Women in the southern parts of Narok county in Loita community are venturing into beekeeping as an alternative source of livelihood. This, as they seek to play an active role in the conservation of the Loita forest ecosystem. The Maasai Beekeeping initiative in conjunction with Friends of Loita Forest conducted a beekeeping training at the Entasekera honey collection center. The training served to empower the women with appropriate knowledge and the required skills to ensure maximum production of quality honey and strengthening their voice as stakeholders in the conservation of Loita.
According to a study conducted by Dr. Miriam Westervelt, the forest cover has drastically reduced due to the change in people’s lifestyle from pastoralism to agriculture and the need to settle down. Cutting down of trees to construct houses and obtain firewood is posing a great threat to the indigenous trees in the forest such as the cider, locally known as the mtarakwa. As one of the few indigenous trust land forests remaining in Kenya, Loita is the only territory held communally by Kenya Maasai not yet gazetted or titled by the government into separate private or group parcels. It is also unsurveyed, unlike most of Kenya’s 273 forests.
This has called for the need to act in saving the forest. What then is the relationship between beekeeping and forest conservation?” The bees in their search for nectar help in the process of pollination whereas the flowers from the trees provide nectar which the bees require to produce honey”, said Mr. Lemoi the founder of Maasai Beekeeping Initiative. Furthermore, forests are water catchment areas and both humans and bees require water thus it is mandatory to ensure the environment is conserved. The women who turned up in large numbers were trained on setting up modern beehives, waxing, cleaning beehives and harvesting using the appropriate gear. Honey produced is sold and the money earned is used to make ends meet as well as to pay school fees for their children.
Many beekeepers in Loita were excited to see the modern beehives unlike the traditional ones they were well conversant with. Beside training the local farmers, the Friends of Loita Forest donated beehives to the various women groups and tree seedlings which will be planted to green the environment. Environmental conservation begins with the individuals within the locality and they must take the initiative to take care of their forest cover for they are the pioneers.