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Sep 05, 2019

Buzzing for Sustainability

Api-Bio & Cultural Enterprise Limited is a company based in Marmanet Location of Laikipia County. It was founded in 2009 by Simon Makuthi Mulwa, a young innovator who developed his idea from a Self-Help Group he was a member to. The group dealt with bee keeping and harvesting of high nutritious value of indigenous crops.

Simon had for a long time, while participating in this farming, noted with immense curiosity the untapped potential that commercial bee keeping has. Over the years, he thought of coming up with a business idea that he later pitched at the Laikipia Innovation Fair. While at Laikipia Innovation Fair, his idea was noted by Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) staff who were scouting for businesses to incubate. He was encouraged to apply into the KCIC Incubation Programme.

“It was the exact opportunity that I had been looking for,” he says. “I did not hesitate to apply into that programme and in no time I had been absorbed.” He was later enrolled into the KCIC Mentorship Programme where he has learned about record keeping, taxation, business strategy, marketing strategies, financial management and climate sustainability among other topics.

In Laikipia, the environment is friendly for the survival of bees especially because of the responsive weather and the nearby forests: Marmanet, Rumuruti and Mugogondo that provide a welcoming habitat for the bees. These forests have indigenous trees that provide bees with nectar and other essentials for the production of honey, wax, propolis, pollen, bee venom and royal jelly.

“I use these bee products because they have medicinal value gathered from the trees,” the Api-Bio & Cultural Enterprise Limited innovator says. “Out of these I produce pharmaceutical and cosmetic products for external use.” The innovator has hitherto produced Api Skin Care, Api After Shave and Api Honey.

Read also: Makueni County Residents Air Their Voices on Climate Change During a Baraza

“I noticed that many people are processing honey for sale and decided not to major into it albeit being relatively profitable,” Simon says. “I learnt that bees can also be used for climate sustainability through agri-business and agro-processing bio-enterprise.”

Simon says that through agri-business and agro-processing bio-enterprise, he is able to promote pollination and receive quality and quantity from farm yields without much interference with the ecosystem. “Whereas people would fell trees for food, I use bees to modify the ecosystem,” he says. “The bees are also useful in combating forests degradation because I make the bees multiply thus pollination is increased.”

Api-Bio & Cultural Enterprise Limited is also manufacturing modern Langstroth Hives that help in the protection and brooding of bee species. The hives are modified in such a way that they are able to harvest higher amount of honey and protect the bees from diseases, predators and extreme weather. The innovator has also researched and identified the most productive and climate resilient bees’ species.

A report by Clayton Aldern from Grist indicates that there are more than 30,000 species of bees in the globe and these form the most important group of pollinators. The number is however diminishing due to a variety of factors including human development, pesticides, disease and a changing climate.

Bees and Their Role in Forest Livelihoods

The role of bees in sustaining forests and forest dependent livelihoods remains poorly known and appreciated. Bees are a fantastic world resource: they are essential for sustaining our environment because they pollinate flowering plants. Bees sustain our agriculture by pollinating crops and thereby increasing yields of seeds and fruits. The product that most people first associate with bees is honey, although beekeeping generates much more than just honey: the maintenance of biodiversity and pollination of crops are perhaps the most valuable services provided by bees. Honey is just one of several different products that can be harvested: others are beeswax, pollen and propolis, royal jelly and venom, and the use of bees in apitherapy, which is medicine using bee products. Bees and beekeeping contribute to peoples’ livelihoods in almost every country on earth.

Honey and the other products obtained from bees have long been known by every society. The diversity in bee species, their uses and in beekeeping practices varies greatly between regions. In many parts of the world, significant volumes of honey are today still obtained by plundering wild colonies of bees, while elsewhere beekeeping is practised by highly skilled people. Honey hunting of wild bee colonies still remains an important part of the livelihoods of forest dependent peoples in many developing countries. Today, apiculture plays a valuable part in rural livelihoods worldwide, and this book aims to provide an insight into the many ways in which bees and beekeeping contribute to these livelihoods, and how to strengthen this contribution. While the rationale for the sustainable use of tree resources is widely appreciated, by contrast the sustainable use of bee resources is poorly promoted and appreciated. Rural people in every developing country are keeping bees or harvesting from them in one way or another.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) wishes to thank Dr. Nicola Bradbear, the author of this work, and is pleased to publish and disseminate this technical document to promote more sustainable beekeeping practices which will better sustain forest dependent livelihoods in the developing world. I hope that this publication will also contribute to many more small-scale efforts to encourage beekeeping interventions throughout the world, helping people to strengthen livelihoods and ensuring maintenance of forest habitats and biodiversity.

Jan Heino, Officer-in-Charge Forest Products & Industries Division
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Article by Solomon Irungu


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