Agribusiness training transforms Ogieks in Kenya

GMT 04:34 2015 Thursday ,19 March

Arab Today, arab today Agribusiness training transforms Ogieks in Kenya

Farmers learn how to harvest
Nakuru - XINHUA

For the Ogieks, a Kenyan community considered to be a minority due to its small numbers, rearing bee is a practice which has been passed down from generation to generation.
Their members have lived in Mau Forest within Nakuru County in the Rift Valley region for many years. It is until 2009 when they were evicted to pave way for the rehabilitation of one of the East African's water towers.
As they sourced their livelihood from honey, the forest offered them a natural setting for keeping the bees. Ogieks are one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer peoples of East Africa.
But their way of living has significantly changed with the population, not exceeding 11,000, taking up mixed farming to feed up their families. Exposure to information on modern methods of farming has equally enhanced their ways of productivity.
A product of this training from Kenya's Ministry of Agriculture is the Marioshioni Community Development Self-Help Group composed of the 250 members from Ogiek community.
"Our way of life has changed but we have not disowned our tradition of rearing bee," says John Kemboi, the group's chairman.
Through the training under the Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness Project, the members have been trained on modern ways of bee keeping to sustain their livelihoods. Each of them now has an average of 20 beehives and produces not less than 80 litres of honey a year.
The group has a refinery and they collectively refine their honey before packing it for sell to the local supermarkets and retail customers.
"We harvest twice a year and each member can make not less than 160 U.S. dollars from one beehive, which is good money if one has more than 10 beehives,"said Kemboi.
"This is unlike before when all we thought about is producing just enough to keep us going. Our lives have really improved socially and economically," he said, adding they have a reliable market which motivates them to continue with their bee keeping activities.
Apart from honey production, they also grow potatoes, green peas, maize and beans which, he said, boost their agricultural incomes.
"We knew little about mixed farming but by far have we gained from growing different types of crops," noted Kemboi.
The group's official said they have registered a cooperative society through which they will accumulate their savings to enable them expand into other investments such as real estate developments.
Joseph Towett, chairman of the Ogiek Council of Elders, said however the community members still lag behind in social and economic development and require holistic assistance from all stakeholders to raise their standards of living.
"We are so behind when it comes to education and therefore our poverty levels are so high," he said.
Educating the Ogieks on agribusiness, according to Towett, provides a means through which they can earn money to take their children to school. In the longterm, he said, the community will have a generation of educated families thus reducing the household poverty levels.
"I am happy that the Ministry of Agriculture is doing a lot to modernize bee keeping among the Ogieks. This is just the beginning to emancipating the members from abject poverty," he said.
Towett, who is also a committee member of the Mau Forest Conservation Committee, said bee keeping contributes to the protection of the Mau Forest Complex from destruction.
"The community members know that trees and vegetation in the Mau Forest provide bees with the nectar. By cutting all of them translate to losing out on honey production," he said.
Peter Kimani, the coordinator of the Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness Project in Nakuru County, said their focus on Ogieks is meant to assist them capitalize on their bee keeping skills to generate a sustainable income.
"It is important to note that while the farmers make profits from a natural resource, they also need to protect it to ensure its sustainable utilization. That is why we emphasize on planting trees in the farms," said the agricultural official.

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