More than 400 members of the Ogiek community have benefited from a training in commercial bee-keeping aimed at helping the traditional hunter-gatherers to diversify into business.
Ogieks, believed to be among communities with the smallest population in the country, have a history of hunting for wild meat in the forest and gathering fruits and honey.
According to the Ogiek People’s Development Programme executive director Daniel Kobei, capitalising on the skills in honey gathering to expand into commercial bee farming would boost livelihoods.
“We are buying the Ogieks hives to start rearing the bees in large scale. This will offer them an alternative source of livelihood considering that they are no longer living a sedentary life of hunters and gatherers,” said Mr Kobei.
So far, more than 400 Ogieks brought together in groups have established apiaries in areas such as Mariashoni and Mau Narok.
Mr Kobei said the initiative will be part of conserving the Mau Ecosystem as research shows that bees play a great role in protecting tree species from extinction.
“In the developed countries, bees are used to pollinate large plantations of crops like in the United States of America. Studies have also shown that some trees cannot grow without pollination.
“And therefore, if we have the Ogiek living within the Mau Forest Complex rear them in large numbers then we will also be conserving the ecosystem,” noted Mr Kobei.
The Ogiek inhabit five counties, including Nakuru, Narok, Kericho, Uasin Gishu and Baringo.
“We are looking at involving women more because they are the most neglected in the community. This initiative will enable them get a source of living,” added Mr Kobei.
Bee keeping, especially in the Mau Forest Complex, is a key element in protecting the indigenous tree species from extinction as 70 per cent of them depend on insect pollination for growth, according Stephen Kagio, an expert in bee keeping.
“Research has shown that over 70 per cent of the trees in the world including the indigenous species directly or indirectly depend on insect pollination for their existence,” said Mr Kagio.