Joshua Munywoki Kimwele is a renowned man in Ndithi village, Waita Ward, Kitui County. The sole reason for this is his successful beekeeping enterprise. Munywoki is a trainer of aspiring beekeepers and farmer organisations in the region and beyond on good beekeeping practices.
"It has not always been like this. Before I built this house, you see, I lived in a two roomed semi-permanent house.” Munywoki says with a stern look on his face. The agile 52-year-old man explains that he started beekeeping in 1996 with only five traditional log hives. He explains that back then production was very low and beekeeping was not as profitable. Munywoki did not give up.
Kitui County is a dry area and only a few crops do well. The yield from the subsistence farming he practiced was barely enough to feed his family. “The few traditional hives I owned produced very little honey. I needed to educate my children and meet the family daily needs.” He adds. Munywoki decided to add a few more hives to his apiary and increased the yield gradually. However, he was still unable to make enough money because most of the time he would not get buyers for the honey due to low quality standards and he was always forced to sell at very low prices.
Through the Drylands Development (DryDev) project, Munywoki was able to attend a value chains forum in 2013 and this was the turning point in his beekeeping enterprise. He learnt about the trends in modern beekeeping as well as factors affecting quality standards in honey production. He added more Langstroth hives to his apiary and applied the knowledge he received through the DryDev project in managing his apiaries.
Munywoki inspecting one of the Langstroth hives in his apiary
“Through the training from SNV in the DryDev project, I realised the market is ready for quality honey but I had to change how I practiced beekeeping“. He displays his modern beekeeping equipment which comprises of a smoker, a brush, a hive tool and a beekeeping suit. Today Munywoki has two apiaries with 90 Langstroth hives and 50 traditional log hives which he has modified and attached a queen excluder. This ensures he does not destroy the brood during honey harvesting. He attests that the quality of honey has improved and the quantity has also increased.
“I have also introduced another species of bees called the ‘stingless bee’ which produces a higher quality of honey from what I learnt. They do not sting like the other bees.” Munywoki says as he points towards one of the hives with smaller bees swarming around the entrance. “I have no honey left from the last harvest. The buyers trust the quality of my honey.” He adds as he displays the processing equipment he uses.
Joshua Munywoki in one of his apiaries
Munyoki taking notes during Kitui honey value chain forum
Munywoki harvests around 400-600 kilograms of honey per harvest and sells a kilogram for 700 Kenya shillings thus averaging his income to about Ksh 500,000 (€4,300) per year since he harvests twice in a calendar year. He explains that having bees on his farm has further increased the yield of other crops because bees act as agents of pollination.
“I am a happy man now; I am able to pay school fees for all my children. The financial management education from the Drydev project helps me to manage the income I receive from selling honey.” Munywoki explains with a smile. His eldest son Joel Kyalo is a third year student in Moi University and he also helps around the farm when he is home for the holidays. His wife Rhoda is also of great help. ”During harvesting my wife helps in processing and packaging. She also has a beekeeping suit and helps to inspect the hives regularly.” All this was not possible a few years ago but now he is reaping big from the beekeeping enterprise.
”The quality and quantity of honey did not improve overnight. I had to implement what I learnt.” Munywoki says. His beekeeping enterprise has now become a local centre for training other beekeeping farmers. He now trains over 300 individual farmers per year and over 10 farmer organisations that he charges a training fee, which has resulted into an additional revenue stream for the family.Being part of the DryDev project also exposed Munywoki to other project activities such as natural resource management. “The climate is ever-changing and one season can have adequate rainfall then during the next season there is a drought. This all affects honey production.” He adds with a frown. He also cites the use of pesticides on crops as a major challenge to the beekeeping enterprise.
The model farm pond in Munywoki’s farm was established by the DryDev project
“The DryDev project also constructed a model farm pond with a solar powered pump on my farm for training farmers. It has really helped me because of the erratic rainfall in this region.” He adds.
Munywoki now has big plans for his farm. He intends to install a drip irrigation system so that he can grow many fruits such as water melons, pawpaw and mangoes. “Bees and flowering plants have a mutually beneficial relationship. Flowers from plants provide bees with nectar and pollen for honey production and as a result of pollination the yields from my plants increases.” He also explains that a farmer can hire out their hives to large farms to aid in pollination of the farm owner’s crops as an additional source of income. Munywoki is also a member of Mwingi Beekeepers and Crops Cooperative society which is one of the farmer organisations under the DryDev project. The cooperative helps in aggregation of honey and pulses, value addition, better market access, among other benefits.
Munywoki today lives in a five roomed permanent house and his beekeeping enterprise affords him a sustainable livelihood. “I am truly grateful for the financial management training and all the support I have received through the DryDev project.” He concludes smiling.