Bee keeping in Kenya has been practiced since time immemorial. Currently there are two million hives in the country. Most bee keepers in Kenya base their practice on indigenous knowledge which has been passed from one generation to the next. Areas covered with bees in the country include the mountainous areas, the savannah area, the coastal region and the drier parts of northern Kenya.

Development of Bee Keeping In Kenya

The government of Kenya attempted to introduce modern bee keeping to communities who were already practising the art back in the 1950’s. The government further initiated a training program to train honey and beeswax inspectors, with the resultant establishment of beekeeping demonstration centres in various parts of the country.

Between 1967 and 1969, the government of Kenya received a grant from Ox-Farm through Freedom from Hunger Council of Kenya, to carry out a feasibility study to determine the viability of beekeeping as an income generating activity with specific focus on the drier parts of the country.

In 1971 the government of Kenya obtained assistance from Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to establish a national project on beekeeping. The project spearheaded the establishment of beekeeping co-operatives, honey refineries and equipment workshops especially of Kenya top bar hives. A major milestone was the establishment of the National Beekeeping Station in 1982.

The structural adjustment programs of the 1990’s paved way to liberalization of the beekeeping industry which in turn encouraged privatization and commercialization of equipment and services, with both private and public sector partnerships with respect to equipment manufacture and delivery of extension services.

Several individuals operate at various levels of the value chain as producers, processors and marketers.

The Kenyan government has provided an enabling environment for the implementation of beekeeping activities services in collaboration with the private sector, research and training institutions as well as development partners.

Beekeeping contributes close to 4.3 billion Kenya Shillings annually and production is estimated at, 100,000 metric tons annually. It has therefore become an important enterprise in the livestock sub-sector and there is a ready market for bee products , both locally and internationally.

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Inputs for honey

The main inputs required in bee keeping are bees, bee forage, bee hives, equipment and water

A bee is a social insect which lives in a colony. The bee colony is made up of 3 types of bees as follows:

The Queen

In a bee colony there is only one queen whose function in the hive is to:

  • Lay fertile eggs — The queen can lay about 1,500 — 2,000 eggs per day. The eggs are laid only when conditions are favourable and after being mated by the drone. Mating takes place in the air and about 5-7 drones are required. The queen stores the sperms in a spermathaeca and hence requires mating only once in her life time.
  • Control the colony behavior and functions through a pheromone (queen substance) which maintains the cohesiveness of the colony.

The Drones

Drones are usually about 300 in number in a colony. Their functions in the colony are:

  • To fertilise the queen.
  • To control the temperature or to cool the hive. This they do, by flapping their wide wings at a very high speed.

The drones are killed by the worker bees after fertilizing the queen.

The Worker Bees

In a colony, the worker bees are about 60,000 in number. They are the soldiers and are normally female bees. Their functions in the hive are to;

  1. Feed the queen, the drones and the brood (young bees).
  2. Protect the hive from intruders.
  3. Collect nectar, pollen, trees resins, gums and water.
  4. Build combs and seal the cracks and crevices in the hive.
  5. Clean the hive.


Production of honey

The honey production is carried out in an apiary system where farmers have one to several beehives in a portion of the land or on a large scale basis covering a huge area with many beehives. The empty hives are placed high up on trees or suspended between poles and are occupied by passing swarms or stocked.

Siting of the Apiary.

In siting the apiary the following factors are considered:

  • Availability of water — where water is not available in a 3 km radius, sugar solution or syrup is placed close to the hives in containers.
  • Availability of flowers.
  • A sheltered place – The bee hives should be protected from strong sun and wind.
  • A place which is free from noise and other disturbances.
  • Away from human beings and livestock. The apiary should be sited away from homesteads, pastures and busy roads.

Stocking the Hive; encouraging bees to enter an empty hive or actually putting them in it.


Honey Harvesting

Honey is harvested early in the morning or late in the evening when bees are less active. Following steps are followed:

  • Approach the hive quietly and blow smoke around the hive and later through the entrance holes using a smoker. The smoke makes the bees to start eating honey thus becoming heavy and inactive.
  • Lift the hive lid and puff smoke into to the surface of the top bars
  • Using a hive tool, gently knock upper surface of the top bars to find out where the building of the combs ends. Lift off the last build comb and inspect for ripe honey.
  • Cut the combs from each top bar three centimeters from the surface and put them in a clean container rubbing off the bees using a twig/brush.
  • The 3 cm of the comb left is for attachment of new combs.
  • Place back the bars and do not disturb the brood.

Aggregation and Processsing


Aggregation is the collection, gathering and transportation of harvested honey to the refineries for processing. Most beekeepers in Kenya are rural based while processing plants are located in urban areas. Harvested honey is put in plastic containers (jerricans) and loaded onto lorries and trucks for transportation to processing centres.



The local market for honey is significant and demand in urban areas outstrips supply. Trade opportunities for other bee products are also growing. However, inefficiencies in the supply chain and the low capacity of producers to negotiate markets, limits capacity to exploit the country’s full potential.

Cooperatives, individuals and self helps groups are involved in marketing of the honey

Honey is sold both locally and internationally. Locally, it’s sold in the supermarkets and shops. It is also hawked along the main roadsides (in the areas where it is produced), in towns and villages. Export markets include US, Japan, and European Union.

Honey is also traded within the EAC and COMESA trading blocks and to be able to penetrate the market traders have to adhere to EAC sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, and export and import guidelines



The current policy on Apiculture is broadly to develop a modern beekeeping industry in the country to provide additional income to rural households.

  • The policies guiding the sector are as follows:
  • National livestock policy (2008)
  • Beekeeping policy (2010)

Note that the ministries of Industrialization and Enterprise Development and Agriculture play major roles in enterprise development and extension services.

Service Providers/Stake Holders

Below, is a table of major stake holder in honey value chain

Name Of Organisation Service Contact Address
Honey Care Africa
  • Processor/Packer
  • Langstroth Hives
  • Protective Kits and other accessories
P.O BOX 24487, Tel. No. 574448, NAIROBI
Gatanza Enterprises
  • Processor/Packer/Retailer
  • Langstroth Hives
  • Protective kits and other accessories
P.O. Box 1569-00502, Tel. No. (0722)757598, NAIROBI
Makambu Investment
  • Processor/Packer/Retailer
P.O. Box 60085, NAIROBI
Tomylne Products
  • Processor/Retailer
P.O. Box 60601, Tel.No.263653, NAIROBI
Emma Food Processors
  • Processor/Packer
P.O. Box 56129, Tel.No.512479,NAIROBI
Ruai Beekeeping Co-operative Society
  • Processor/Packer
P.O. Box Private Bag, NARO MORU
Baraka Beekeeping Development Unit
  • Processor/Packer
  • Langstroth Hives
  • Protective kits and other accessories
P.O. Box52, Tel.No.0363 21091, MOLO
Wedakin Honey
  • Processor/Distributor
P.O. Box 60424, NAIROBI
National Beekeeping Station
  • Processor/Quality Analysis
  • Hives-Kenya top Bar Hives, Langstroth hives. Protective kit and other accessories e.g. Smokers, Hive tolls, bee brushes.    Feeder boxes, observation hive, catcher boxes etc.
P.O. Box 34188, Tel.No.564302,NAIROBI
Mbeere Honey Products
  • Processor/Packer
P.O. 2339, Tel.(0161) 20629, EMBU
Green Forest
  • Processor/Packer
P. O Box 18870, NAIROBI
Ngandu Beekeeping Workshop
  • Langstroth Hives
  • Protective and other accessories
P.O. Box 1052, THIKA
Manor House Agricultural Centre
  • Kenya Top Bar Hives
Christian Intermediate Training Centre
  • Kenya Top Bar Hives
  • Protective kits and other accessories
Christian Intermediate Training Centre
  • Kenya Top Bar Hives
  • Protective kits and other accessories
Kerio Valley Development Authority
  • A Government Institution involved in supply of Bee Equipment
  •  Marketing of Honey
  • Training in Bee Keeping
  • Produce Beekeeping Equipment