Local leaders and bee farmers in Baringo County have opposed the proposed Livestock Bill 2021 that seeks to outlaw keeping bees for commercial purposes.
The Bill has ignited uproar among locals in the region’s arid areas who say the move amounts to sabotage from unscrupulous cartels.
The proposed law drafted by National Assembly majority leader Amos Kimunya only allows apiaries registered by the government to keep bees for commercial purposes.
The farmers, led by Baringo Bee Keepers and Honey Producers Association chair Justin Chebii, have raised concern that if it is signed into law, the Bill would deal a big blow to farmers in arid and semi-arid areas who solely rely on bees for their livelihood.
“The proposed Bill has come as a shocker to bee farmers. Why introduce bureaucracies to people in arid areas who depend on honey? Locals in banditry-prone areas in Baringo County who became paupers after all their livestock was wiped out by armed criminals had resorted to beekeeping as an alternative livelihood,” said Mr Chebii.
“We are wondering what interests the proponents of the Livestock Bill have by pushing for laws that would sabotage farmers. Unless they tell us they are working with unscrupulous cartels to kill our business and we are not going to sit and watch as some individuals craft for our downfall,” he added.
Charity Ng’eno, a farmer from Baringo South, claimed that most of the region is not viable for agriculture and that bee keeping has been the economic mainstay of thousands of locals.
“We cannot plant crops because of the unfavourable climatic conditions, we have depended on honey for our basic needs and paying school fees for our children since time immemorial and those leaders who want to sneak in draconian laws are enemies of farmers because instead of rooting for regulations that can uplift our living standards, they want to kill our businesses completely,” she said.
Mogotio and Baringo South MPs have vowed to shoot down the proposed law.
“We are not going to support regulations that will cripple farmers who are struggling to earn a living. Those who drafted the Bill are just busybodies and we will shoot it down,” said Mogotio MP Daniel Tuitoek.
However, Labour and Social Services Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said the proposed law should not cause jitters because Kenyans will be given an opportunity to air their views through public participation.
Speaking on Sunday during a fundraiser at Emining Full Gospel Church in Mogotio Sub-County, he said the government is keen to help farmers.
“The government is keen on the production of bee keeping and not sabotaging farmers. Bills are supposed to encourage and inspire farming and we are sensitive to any issue touching on the common mwananchi by ensuring that the feelings and interests of Kenyans are enshrined in all our views,” he said.
The proposed law requires those wishing to be registered as beekeepers to tender their application to the county executive in charge of livestock, and the ensuing certificate of registration shall be valid for a period of one year.
Most parts of Baringo County are dry and dominated by shrubs, an ideal habitat for bees. The region generates more than 10,000 tonnes of honey annually.
County Governor Stanley Kiptis has been encouraging bee farmers to move from traditional methods to commercialisation of the honey sector.
“Baringo honey cannot be rivaled in any part of the country and we want to profile it to get its rightful place. We are looking at marketing our honey products both locally and internationally. If fully exploited, the sector can go a long way in alleviating effects of perennial drought,” said Mr Kiptis.