Monthly Archives: February 2015

Assessment of donor-supported beekeeping interventions in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania  

In 2015 the ABRC team is actively seeking support for the project outlined below.  If you would like to know more about this project or find out how you can support this worthwhile intervention please get in touch with us using the form at the bottom of the page.  Thank you. 


The hypothesis: donor supported interventions on beekeeping in Africa are generally inadequate. There is often inappropriate emphasis on the introduction of improved technology – in particular the provision of modern beehives.[1] No systematic meta-analysis of donor supported beekeeping projects has been conducted to determine if the donor supported interventions are actually delivering the anticipated result of improved livelihoods for poor beekeepers and their families. ABRC is intending to undertake such a study.


The diversification of smallholder and pastoralist livelihoods creates greater flexibility and resilience, and is important in coping with the growing number of environmental, economic and political shocks. One activity for livelihood diversification open to small scale farmers in SSA (sub-Saharan Africa) is beekeeping.

Honey production in SSA falls far short of its estimated production potential[2]. There are an estimated 144,000 small scale beekeepers in Kenya, a similar number in Uganda and the beekeeping sector in Tanzania engages around 2 million rural people; but African honey yields average 8kgs per hive per annum, just 40% of the world average of 20kgs. Kenyan annual yields are only about 4kgs per hive – half the African average; Tanzanian production is only 3.5% of the 138,000 tonnes estimated production potential[3]; and in Uganda only 1% of the potential production potential (of 500,000 metric tonnes)[4].

Honey production is low across all three countries despite numerous interventions to promote improved systems. Modern beekeeping has been promoted in Kenya since the 1950’s. In the last 10 years interventions have often focussed on the introduction of American-style Langstroth bee hives but evidence suggests that a technology-led approach is not working. Despite this there has been no attempt to date to conduct national-level evaluations of donor supported beekeeping interventions. Furthermore, beekeeping projects tend to be country or location specific but do not look at the bigger picture. This study will also identify the lessons that can be learned in one country and applied in another. It will be the first study to examine beekeeping across all three countries – Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania; and it will also evaluate the impact of beekeeping interventions post-implementation in order to understand the sustainability of beekeeping interventions.

The study will also provide important lessons to aid intervention in other sectors, for example understanding the importance of indigenous knowledge to the success of interventions, the relevance of levels of participation, and the best approaches to involve beneficiaries and other stakeholders.

The sustainable livelihoods framework will be used to analyse the impact of beekeeping projects.

The project has the potential to reform support to beekeeping development in East Africa – impacting on: small scale beekeepers in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya; entrepreneurs in the honey sector in the three countries; donors; and development actors implementing beekeeping projects.

The total budget for this study is €60,000. ABRC has €5,000 of its own funds for the project and is seeking the balance of €55,000. The study will be undertaken over six-months with a final report detailing a strategy for sharing findings through a subsequent advocacy campaign to refocus donor and development agency thinking.

Project Summary
Goal: To make aid more effective in the beekeeping sector.
Aim: Evaluate donor supported beekeeping interventions in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to:
  • Review the performance of selected individual projects against their own objectives and assess their impact and sustainability
  • Determine their contribution to beekeeping development in the region.
Anticipated results:
  • Future support to the beekeeping sector in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will be better targeted for improved results, and greater impact on poverty alleviation.
  • Other beekeeping stakeholders and development actors across Africa will benefit from better interventions.
  • Develop an inventory of donor-funded beekeeping projects implemented over the past 10 years in East Africa
  • Identify sample beekeeping projects to review
  • Determine the success of sample beekeeping projects against their own project objectives
  • Develop indicators to assess the contribution of beekeeping projects to beekeeping development in the region
  • Review the relevance of the aims of those sample beekeeping projects to the development of beekeeping in the region; and assess the contribution of each selected project accordingly
  • Analyse why each of the selected intervention has succeeded/failed – identify the underlying factors/causes
  • Identify the key factors leading to successful interventions in the beekeeping sector to ensure future aid spending in the beekeeping sector is better utilised.
  • Phase one: two months.  A desk study on beekeeping interventions in order to collate reports and other documents relating to donor supported beekeeping interventions; and identification of which specific projects to assess.
  • Phase two: three months. Field visits to beekeepers and organisations promoting beekeeping in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (both on-going and completed initiatives).
  • Phase three: one month. Analysis and report writing, and communicating findings to stakeholders in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania; and the development of an advocacy campaign (as appropriate).


[1] Under local conditions our experience (ABRC) tells us that low-cost tools, indigenous knowledge and local materials are often superior to those “improved systems” based on modern hives and European-based methods.

[2] A recent study estimated Kenyan annual honey production to be only about 6.8% of potential (6,800 tonnes). Carroll (2013)

[3] Data from the Tanzania National Beekeeping Policy

[4] Uganda National Apiculture Development Organisation (TUNADO) – Speech by the Director Animal Resources to the 4th National Honey Week (2013)

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Appraisal of the Beekeeping sub-sector in Turkana, Kenya

The study on beekeeping formed part of a wider project implemented by Practical Action ( aimed at strengthening the capacities of nomadic pastoralists and drop-outs/destitute people to adapt and improve their livelihoods in increasingly changing socio-economic and ecological environments of the Karamoja region (Kenya, Sudan and Uganda). This was expected to contribute to the reduction of chronic poverty and vulnerability among the Karamoja communities. Beekeeping was identified as a potential means for diversifying and enhancing livelihoods.

This beekeeping study was conducted in Turkana district Kenya for Practical Action in late 2007/early 2008. The purpose of the study was to assess both production and marketing of bee products and to design a beekeeping intervention for Karamoja.

A literature review was conducted on beekeeping and related development in the target area. Beekeeping groups and individual farmers were visited and discussions were held. Interviews with development partners promoting beekeeping in Turkana were held (Government, Non-Governmental Organisations and Private Partners.). Discussions were held with businesses dealing with the honey trade. Key informants involved actively in the promotion of beekeeping were interviewed. Based on the primary and secondary data collected a report provided conclusions and recommendations on the way forward, with the outline of a proposed intervention to support the development of the beekeeping sector in Karamoja.

The project was delivered by ABRC consultants Eliud Emeri  and Thomas Carroll.

Some of the key findings of the Turkana beekeeping study were:

  • Excessive stinging and defensive bees (thought to be Apis mellifera scutellata or Apis mellifera nubica) combined with a lack of bee suits make for difficult beekeeping – leading to beekeepers using excessive smoke and fire to control bees. This reduces the quality of honey (too much smoke particles) and imparts a smoky taste to the honey.
  • Traditional log hives appear to be more successful (in terms of hives occupied and in production) than introduced ‘modern’ hives.
  • Only honey is traded. (Other bee products such as propolis and beeswax are largely ignored.)
  • Demand for honey is high in Kenya but Turkana’s isolation and poor roads make it difficult to access outside markets.
  • Past beekeeping interventions have emphasised on the supply of inputs, in particular bee hives (especially the KTBH), rather than beekeeping skills.
  • The cultural barriers to beekeeping. People relying on farming and beekeeping in Turkana are known as the ‘poor’. People who keep livestock are traditionally higher in social status.
  • Environmental degradation is a major concern in some parts of Turkana where sources of bee forage are being turned into charcoal.
  • There is no forum for people to share beekeeping experiences. Past lessons are not built on, and shared.

Some of the key study recommendations:

  • Hive technology – traditional log hives appear to be effective. However an expansion in beekeeping using these hives is not possible as there are no trees available for making these types of hives. (It is destructive to cut trees to get these hives.) It will be useful to explore: why traditional beekeeping systems are effective; and the alternatives? There is a need to research this issue through a process involving the Turkana beekeepers, to come up with an appropriate bee hive and beekeeping system for Turkana.
  • A learning approach to beekeeping – a large number of beehives have been distributed by development projects in Turkana. Many appear to be abandoned or unoccupied. Beekeeping projects should move away from this emphasis on hive distribution, with a focus on improved skills and knowledge.
  • Protective equipment – introduce simple bee suits and smokers and train beekeepers/artisans how to make and use them.
  • Honey processing equipment – there is a need for simple methods of processing honey. Expensive donated honey extractors etc. are currently lying idle. Simple and cheaper methods of sieving honey are more appropriate.
  • Stakeholder organisation – there is a need to bring Turkana beekeeping stakeholders together in a regular forum/workshop to share beekeeping experiences. Consideration should be given as to how such a process should be continued into the future if found useful by stakeholders.

In conclusion, the report was accepted and Practical Action intended to implement the recommendations.

Turkana Honey
Turkana Honey – An opportunity exists to develop Turkana honey into a high quality niche market branded product.
Donated Hives
Donated modern beekeeping equipment from the last beekeeping project lay abandoned while traditional hives were producing honey
Top Bar Hive

A Kenya Top Bar Hive
Log Hive
A traditional log hive – these hives were observed to have higher occupation rates and defensive bees are away from people and livestock.