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Enterprise

Honey turns small town into a beehive of activity

Christine Lotole
Honey trader Christine Lotole alias Sokome at Koriema market in Baringo County. PHOTO | KEVIN ROTICH | NMG 

A meandering, scenic road leads us to Koriema in Baringo County. As we enter the small town, we are mobbed by women hawking honey to commuters plying the busy Marigat-Kabarnet Road.

One of the women in the business is Christine Lotole alias Sokome, who has been selling honey at Koriema for seven years.

Ms Sokome says she started the business to support her family.

“After countless of feasibility studies, I settled for honey business as there were plenty of raw materials,” Ms Sokome says.

So armed with some little savings, she ventured into a business that was new to her and she had a lot to learn fast.

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“At first, the business did not pick up as I had envisioned. It took a lot of patience and hard work,” she says adding that the venture finally started making a good progress.

She says Koriema honey is popular because it has no additives.

“We source our honeys from the Koriema Honey Producers, which is an association of local honey farmers,” she says.

Ms Sokome says thanks to the honey trade, the area’s fortunes have significantly been transformed in the past ten years, with investors putting up modern buildings and investors come in droves.

“Our town is now seeing the mushrooming of resorts, hotels and modern buildings thanks to the thriving honey business,” She adds.

Ms Sokome notes that each trader is required to comply with stringent regulations that guide their business conduct. Failure to comply, she says, attracts stiff penalties including being kicked entirely out of the trade.

“We sell our honey for as low as Sh200 up to Sh2,000, depending on the volumes,” she adds.

She says in a good month she can make as much as Sh2,000 daily.

The traders however face a number of hurdles.

“Our main challenge is middlemen, who sell their honey at throw away prices hence affecting our sales,” she says.

Another challenge is tough competition brought by the rapidly rising number of traders yet the market is not expanding as quickly.

But Ms Sokome is happy with how the business has enabled her to meet the needs of her family.

“I have been able to educate my children and provide for my family thanks to this honey business. I do not know where I would have been without this business,” she adds.

She urges the County Government of Baringo to help them market their products to other counties and the rest of the world.

Another trader, Alice Kangongo, says her business has transformed her life.

She says she can now educate her children with ease from income generated from the honey business.

“Majority of us have been able to build permanent homes,” she proudly adds.

She urges other women to join the trade or do something else instead of staying at home, waiting for their husbands to provide everything for them.

Ms Kangongo says they are trained by the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) on how to fully benefit from the enterprise.

Ms Lotole notes that honey business has changed the face of Koriema centre.

“Ten years ago, Koriema was a small town that was little known in Marigat sub-county but the narrative now is changing,” she says

Without honey, she says Koriema would have remained one of the poorest areas in Baringo County.

Mrs Lotole, who says she makes as much as Sh2,500 daily, urges the county government to build them a market that is easily accessible to customers.

“We sell our products on the roadside, which is dangerous as someone may be knocked down by a car,” she warns.

Egerton University Apiculture and Sericulture Lecturer Stephen Kagio says bees are beneficial as they pollinate plants whilst also providing honey.

“Bee honeys contain some nutrients and antioxidant components which are nutritious to humans,” Dr Kagio says.

Dr Kagio says that aside from its nutritional value, honey can generate income to farmers and traders.

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