Outrage continued to mount over the proposed Livestock Bill 2021 with the Kenya National Farmers Federation (KENAFF) terming it as punitive to small holder beekeepers.
KENAFF’s Chief Executive Officer Mr Mwenda Mailutha said the proposed legislation that seeks to have only registered apiaries keep bees for commercial purposes did not consider interests of small holder farmers in arid and semi-arid areas of the country.
Addressing a press conference in Nakuru Mr Mailutha noted that The Livestock Bill, 2021 sponsored by Majority Leader Amos Kimunya contains several provisions with far-reaching implications on bee keepers.
Mr Mailutha who was flanked by KENAFF’s Chairman Mr Kaburu Thiribo who observed that bee keeping was a crucial source of income for youth and women from poor rural backgrounds who did not have the capacity to satisfy requirements of the bill.
The Bill has ignited uproar among locals and Members of Parliament in several arid and semi-arid areas who say the move amounts to sabotage from unscrupulous cartels.
It proposes tighter regulation on the practice of apiculture, specifically the farmer maintaining the bees, the location and type of hives.
Should it become law, beekeepers will have to register and acquire a license from the county government before setting up a hive.
If passed into law the government will prescribe the type of hives and brand which farmers will use. The Ministry of Agriculture will also impose restrictions on the land to be used as an apiary.
It will be illegal for a farmer to keep bees for commercial purposes or own beekeeping equipment without a certificate of registration, which shall be renewed annually.
Mr Mailutha said most bee keepers were located in drought stricken areas and did not have adequate resources and finances to meet the requirements stipulated by the Bill.
He stated that arid and semi-arid regions were not viable for agriculture and that beekeeping has been the economic mainstay of thousands of locals.
“Farmers in these areas cannot plant crops because of the unfavourable climatic conditions, They have depended on honey for their basic needs and paying school fees for their children since time immemorial.
Our leaders and policy makers should root for regulations that can uplift Kenyan’s living standards, instead of crafting legislations that can kill businesses completely,” he said.
Farmers who defy the regulations face a Sh500,000 fine or a prison term not exceeding one year or both.
However, farmers who keep bees specifically for pollination will not be required to register if the bees are disposed of within eight weeks.
The Bill also prescribes the hives that farmers will use for their bees. Every hive owned by a beekeeper shall be branded with a registered brand.
Additionally, the government requires that hives are not placed within 30 metres of a property line separating land occupied as a dwelling, community centre or a place of recreation, or within 10 metres of a highway.
The Bill gives the county executive committee member for agriculture power to declare premises unsafe for beekeeping if they are convinced that the beehives or bees are a nuisance or a danger to public health.
By Jane Ngugi and Catherine Karanja