An international conservancy agency is carrying out a campaign with small scale farmers in Taita Taveta county to persuade them to embrace bee keeping as a simple way of keeping off marauding elephants that have invaded their farms destroying hundreds of acres of food crops.The beekeeping is also set to bolster their incomes through theadditional money from the sale of honey. The drive comes at a time when the estimated loss to crops by the straying jumbos stands at over Sh10 million shillings, according to Ministry of Agriculture officials in the county, with over 100 acres
of drought recovery crops having been destroyed this year alone. This, despite the fact that the area enjoys minimum rainfall which should afford it better food security than many other areas. Save The Elephants, an organization 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 is targeting farmers in the elephant-invasion prone regions of Mtito-Andei, Voi, Mwatate and Taveta.While participating in the building 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 ofhoney," she said. Honeycare Africa is providing the hives and will be purchasing the honey at Sh175 per kg from the farmers. King said 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 over the county. The hives are placed at intervals of ten meters with one acre of land requiring twenty five beehives. Farmers can either use the modern Langstroth beehives or the traditional log beehives to fence their farms. According to Dr. King, who is a specialist in animal behavior, the 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 dissatisfaction with electric fences 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, has lauded the idea of beehives, admitting that allother 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.