Category Archives: Projects

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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Bee muses

This is an ongoing project to study and document the practices of master beekeepers in Africa – people who produce excellent yields of honey in a sustainable, environmentally appropriate manner using traditional or modern methods, or a combination of both.  We want to capture the innovations and creativity of African beekeepers. Indeed under local conditions our experience 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.

The project is financed by contributions from individual benefactors, and is implemented by the ABRC team.

This 18-month project is identifying and working with exemplary Kenyan beekeepers and honey hunters (men and women) by focussing on which particular husbandry practices make them successful – describing the techniques, technologies, values and business skills that set them apart from the rest. (We will continue collecting and publishing these stories and lessons beyond the life of this project.)

Our findings (credited to the individuals themselves) are being written-up/filmed/recorded to provide lessons for improving beekeeping practice, focusing research needs and guiding development support to benefit others. The outputs will be in the form of audience-targeted materials: a book; Journal contributions; a series of films for use in trainings; a series of concepts for development and research projects; a series of off-prints; mass media (newspaper) articles (for the general public); and material for the ABRC website.

These knowledge products will also provide case-studies for influencing development practitioners and donors. They will generate basic principles for improving African bee husbandry – redressing the many misguided technology-transfer approaches that have failed to date.

Furthermore, locally appropriate bee husbandry systems are needed across the continent – with other races of bees, in different ecological zones and in other socio-cultural and economic environments. “Bee muses” will not only refine ideas on which beekeeping systems are best for Eastern Africa, but will also demonstrate how local knowledge can be collected, assessed and used elsewhere.  Both the outputs of the project, and processes we are using to identify these skills, will be valuable.

If you would like know more about this project, or would like to support this research, please get in touch with us.

Box Hives:  Mr. Andrew Makau, a small scale farmer from Nakuru with his innovative box hive beekeeping system
Box Hives: Mr. Andrew Makau, a small scale farmer from Nakuru with his innovative box hive beekeeping system
A traditional log hive with a queen excluder fitted.
A traditional log hive with a queen excluder fitted.
Pot hive
Innovation: A pot hive with a honey super on top