kyalo Maveke with other 3 directors started Savannah Honey, a leading company in promotion of Honey, Propolis, Royal Jelly and Bee venom production in Africa.
This was after realizing that beekeeping was the only solution to the perennial drought in his home county Makueni. They approached groups that took interest in bee keeping to provide them with Langstroth beehives. The self-help groups however had the challenge of affording the bee hives. They took to supporting the clients by giving them the langstroth hives on loan terms.
“Savannah Honey gives hives to clients on loan terms. Under this programme, clients are required to save a minimal amount of money and get at least 5 hives each client and then repay the loan within a year” Says Maveke.
Savannah Honey has over 4000 clients in East Africa. Their partnership is in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.
In Kenya Savannah honey has clients in 27 counties, with groups made up of 20 people. The clients are funded as a group but they own their beehives individually.
Kenya is low in bee keeping but there is a lot of potential. Kenya imports 80% of honey consumed from Tanzania. “Savannah is at the forefront of advancing the technology to tap into other bee products. Their value is too high.” Says Maveke.
Benefits of Modern Bee Keeping.
Traditional hives are not used commercially, harvesting of honey is done traditionally and it leads to the crushing of combs which may kill the queen bee. The bees also might abscond the hive. Harvesting is done once a year.
The Modern hive has two chambers which separated by the queen excluder, this ensures the queen does not go to the harvesting chamber. During harvesting they use the honey extractor, which ensures the queen is not killed and leads to 3- 7 harvests in a year.
Modern bee keeping does not rely on the principles of production. No requirements for inputs
The modern bee hives are waxed to attract bees and also its not time consuming.
“Modern bee keeping is a lifetime venture with a guarantee of 40-60 years. The first harvest is done after 5-8 months followed by harvests of 2-3 months afterwards. This can be a good poverty alleviation project, we also offer training on bee keeping as a retirement project.” Says Maveke.
It is worth noting that cold areas tend to take longer in colonization than the dry areas. However due to the many flowers in the regions they help more on the production.
Savannah has a programme for macadamia, avocados and watermelon farmers which increases pollination and maximizing production.
Savannah honey supports the clients to ensure maximum production. They handle delivery and installation of bee hives free of charge together with other technical support which is factored by citing to ensure that the hives are colonized. If they are not colonized within 60 days, they do colony division which is a technique of making a queen for the uncolonized hive. “We ensure that the colonies are very strong for maximum production. Colony strengthening ensures that each hive produces 10-15 kilograms of honey.
A queen lays 15000 eggs a day. Any queen who is sickly, weak or dormant will result to the colony being weak, they undertake re-queening to super impose a new queen. They use a catch box to make a queen where they kill the old one.
Savannah Honey provides clients with market for the produce through a renewable contract of 5 years. If a client gets a good market they are free to sell but they retain 20% to Savannah honey.
The honey badger is the main challenge affecting the bee keepers, they are mainly found in the inhabited regions. They break the hives to get the honey. The ants also feed on the honey and combs.
To control these challenges, farmers are trained on how to control and manage the challenges.
Propolis: The unexploited money maker.
The demand for propolis in Kenya has skyrocketed with very few people engaged in its production mainly because of lack of information.
Propolis is a high income earner which if exploited can triple the income of a beekeeper.
“Many people think of bees only in terms of honey. While honey itself is great for wealth, health and job creation, it is of the lowest value compared to the other bee products,” says Kyalo Maveke
Propolis is a sticky substance collected by bees from buds or bark of trees.
Bees use the material for reducing the size of the hive entrance, filling cracks, polishing the interior of the hive, strengthening comb attachment, killing intruders by covering them and as barriers against ants (nest defense).
Propolis is used in human medicine and for veterinary purposes. Currently several pharmaceutical companies across the world use propolis in the production of drugs. Several other companies use propolis for manufacturing of medicinal soaps because its antibiotic properties inhibit the growth of microorganisms.
It is also used for making adhesives e.g. glue, wood pastes for sealing leaking roofs and cracks on wooden furniture. When chewed it heals backaches.
Commercial propolis harvesting involves the use of the propolis trap which is a plastic mesh sheet which the bees use to build the propolis on.
Savannah Honey is currently recruiting over 1,000 clients on a 5 years contract for production of honey and Propolis. Under this programme;
-Savannah Honey supplies 20 and above specialized langstroth hives together with the Propolis Collectors to the client (for commercial purposes we advise clients to start with 20 hives or more but clients can also start with few and increase the number with time)
-Savannah Honey undertakes the delivery and installation of the hives.
Honey manages the apiary (provides technical support to ensure maximum
production). Savannah Honey provides harvesting and marketing services for 5 years.
At an event the client gets a buyer with a better offer, they can sell to them but retain at least 20% for Savannah Honey.
EXPENDITURE FOR THE FIRST YEAR
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