Name: Leah Kimani
Location: Likia, Njoro, Nakuru County, Kenya
Interviewed by: Cornelius Kasisi, Tom Carroll & Chris Davey
Interview Date: 9/3/2015
How selected for interview
Leah was identified as a very good beekeeper by Philip Owiti, Beekeeping Officer, Nakuru County, because she is consistent, and addresses problems when she finds them.
Leah started planting trees on her small farm for shelter. Then she started selling trees, and experimented with passion fruit (but they were struck by disease and did not do well). Later she decided to plant cut flowers, and when she saw bees coming to visit them she decided to keep bees as well. In 2006 she was trained in beekeeping at Baraka Agricultural College in Molo and received follow-up support from staff at the college.
At the time of the interview Leah had Kenya top bar hives (KTBH) and Langstroth hives. She had no traditional beehives and said they did not do well. Of her 26 beehives 20 were occupied. She usually harvests about 20 hives and collects an average of 20 kg per hive/annum. Leah says the KTBH average is 20kg per hive, the Langstroth gives 10kg per hive and log hives yield 5kgs. She prefers the top bar hive.
Leah sites her hives in different parts of her small farm; they are not in one place. She says this makes it easier to harvest because other hives are not disturbed when she is working. (These bees are quite defensive.)
How beekeeping has helped her?
From the proceeds of her beekeeping enterprise, she has bought one and a half acres of land. This is a major achievement given that it has nearly doubled the size of her farm.
Being a good beekeeper
Leah has opinions on what makes a good beekeeper. She says they are people who
- Know how to set up an apiary site
- Know the best type of hive to use
- Open beehives every two weeks to check for pests (like spiders)
- Have flowers for bee forage
- Are always building their knowledge
- Harvest good quality honey and don’t mix it with brood
- Know the right time to harvest honey. (She says the bees become more aggressive when the have honey; and that honey is ripe when the flowers wither.)
- Have proper harvesting gear
- Know how to add value to honey
- Place top bars correctly/make them correctly to avoid problems at harvest such as more than one comb per bar or the bees not attaching the comb to the top bars correctly.
Leah is more than a beekeeper. She is an entrepreneur and finds many ways to make her business successful.
- She charges Ksh.200 to remove bees from people’s homes. (She takes the bees back to her apiary and puts them in a hive.)
- She filters, bottles and sells her honey from her small shop in the nearby local centre.)
- She is a leader in her local beekeeping group. (The group has its own label for marketing honey, and encourages all their members to use it to improve marketing. It is called The Great Mau Honey.
- Honey is sold at the following prices: 250g for Ksh.200k, 500g sells for Ksh.300; and 1kg for Ksh.600k.
Care for the Environment
Leah Kimani is also aware of local environmental issues. She has planted trees on her farm, and has been involved in efforts to conserve the natural forest near to her home.
Key Learning points
- Leah provides a number of lessons on what makes a successful beekeeper:
- She has overcome her fear of bees
- She thinks about beekeeping and her business, and is keen to build her knowledge
- She is systematic and thorough, regularly checking her hives and managing her bees
- She is progressive, curious and a natural experimenter
- she has experimented with all types of hives to find which suits her best
- she distributes hives around her farm to make harvesting easier
- She is a good networker
- She is enterprising; adding value to her bee products and selling from own shop
- She is a role model for other women in beekeeping
- She is successful, and has bought land to expand her farm from the proceeds of her beekeeping.