Livelihoods and niche markets – A case study of smallholder Kenyan bee keepers

Start date: 30 November, 2015 End date: 1 March, 2016 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A29104 Countries: Kenya Institutions: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Grant recipient: Peter Musinguzi Total grant: 15,000 DKK


Local organic certification schemes offer opportunities for poor rural smallholders to be certified and benefit from organic niche markets access, even if only locally or regionally. Development agencies have increasingly supported the organic sector in developing countries with the aim of enabling smallholder farmers to access the organic niche markets. However, benefits accrued to smallholders depend on active farmer participation and involvement in niche market activities, their skills and
knowledge, functioning producer and organic farming support groups, vibrant extension services and government support.
This study investigates the impacts of local certified organic honey production on the livelihoods of locally certified organic smallholder bee keepers organised in village level bee keeping groups under an umbrella organic producer cooperative in Mwingi, Eastern Kenya. Data were collected from December 2015 to February 2016 from 54 smallholder bee keepers’ groups; 38 organic certified and 16 noncertified.
Stratified random sampling was used and a total of 303 smallholder farmers (185 certified and 118 non-certified) were randomly sampled. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected for 2015 and 2008 (retrospectively) for purposes of comparing the before and after local organic certification using a household survey, key informant interviews, informal conversations and document reviews.
Results indicate no significant impact of certification on household incomes, quantity and price of honey produced and incidence of migration. The results further indicate that non-certified smallholders were more diversified, more food secure and sold less assets as compared to the certified. Only 17% of the
certified attributed their wealth status to being organic certified.


There are multiple reasons for lack of certification impacts:

i) no continuous support to the locally certified organic smallholder bee keepers and their organic cooperative after initial phase which was fully externally initiated and supported by NGOs,

ii) lack of governmental support,

iii) poor management of the organic cooperative where marketing of locally certified smallholders’ honey is coordinated,

iv) low premium prices and v) strong presence of middlemen. This therefore calls for technical and financial capacity building of the organic cooperative to ensure its reconnection to the members, rebuilding trust and transparent management and enhancing its capability to purchase locally organic certified bee keepers’ honey. These could be supported through formulation of an organic bee keeping policy. The reconnection of the cooperative to its members would revatalise their trust in the cooperative to not only look to economic incentives but also feel socially obliged to selling through it.
However, the results indicate that local certified organic bee keeping cannot single-handedly solve the livelihood challenges of the certified smallholder bee keepers though it is vital for achievement of broad based rural development and sustainable livelihoods goals.