Why Livestock Bill was a sting for small beekeepers
Last May, the 2021 livestock bill was presented to the National Assembly for much criticized debate. Part 14 of the bill – dealing with beekeeping and bee products – aroused outrage from stakeholders.
âNo one may keep bees for commercial purposes, except in an apiary registered under this Act. ”
But the majority leader in the National Assembly, Amos Kimunya, has since withdrawn the bill from reading in the House to pave the way for further consultations. But why has the bill caused an uproar?
âWho is a professional beekeeper? Â»Asks Pauline Otila, referring to the bill. “It is not clear whether the criteria are based on the number of hives, the type of hives, the size of the land on which the hives are placed.”
Otila argues that the majority of honey producers are small farmers with few (some as few as one) beehives. The bill, she suspects, was designed to remove such players from the industry.
James Njuguna, beekeeper and conservationist, believes the bill was intended to kick out small players “to allow a big player to take over the industry.”
Branded beehives at a price
The bill had other contentious parts. He said the “registration” would be renewed every year – hinting at the possibility of regular license fees. The beehives would be marked with a registered trademark; and the fees charged for this registration.
And, beehives should be prescribed by authorities: beekeepers would no longer be able to choose the type, style or shape of beehives. The Smart Harvest looked at the bill and spoke with farmers, scientists and policymakers. Many agree that the bill was flawed.
Inability to produce food
If all the bees in the world died, humanity would struggle to meet its nutritional needs, says Dr. Faith Toroitich, an entomologist at Egerton University.
She notes that flowering crops propagate and produce through pollination. Pollinators include wind, birds, mammals, and insects.
âHowever, the number one pollinator in the world is the honey bee,â she says. “They are responsible for at least 80% of pollination.”
This is because, unlike other organic pollinators, bees depend entirely on flowers for food. In other words, they must visit the flowers to survive.
âAs they move from flower to flower, they pollinate plants by crossing. It’s part of nature’s conception: bees pollinate while looking for food, âsays Toroitich.
Fredrick Otieno, beekeeper and chairman of the Beekeeping Platform of Kenya (APK), said the bill, as it stood, would demoralize beekeepers and force them to stop their beekeeping activities.
âThings like registration fees and annual license renewals as well as beekeeping brand registration and maintenance costs will drive us out.
âAnd if that happened, there would be fewer bee colonies to forage and pollinate crops,â says Otieno.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that 75 percent of agricultural crops are flowering plants – they produce seeds and / or fruit. They depend on pollination to produce and propagate.
Justin Chebii, president of the Baringo Beekeepers and Honey Producers Association, also believes the bill was designed to kick out small gamers.
âBaringo honey is in demand: it is acacia honey. But most of us beekeepers use traditional log beehives, âhe says.
Chebii himself has over 40 log beehives in the Lake Bogoria watershed.
The bill says that beekeepers will use beehives prescribed by the authorities. Chebii fears that the log beehives – which most of the members of his association use – will be banned as unsuitable and therefore expel many of them.
âLog beehives and other traditional beehives work very well in the wild. What happens when the authorities tell us to shoot them? ” he says.
Registration fees and licenses will also discourage ordinary people from practicing beekeeping, he adds.
James Muriuki is the Head of Beekeeping and Emerging Livestock at the State Department for Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives (MoALFC).
While Kenya does not have a baseline survey on beekeeping, Muriuki acknowledges that it is mainly carried out by small farmers “looking for a little extra income”.
Muriuki argues that the 2021 Livestock Bill was intended to curb the bogus honey epidemic that many Nairobians know all too well.
âThe regulations will ensure that only honey produced by bees is available on the market,â he says.
But opponents fear the opposite will happen.
âWith fewer beekeepers, real organic honey will be too expensive. This will make the underground market for fake honey flourish, âsaid Chebii.
Decline in farm income
Crops such as passion fruit, pumpkin, watermelon, okra and strawberries that are entirely dependent on pollinators will be affected. Fruits develop from pollinated flowers. Unpollinated flowers fall and therefore decrease the production of an orchard.
As the debate rages on, some farmers have integrated beekeeping into agricultural production and the results are evident.
In 2017, the Isinya Roses company diversified to cultivate avocados and blueberries – integrated with beekeeping.
Shankar Rajendran, the manager, explains that the company wanted to use the symbiotic relationship that bees have with fruit trees.
Beekeeping, he says, is especially critical and important for avocados because of the flowering behavior of the plant.
âAvocado flowers behave abnormally. Some varieties open their flowers in the morning as female (only with female parts). It then closes around noon. It reopens in the afternoon of the next day, but as a male. In other varieties it’s the other way around, âRajendran said.
For this reason, most avocado orchards will have two or more varieties. Isinya Roses grows the Hass and Fuerte varieties: so that when one has opened female flowers, the other has opened male flowers.
Lawyers don’t self-pollinate. They depend almost entirely on bees for pollination: thus increasing the yield.
âHaving bees in the avocado orchard increases fruit production by around 15%. And you also harvest honey, âsays Rajendran.
Annual registration, license fees and restrictions on land for beekeeping will discourage farmers from integrating beekeeping and fruit farming; thus denying them maximum production potential.