It is a busy day in Kodich village in the semi-arid West Pokot County in northwestern parts of Kenya, where beekeeping has become a source of income for youths who have decided to abandon cattle rustling.
Johnson Akaule is among the growing number of Pokot youth who have laid down weapons they used to confiscate livestock from neighboring communities to venture into beekeeping.
The reformed cattle rustler has since lured the majority of his age mates to quit cattle rustling and plunge into beekeeping that has proved to be a profitable business.
“For many years, we considered cattle as the only source of income and used to steal them violently from neighbors. I was a wanted person by the police and I’m happy that I’m living a comfortable life,” said Akaule, adding that he missed death by a whiskey while on a cattle raiding mission in Eastern Uganda.
The former cattle raider said that being stung by a bee is better than the possibility of being ferried down by a bullet.
“I have been stung for several times during honey harvesting season but it is better than what I witnessed when officer gunned down my five colleagues in the raid in Turkana County,” said Akaule.
Akaule is among reformed warriors who have benefitted from training on beekeeping provided by a self-help group in his locality.
The group, which brings together more than 20 beekeepers, is now getting a reliable income after penetrating markets in Western Kenya.
“Livestock is the main economic activity here and loss of animals through raids or drought is a big blow to the community,” said Akaule.
Beekeeping is increasingly being seen as the solution to pastoralists from the Pokot community who have for decades been involved in cattle raids in northern Kenya’s vast drylands. This week, at least 11 people including two police officers were killed following an inter-clan feud over the pasture, water resources and politics in Marsabit county in northern Kenya.
The pastoralists regard livestock as a source of wealth and a symbol of economic status in the society, and hence should it be safeguarded by all means. However, the ground is gradually shifting from such beliefs thanks to beekeeping.
“Beekeeping investment has proved more meaningful than animals that expose us to threats of recurrent attacks. It has become a game-changer as more people now appreciate that investment in other sources of income can enable them to educate their children and meet their basic needs,” John Lonyangapuo, the governor of West Pokot.
The governor acknowledged that beekeeping is gradually transforming the livelihoods of youth in the predominantly nomadic Pokot community.
“The culture of cattle raids to acquire wealth is gradually dying off as most youth turn to other alternative sources of income generation including beekeeping,” said Lonyangapuo.
Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that the vast northwestern Kenyan plains produces an average of 500 tons of honey annually.
However, the youthful beekeepers are grappling with several bottlenecks like poor market linkages and extreme weather events that have affected their revenue streams. Enditem