Honey – one of the world’s most favourite, versatile condiments has been used and consumed by communities around the world for centuries. Today this sweet sticky goodness is used in signature restaurants from New York to Paris as well as in ointments made by the Body Shop and local communities residing on the riverbanks of the Amazon rain forest. Raw pure honey has been used to dress and clean wounds and is highly recognised for its antioxidant prowess.
For Tom Ngotiek, a resident of Munishoi in Uaso Ngiro – Laikipia County for the past 52 years, the presence of honey always represented the marking of some sort of celebration. As a young boy he remembers elders of his community seeking flowering Euphorbia plants, certain that they would harvest good quantities of honey to be used in the preservation of meat after a cow or bull was slaughtered. In those days, it was all about livestock farming for Ngotiek and his family. After all, this was how the family survived.
Honey was restricted to household use and was never considered as a potential source of income until just over 16 years ago when bee keeping was introduced to communities in the surrounding Munishoi region. Numerous groups were formed and trained in the skill of crafting hives from wood and other natural materials which lasted longer than traditional hives that were made from mud, leaves, sticks and dung.
Ngotiek joined Osotua Bee Keeping Group in 1999, which was a consolidation of members from three group ranches: Koijaa, Ilmotiok and Tiamamut. To date, the group has an astounding 468 members managing over 6,000 hives, mostly traditional logs, others contemporary box hives. On average the group can harvest between 1000kg to 3000kg of golden un-crystallised honey. However the large quantities of honey did not automatically translate into enough money for households to sustain their daily needs. In the past, each household would only receive Kes 20 (Usd 0.22cts) per kilo of honey sold as a result of poor quality, no value added after harvesting, and poor market linkages.
LWF’s Conservation Enterprise Programme (CEP) has been supporting Osotua Bee Keeping Group for the last 6 years with the financial support of USAID. In April 2015, after searching for alternative markets, CEP found that most buyers would take Osotua honey raw at 200 Kes/kilo. Value was added by the buyers and as a consequence, so was more of the profit. With the help of CEP, Osotua bee-keepers learned how to clean and strain their honey to secure a better price, hoping to capture greater profits on the hard work of community members and their bees!!
A ground-breaking deal was realised when Ol Pejeta Conservancy ordered Osotua Honey due to its superior quality, great colour and great taste. The community group realised a premium price, and this partnership keeps production and sales local, building the brand of Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Osotua Beekeepers as all natural and all Laikipian!
These sorts of partnerships have benefitted local communities greatly, allowing them to expand their enterprise, and improve their livelihoods, support their children’s education and even share business knowledge with others in neighbouring communities.
Students from Ilmotiok, Naiperere and Ewaso Primary Schools recently received bee hives donated by Osotua Bee Keeping Group as well as training in bee keeping. Most, including Ngotiek’s own son, would like to use their new found skills to contribute towards their family and larger community’s welfare.