Bees to sting away elephants from farms in Voi
An international conservation agency has launched a massive campaign to persuade small-scale farmers in Taita Taveta county to practice bee keeping as an affordable means of preventing elephants from invading their farms.
Save The Elephants, an organidation that promotes the welfare of elephants, has partnered with Honeycare Africa to educate the farmers on the benefits of erecting beehive fences around their farms as a way of deterring elephants from wandering into the farms.
Dr Lucy King, the STE chief operations officer for Kenya, said the project would target farmers in elephant-invasion prone regions of Mtito-Andei, Voi, Mwatate and Taveta.
While participating in the hoisting of hives at a farm at Ikanga village on the outskirts of Voi town, she said: ''Adoption of beehives is a safe and affordable long-lasting solution to the recurrent human-wildlife conflict in this region. The farmers will not only secure their farms from the marauding jumbos but will also get money from the sale of honey.''
“Elephants are known to abhor areas with bees. That means farms with beehives will be safe and the owners are assured of getting a decent harvest in addition to getting some more money from the sale of honey,” she said. Honey care Africa will provide the hives and will be purchasing the honey at Sh175 per kilogramme from the farmers.
King said that the project has been tested in Laikipia and Samburu counties with phenomenal success. She expressed optimism that the project would be able to reach thousands of long-suffering farmers all from over the county.
The hives are placed at intervals of ten meters from each other with one acre of land requiring twenty five beehives. Farmer can either use Langstroth beehives or the traditional log beehives to fence their farms.
According to Dr. King who is a specialist in animal behavior, use of beehives will not interfere with the migratory patterns of the animals. “Bees will work best for farms bordering migratory corridors. We don’t want to interfere with the migration itself,” she explained.
She expressed her disquietude with an electric fence stating that a fence imprisoned all animals within specific zones denying even the harmless ones freedom to move.
“Unlike electric fence, hives will stop the elephants from going into people’s farms but will not bar them from migrating. All other animals are also free to move around,” she said.
Dan Mghenyi, a farmer from Voi district and the chairperson of Irinde Self Help Group, welcomed the idea of beehives admitting that all other efforts to keep the elephants from farms had flopped.
“We have tried almost everything under the sun but the jumbos keep coming. Hives are easy to erect and are affordable to most farmers. This is the closest we have ever come to having something that actually works,” he said.
Farmers in the county have in the past lost crops worth millions of shillings to the marauding elephants and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has taken a lot of flak over the failure to reign in the wild animals.