Category Archives: Case studies

Beekeeping Case Study (Kenya 5) David Tisempele, Narok County

Back to Lessons from the Field map of cases conducted

David in his apiary at Enailbelbel, Narok County


Name: David Tisempele
Location: Enailbelbel, Narok County, Kenya
Interviewed by: Cornelius Kasisi & Tom Carroll
Interview Date: 11/11/2015
How selected for interview

David was selected as a good and progressive beekeeper by staff of the Ewaso Nyiro South Development Authority (ENSDA), based in nearby Narok town. He was proposed because he is one of few practicing beekeepers in the area, can harvest honey and has his own bee suit, and because he also makes his own hives, makes bee hives, harvests honey for others and provides beekeeping training.

David’s Apiary – Kenya Top Bar and Langstroth hives

We met with David, a young man in his thirties, on his small farm (3.5 acres) in Enailbelbel in Narok County, Kenya. We visited his hives then sat down to chat outside his home – a simple wooden residence roofed with mabati (iron sheets). The area is hilly with scattered clumps of trees. It was evident, from the tree species, that the area was recently part of nearby Mau Forest (which can be seen across the valley from David’s home). From his farm, you can also look down towards the lower and dryer parts of Narok (which extends to the horizon).

David is married with three children – a boy and two girls. He gives his children a spoon of honey every day as a medicine.

The view from David’s farm looking down from the Mau slopes to the lower parts of Narok

David Tisempele is one of the few practicing beekeepers in his home area, and therefore stands out in his community. He has a passion for bees. He only recently began beekeeping (in 2013) and has done well in just two years. Beekeeping product sales have earned him enough money to buy a motorbike; 90 people visited him from UNEP (the UN Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi); and now he is planting trees for his bees.

The Beekeeping Enterprise

David wishes to make his living from bees and to focus on the enterprise. He completed a three-week residential training course at Baraka Agricultural College in Molo, doing an introductory course on beekeeping and learning to make hives and beekeeping equipment. His training was supported by ENSDA as part of ENSDA’s project to conserve Mau Forest.

David has one bee suit, so he can harvest his own hives. The suit seems to be his most important piece of equipment as he looks at his hives every day, and opens them each month to check that his bees are doing well. He also provides a service to other people collecting unwanted bees. And when he moves bees, he wraps the hive in a mosquito net and ties it to the back of his motorbike. (The mosquito net is washed to remove any insecticide.)

He wants to make more and more of his living from bees. As well as keeping and collecting them, he makes and sells bee hives, and trains other people to manage their apiaries. He seems a pretty good businessman, and has increased to eleven hives – nine top bar hives and two frame hives (Langstroths). Bees and beekeeping are clearly an investment for David. He’s in this for the money but he also enjoys the work.

David bought the motorbike with his beekeeping income and sees this as a reinvestment. He is also good at networking and linking with other beekeepers (and recently visited Embu to learn about stingless bees).

David’s Products/Services
  • He sells honey at Ksh.500 per kg (€4.54/kg) in soda bottles.
  • He sells honey for making ‘Miti ni Dawa’ which is a type of herbal medicine/alcoholic beer made from honey fermented with herbs. At the time of the visit David had an order for 50kgs of honey to make this drink.
  • He sells KTBH hives at Ksh.3,000 and Langstroth hives at Ksh.4,000.
  • He sells bee colonies for Ksh.4,500.
  • He stocks beehives for other people for Ksh.2,000.
  • He provides beekeeping training at Ksh.200 for an hour, or Ksh.1,000 per day.

David observes his bees every day to make sure everything is OK. He checks to make sure the hives’ lids are on, and looks for any signs of attacks by pests.

David opens his hives monthly (in the daytime after taking children and animals away from the area). He says the bees become calm again after about ten minutes, and believes that more frequent opening makes bees more docile. When he opens hives, he checks for pests and to make sure the queen is laying well. If he finds that bees are unproductive he kills/forces them to abscond. His believes that small colonies continue to be small and produce nothing.

Key learning points

David provides several lessons on what makes a successful beekeeper:

  • He is passionate about bees and beekeeping.
  • He is treating beekeeping as a business.
  • He is very entrepreneurial and maximises income from bees in several ways by: selling hives, selling honey, providing training and stocking hives (giving a discount on hive-stocking if customers buy the hive from him as well).
  • He reinvests some of his income to increase his beekeeping business.
  • He inspects his hives regularly (checking his apiaries every day and opening the hives monthly).
  • He gets rid of unproductive colonies with poorly performing bees.
  • He transports bees on his motorbike, wrapping the hive in a mosquito net.
  • He plants trees for bees around his home and farm.
  • He has a tremendous interest in bees and would benefit from and use further training on beekeeping (as he is a trainer of trainers).

Back to Lessons from the Field map of cases conducted

Beekeeping Case Study (Kenya 4) Nicodemus Mwangi, Nakuru County

Back to Lessons from the Field map of cases conducted

Nicodemus shows us his bee equipment
Name:  Nicodemus Mwangi
Location: Elburgon, Nakuru County, Kenya
Interviewed by: Cornelius Kasisi, & Chris Davey
Interview Date: 6/11/2015
How selected for interview

Nicodemus was identified as a very good committed beekeeper in the area by Baraka Agricultural College, Molo and the local Ministry of Agriculture staff.  He was identified because of his passion for bees and beekeeping.  He provides services to other beekeepers for a fee and is a local beekeeping researcher.

Nicodemus with one of his hives

We talked to Nicodemus at his home near Elburgon. In the 1970s he lived (and kept bees) in Kericho. He learned beekeeping from the Ndorobos (a tribe dwelling in the nearby Mau forest), from an old man called Chelogoi who worked on his bees together with his wife, Tobandi.

Nicodemus came to Nakuru area in 1986 because of growing tribal tensions. He left his bees behind. He bought a shamba (small farm) in Elburgon.

Nicodemus began a farmers’ group, called Chesa Group, in 1996 in the Cheponde-Saptet communities. He was selected as the chairman of the group and guided them towards beekeeping. He paid a carpenter to make top bar hives in 1996 after copying the design from Baraka Agricultural College.

Nicodemus is not employed. Bees provide a large part of his income and he uses the sloping part of his land for his apiary. He started with nine hives and now has 24. He has three different types: Kenya top bar hives, Tanzanian top bar hives and traditional hives. Eventually he aims to have 40 hives.

He has fitted all his hives with queen excluders to ensure there is no pollen or brood in the honey; and to avoid mistakes if he falls ill and other beekeepers harvest honey for him. He promotes queen excluders to other beekeepers.

Nicodemus usually has good hive occupation rates but only half of his hives were occupied when we visited him. (The other 12 were empty because of the exceptionally dry season.) He plants trees to provide a better environment for his bees, and produces and sells avocado and passion fruit seedlings from his own tree nursery.

The Beekeeping Enterprise

We visited Nicodemus’ apiary in his eucalyptus trees. Beekeeping is his number one farm enterprise, and it makes money for him in several ways:

  • He produces and sells about 150kgs of honey each year. (One kilogram of honey sells for Ksh.400Ksh i.e. €3.6.) He sells to several outlets (including the Eel Hotel in Elburgon and individuals in Mombasa). If he runs out of honey he buys from other beekeepers, and from Baraka College.
  • He saves his beeswax, and adds value to it by cleaning it and by making and selling body cream.
  • He makes money from harvesting honey for others for a fee (Ksh.300 per hive). There is no charge if there is no honey.  If a customer has no cash, he receives payment in honey (about 1.25kg). He harvests honey for about 30 people/bee groups each season, travelling as far as Kiambu, Laikipia, Rongai, Nakuru and Molo, with clients paying his transport costs. People get to know of him by word of mouth. He explained “I’m good at harvesting, and people ask for me because I only harvest the ripe honey at the right time in the right season”. He doesn’t harvest in the rain and doesn’t harvest honey that contains pollen.
  • He collects bee colonies from walls of homes and roofs for a fee.
  • He makes and repairs hives. (He sells top bar hives at Ksh.3,000 each.)
  • He trades honey, buying local honey and selling it to others.

Nicodemus has a bee suit, gloves and spare gloves, boots and a smoker. He wears a baseball hat under his veil so the peak keeps the bees away from his face. He says he has stopped using the smoker, except when training others.

Nicodemus also has a set of scales for weighing honey, and uses plastic containers for harvesting and storing honey.

There are three other people in the Chesa group who can harvest. Sometimes they work as a team, but the 15 other members still prefer Nicodemus. He can hold the torch as he harvests, so he is used to working by himself. He harvests when the honey is capped, in the evening when bees are calmer.

Nicodemus doesn’t sell all of his honey after harvesting it so that he can spread out his income over the year.

He also retains comb for himself. He doesn’t like the taste of honey but bites small pieces to give him strength during harvesting. First, he takes a lot ugali (a stiff porridge made from maize meal), then takes small pieces of honeycomb. He calls it his energy food.

Small ants are the most problematic pests in his area. He uses cow dung to seal the top bar hives, and puts ash around the stands. Rats also like bee hives so he checks and cleans his hives regularly.

Nicodemus believes that much of his success is due to his love of bees, and because he enjoys harvesting honey. He promotes beekeeping as a good business. (It contributed to his two children going to university.)

The apiary with Kenya Top Bar Hives scattered among the eucalyptus plantation
Nicodemus consumes honey comb and Ugali to give him energy when working bees
Key learning points

Nicodemus provides several lessons on what makes a successful beekeeper:

    • He has specialised in beekeeping, and has gained a reputation as a “go to” person on bees and honey.
    • He doesn’t fear bees; he “loves bees”. He is interested, committed, knowledgeable and confident in his beekeeping.
    • Beekeeping (and being a farmer-trainer) has elevated his status in the community, and he is a role model.
    • He treats beekeeping as a business.
    • He makes money from beekeeping in many ways: from honey production and trading honey, to providing harvesting services and selling bee equipment.
    • He adds value to beeswax.
    • He conserves his local environment. He has planted a variety of trees on his farm, and has a nursery producing seedlings that are also good bee forage.
    • He is a local bee researcher, experimenting and adopting new ideas. He uses queen excluders, tests different types of hives, and records production.

Back to Lessons from the Field map of cases conducted