Sweet Alternative: Honey Cushions Families from COVID-19 Economic Hurdles


By Wesley Koskei, World Vision Communications Officer, Kenya

Margarete, a mother of five, is passionate about beekeeping.

As the caretaker of 20 beehives belonging to the Nashipa Ramat Women’s Group that she is part of, Margarete always ensures that the bees are well catered for so as to increase their productivity.

Consequently, she always feels at home - with soldier bees buzzing around her - as she makes regular ‘check-up’ visits at their apiary in Laikipia County, Kenya.

Her group is among the many beneficiaries of beehives and other beekeeping products that World Vision has distributed to community groups at Laikipia, Isiolo, Marsabit and Samburu Counties in Kenya.

World Vision’s Fidel Wambiya, and Philip Ole molo, adjust beehives at Nashipa Ramat Group apiary as Margarete Saino and her colleague Annesia Putunoi looks on.
Margarete (far right) and her friend Annesia (far left) from the Nashipa Ramat Group with World Vision staff at their apiary in Laikipia County,Kenya. ©World Vision Photo/Wesley Koskei. 


This initiative is supported by the organisation’s Integrated Management of Natural Resources for Resilience in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (IMARA) programme, which is funded by the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA) in Kenya.

“Just last week, we harvested 46 kilogrammes of honey from beehives that we received from World Vision, early in the year. This is a big deal as the honey will give us cash to support our families,” says Margarete.

Margarete Saino, scoops raw honey into bucket after harvesting,
Margarete scoops raw honey after harvesting it.©World Vision Photo/Wesley Koskei


She notes that the harvest has come at the right time. “We used to rely on selling livestock and beaded ornaments. But due to COVID-19, livestock markets have been closed and there are no tourists to buy our ornaments. So, we are now relying on honey to give us income,” Margarete says.

In the past, the largely pastoralist community in Laikipia County used to view honey as food for home consumption solely.

Titus Ng’otiek eats honey from a spoon as World vision’s Philip Ole Molo looks on.
Honey was previously used for home consumption but it is now generating income for communities in Laikipia County, Kenya. ©World Vision Photo/Wesley Koskei.


As such, people did not consider it as a product that could be used to generate income.

However, their mind-sets began to change after World Vision trained them on effective beekeeping strategies and supported community groups like Margarete’s to transform the activity into a business venture.

The organisation also promoted the use of appropriate technologies that increase honey production.

Naitumtum Loroto Cooperative Chairman(in suit) with Livelihood specialist Joseph Ethekon and Market Systems Advsior Fidel Wambiya.
Right to Left: Fidel Wambiya (World Vision Market Systems Advisor), Joseph Ethekon (World Vision Livelihood specialist) and one of the community members that has benefitted from beekeeping. ©World Vision Photo/Wesley Koskei.


These initiatives seek to improve the livelihoods of more than 19,000 households through beekeeping enterprises in dry areas like Laikipia.

“Now we have an alternative source of income to support our households. We’ll sell the harvested honey to our Naitumtum Lotoro Beekeepers Co-operative society so as to get money. The cash will help us to take good care of our children and family,” says Margarete.

Annesia Putunoi and Margarate Saino carry raw honey from their apiary ready to sell to the cooperative.
Margarate (right) and her friend Annesia carry raw honey from their apiary that they are ready to sell to their co-operative society. ©World Vision Photo/Wesley Koskei.


Co-operative societies play a key role in sustaining beekeeping enterprises as they provide a ready market for honey harvested by their members.

The aggregated honey is then sold to clients in external markets at lucrative prices that boost the share value of members, enabling them to get additional income through yearly dividends. 

In addition, co-operative societies enable members to borrow and repay loans that they can use to grow their businesses or meet critical household expenses whenever they are starved for cash.

“This is why we why we want co-operative societies in this area to thrive. We are building the capacity of these organisations to ensure that they are effectively managed. We are empowering them to produce and sell high quality honey that is certified. We also help them to identify key markets for the products,” says Fidel Wambiya, the Market Systems Advisor for World Vision’s IMARA programme in Kenya.

Tom, a member of the Omom group that also received beehives from World Vision, notes that the area’s co-operative society has played a significant role in the success of their enterprise.

“They buy honey from us and sell them to clients.  We’ve already sold around 1.5 tonnes of the product. This is a difficult time, so the money we get from selling the honey  - no matter how little it may be – enables us to support our children and families, ” he says.

Tom Liloi hold packed honey with Livelihood specialist Joseph Ethekon
Tom (right) holds packed honey with World Vision's Livelihood specialist Joseph Ethekon in Laikipia County, Kenya. ©World Vision Photo/Wesley Koskei.


Honey and Beekeeping ventures are emerging as natural resource enterprises that enable communities in arid areas to diversify their livelihoods or income sources.

Such business ventures allow communities to conserve the environment as they see the direct benefits of doing so.

For instance, beekeeping provides an incentive for farmers to conserve or plant more trees so as to boost the productivity of the bees.

“We look at the beekeeping value chain in its entirety, from production to the market so as to ensure that communities can sell a unique product with a competitive edge in premium markets,” Wambiya says.