Beekeeping and River Protection in Kenya
A new project of Global Water Watch and the Green Belt Movement in Kenya is finding innovative ways to link honey production with improved nutrition, higher incomes, community development, and river protection. In 2012, the Green Belt Movement (GBM) in Kenya contacted GWW through the Sub-Saharan Africa Program Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. GBM is a nongovernmental organization founded by Wangari Maathai, a woman who grew up in the Central Highlands of Kenya near snow-capped Mt. Kenya who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.Beekeeping builds community solidarity and economic stability that allows people to consider other activities, including community service and volunteerism. As learned in previous GWW projects, livelihood activities integrated with watershed stewardship programs “create space” for water monitoring. A steady flow of high-quality honey can net a Kenyan farmer a much greater income than most other agricultural crops that the farmer can produce.
Keeping the riparian zone in natural vegetation and trees provides a biodiverse area where some plants are flowering year-round to provide a continuous supply of nectar and pollen for bees. These eco-friendly zones filter polluted runoff before it enters streams. Streamside vegetation traps sediments, excess nutrients, and pathogens; provides important habitats for wildlife; and helps maintain both water quality and quantity. Bees do their part by pollinating plants of this area and serving as “watchdogs” for potentially destructive livestock or people.
After launching field activities of the GWW–GBM watershed project in October 2013, it became clear that local people enthusiastically embraced the concept of “citizen science” and water monitoring, and have new attitudes and skills regarding their health and that of the environment and their bees. The goal of many Kenyan beekeepers is to expand their market and income, and this would be greatly enhanced by achieving a government-certified label that ensures honey purity, organic production, and sustainable practices that protect and improve the environment and communities.
International travel expenses, beekeeping supplies and equipment distributed to the community members in Kenya, were funded by the Jack and Mary Tankersley Edowment to the Auburn University School of Fisheries for community development projects to benefit underserved people worldwide.