At the foot of Cherangany Hills, Kabolet forest a home of indigenous trees with Langstroth beehives perched on the sturdy branches welcomes one to the livelihood of Abraham Kiprop at Kabolet village in Cherangany Sub-County, Trans-Nzoia.
The area being the original habitat of the Sengwer community, an indigenous community that has found home identity and culture with some using it for spiritual purposes.
The beehives situated at various places and tree logs of the Kabolet forest creates a source of income for Abraham Kiprop, a security officer at Mega Center in Kitale town.
"Bee keeping is like a livelihood for every Sengwer resident. We inherited if from our ancestors. For quite a long time it's been locally and for traditional purposes until recently where we turned into a business a year now to increase our savings. Many have been doing it locally but now we have a registered business," said Mr. Kiprop.
When traversing the Sengwer community, one can notice beehives, a common feature in every homestead.
For a long time, Bee keeping was not taken seriously as source of income, with many residents selling it at a lower price and as surplus after having enough at homes.
"No one was expecting to earn much from honey. In Kenya very few people are into honey business but since I registered mine it has attracted many from the community. We are looking forward to make it a community based enterprise," he says.
Kabolet Forest filled with holes and traditionally made beehives is source of Sengwer honey with less harvested from homesteads for commercial use before being processed into containers for transportation.
"We harvest our honey from Kabolet forest and Embobut forest along Cherangany Hills and we also keep bees and sell to specific interested bee keepers across the counties of Trans Nzoia, West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet," he added.
Restaurants and patients with the diabetic condition being his targeted clients, Kiprop distribute the honey across the country.
His honey goes at Kshs.650, a standard price by honey distributers in the country.
"I distribute my finally processed honey to as far as Makueni but majorly in Nairobi where I have quite a number of customers. In Kitale, I supply at Megabyte Restaurant and other interested restaurants across town. The most loyal and reliable customers have been the people with diabetic condition," he explains.
Honey is a medicinal product used as sweetener for patients with Diabetis since it facilitates blood sugar level maintenance.
The underground honey 'Kosom' is used to cure flu in children and also useful to expectant mothers.
However, Kiprop says Bee Keeping business in the country face market issues such as sub-standardized honey, urging the government to intervene in taming such illegal business and enough provide market avenues.
"The closure of restaurants and restrictions of movement in some counties majorly Nairobi when COVID-19 struck, was a blow to my business. A good number of my harvested honey went spoiled.
"There was a massive shortage of supply which caused a decline in the price of honey. Some were selling as low as 350 shillings per kg to avoid total loss and lack of market," he says.
Small enterprises having been hugely affected by COVID -19, the local sales forms a huge means of survival for many of his friends in Kabolet that solely depended on the supply of honey.
Though he is still not able to produce other products from the wax, Kiprop says he sells it to some people with skill who use it to make varous products like soap.