Meet some of our participating farmers
Our core project site in Kenya, is with the Taita people of Sagalla next to Tsavo East National Park boundary in southern Kenya. The location makes the community especially vulnerable to human-elephant conflict, with elephants venturing outside the park during the dry season in search of nutritional crops and water.
We began the beehive fence project here in 2009 with just two beehive fences being built as part of a pilot project in Mwakoma Village for Dr King’s DPhil research. Over the years, and with increased success and enthusiasm from the local people, we have now expanded beyond Mwakoma to the next door village of Mwambiti in 2015. We now have a total of 336 beehives that are protecting 24 farms on the frontline of crop raiding events in Sagalla. This forms the core farm-based research site for our participatory project but we also conduct training on site and support projects being developed around Kenya and the rest of Africa.
Charity Ronald Mwangome
Charity, has been an integral part of the Elephants and Bees Project, she and her husband Ronald were one of the initial beehive fence families to adopt the system and she has been enthusiastic and dedicated to the project from the beginning. Her husband sadly passed away in 2013 leaving Charity in sole charge of a large farm. The position of Charity’s farm is especially vulnerable to elephant crop raiding, and prior to her beehive fence she had long been battling with elephants destroying her crops. Now however her beehive fence provides around an 80% protection to her farm and home, which is where she lives with two of her children and four grandchildren, all of which depend upon the produce from the farm to survive. The hives protecting Charity’s farm have produced plentiful amounts of tasty honey that she sells back to the Elephants and Bees Project and she is uses the money from her honey sales to improve her house and accommodate her family. Charity isn’t just an excellent beehive fence farmer, and crop farmer, she also works as a community health worker, making her responsible for the heath of 38 households in the surrounding area.
Wabongo grew up on Sagalla hill, where a lot of his family live, but started farming Mwakoma in 1999. He has a large family, with 5 children, lots of grandchildren and even some great grandchildren, one of his daughters is married to Alex the sub chief in Mwakoma. Wabongo’s father and uncle were both farmers and bee keepers, they used log beehives which were the most effective for harvesting, the honey they were able to obtain they used for medicinal purposes and to make beer. Unfortunately his father’s and uncle’s beekeeping skills were never passed down to Wabongo, so he has learnt all his skills from the Elephants and Bees team. Wabongo’s beehive fence protects his farm from the many elephants that visit him from Tsavo East NP. He has benefited greatly from his hives and has produced kilos and kilos of honey each season and is the champion honey producer on the project. He uses the money he earns from his honey sales to replace broken posts, buy farming equipment and maintain his fence so that his hives remain active and carry on their essential role of preventing the elephants trespassing on his farm. Wabongo’s vintage of honey is highly sought after and is described by Saba Douglas-Hamilton as “champagne honey” as it tastes so phenomenally good.
Hezron Nzumu Mwanyezi
Nzumu and his wife Josephine have been farming in Mwakoma since 2007, the produce from their farm (Maize, Greengrams, Cowpeas, and Sorghum) supports themselves, their six children, their grandchild and Nzumu’s mother, who lives on top of Sagalla hill. Elephants frequently visit their farm, however less damage to their crops has occurred since the construction of their beehive fence in 2012. Unfortunately the lack of water in the area presents a significant challenge to keeping the bees in the hives, and Nzumu struggles with honey badger attacks, who at times manage to break open the hives and consume all the honey, much maintenance is required to protect the honey and keep the bees in the hives.
Not only does Nzumu work hard at maintaining his farm and beehive fence, he is a hard working employee of the Elephants and Bees Project where his roles incorporate nightly honey harvesting duties, building and maintaining beehive fences, and overseeing many of the projects and tasks at camp. Nzumu is fully engaged with the beehive fence project, and is a reliable and hardworking member of staff. Such attributes, have led him to the honourable position chosen by his fellow members of the community to serve as a community policeman.
Nzai is one of our more mzee (elder) farmers and is a much loved farmer with the Elephants and Bees Project. He fundamentally believes that the bees keep the elephants away and is desperate to protect his farm from elephants damaging his crops, therefore he works hard to ensure his hives are occupied but he needs help these days with some of the heavy labour jobs on his farm. Nzai has lived in Sagalla his entire life and has been farming on his land since the early 80s, he and his wife, Janet, have a large family of 8 children and many more grandchildren. Some of his children and grandchildren live with Janet on Sagalla hill, whilst Nzai lives on their farm in Mwakoma, protecting his crops from marauding elephants. Nzai is heavily reliant on his hives for supplying him with an additional source of income, due to inconsistent rainfall and limited access to water resulting in unreliable crop yields. Visiting Nzai is always a pleasure, he speaks better English than most people in the local community due to being educated in the ‘colonial’ period, and enjoys sitting down with visitors and serving (very sweet) tea!
Douglas Murata Mwambingu
Douglas began farming in Mwakoma in 1994, his farm consists of maize, cow peas, green grams and occasionally sunflowers. Douglas is a single father with 7 children, 6 of which are still at school and are heavily dependent on the produce from his farm and income from the honey sales. He used to struggle a lot with elephant crop raids, but since the installation of his beehive fence any elephant visitors avoid his farm and head straight to the water pan. Both of Douglas’s parents were farmers, though no one in his family has ever been a beekeeper. He finds that the biggest challenge in keeping beehives is the dryness, as the bees need water to survive and consequently his honey harvests have been very small so far. When Douglas does get honey to harvest he sells it all to us at The Elephants and Bees Center. In the past he has used his profits to help pay for his children’s schooling. He hopes to get more harvests in the future so that he can keep paying off their school fees.
Karisa (Kara Kara) Ngelo
Kara Kara and his wife, Flora moved to Mwakoma in 2000 from the coastal town of Mombasa where Kara Kara worked as a fisherman. Kara Kara and Flora have 4 children and 6 grandchildren, some of them live on the farm and others live in Voi, but everyone eats from the farm’s food supply.
Kara Kara used to be very susceptible to elephants crop raiding during his crop harvesting season, but now the elephants will often walk around his fence and his crops remain safe. His fence was experimentally built as an ‘L” shape around his farm but elephants can and still do enter via the unprotected side of the fence. However, Kara Kara is so happy with his “half” of a beehive fence that he wants to expand it so that it covers his entire farm. With the profits from his next honey harvest he wants to buy more bee hives and to strengthen the security of his current hives against honey badgers.
Josphat Kakongo Mwasambo
Kakongo grew up with parents who were farming on Sagalla Hill, his father was a beekeeper as well but never passed on his skills, he would harvest honey to both eat and to brew into traditional liquor. Kakongo moved to Mombasa for a while, and worked there as a tailor before moving back to Mwakoma and starting his farm in 2005. His farm contains a healthy variety of crops, goats and cows. Kakongo has done a fantastic job caring for his smaller beehive fence, which is reflected in the copious amounts of honey he has been able to sell, his 8 occupied hives act as a successful deterrent to prevent elephants crop raiding his crops. According to Kakongo, “I used to get elephant visitors all the time, but now with this fence they never disrupt my crops”. He has benefited greatly from his honey sales and has been able to purchase several water drums and is hopeful to be able to buy more essential items for his house and farm in the future.
Kakongo, has a large family of 5 sons and 2 daughters all of whom are grown up with their own families but they visit him often. Kakongo is a highly respected member of the community, serving as both a village elder and a community advisor, he gives advice to the chief and other members of the community, especially regarding land related topics.
Ambrose Mwambanga Iguja
Ambrose, and his wife, Charity began farming in Mwakoma in 1995, they have a big family of 11 children, 6 of the children are still enrolled at the local school, and rely on Ambrose’s crops for food. The other children are grown up with their own families, some live nearby and others live in further regions of Kenya.
Ambrose’s father was a beekeeper and kept over 60 hives so he was familiar with maintaining and harvesting beehives prior to his beehive fence. His father used log hives, which according to Ambrose were harder to harvest compared to the Kenyan Top Bar hives he has in his beehive fence, where he is able to harvest the honey from a separate chamber to receive pure and clean honey that is easy to sell. Ambrose’s bees are helpful in pollinating many of the plants on his farm. In addition to growing the usual maize and green grams, Ambrose also grows Moringa and Aloe Vera.
Ambrose’s beehive fence is proving to be partially successful at deterring elephants from entering the farm and destroying the crops, he has unfortunately had challenges with heavy wasp infestations which have limited his occupation rates and harvest success. Prior to the fence Ambrose would receive about 4 elephant visits a month. Now however the elephants come, they avoid the fence and his crops are left undamaged. The hives around his farm have had some success and generated a small income for Ambrose and his family. He remains optimistic about future harvests.
Jennifer Wanyika Makeo
Jenifer has lived in Mwakoma for 20 years and has been battling with elephants since she started her own farm in 2006, she is situated near to the community water pan making elephant visits a common occurrence. However since the arrival of her fence, she feels less vulnerable, because although the elephants will continue to visit the water pan they rarely manage to enter her farm, giving Jenifer’s farm and family increased security from crop devastation. Jenifer lives with her daughter and three grandchildren, all of whom are dependent on her farm for food, often Jenifer will also work small jobs in the community to raise extra funds. Jenifer has had success producing honey in her hives, and is appreciative for the extra income this generates.
Bernard Mwangome and Tabitha Mwae
Bernard was raised in Sagalla but after school came to Nairobi to work as a driver, he returned to Mwakoma in 1987 and worked at as a teacher at Kileva, the local school in the community next door to the Elephants and Bees Research camp. Whilst he was teaching, he also worked on his farm to be able to feed his family. Bernard is now working on a ranch away from home and only returns to Mwakoma at the weekend, luckily his sister Tabitha is able to look after his farm and his beehives whilst he is away. Both Bernard and Tabitha have two children, by working away from home he is able to provide his children with an education and cover other expenses. In addition to maintaining Bernard’s farm in his absence, Tabitha (like her sister Charity) serves as a community health worker in Mwakoma, she is responsible for 27 households, and she does a lot of work in the field health education by teaching the community about prevention of malaria and other diseases that are widely spread throughout Kenya.
Bernard and Tabitha have found that their beehive fence has significantly decreased the amount of elephants that feed on their crops. They have greatly benefited from their honey sale profits as well, and Tabitha hopes that future income will allow her to hire extra help for maintaining their beehive fence.
Silas Mwambala Mwambiji
Silas used to farm on top of Sagalla hill, but moved to Mwakoma to begin his farm there in 1993 where he is able to have a larger farm with a greater variety of crops to feed his family. He and his wife, Rachel Mwae have 4 children Agnella, Naftal, Jayan Dulu and Sarah between the ages of 19 and 1. Silas is a village elder in the Mwakoma community, meaning he has many important roles in the community and is very well respected.
His farm neighbours his sister in law Charity, and like Charity prior to the development of their beehive fences they were constantly living with elephant’s crop raiding their farms and destroying their produce. Silas has benefited well from honey production and has been able to buy iron sheets for the roof of his house, making it a little more robust, he hopes to extend his house to fit his family comfortably with future honey sales.
Harrison grew up in Taita, and lived there until 1997 while he worked for the Ministry of Agriculture in the administration office. He and his wife Felicia live on their farm in Mwakoma and have five children. His beehive fences have been a huge help in preventing elephant crop raids. Unfortunately Harrison’s hives have suffered due to honey badgers, which makes harvesting his honey problematic. However he remain optimistic and works hard to maintain his hives even when they are attacked. Interestingly, he has had significantly fewer elephant crop-raids since the new railway construction started in 2014.
Granton Mcharo Mwamburi
Granton and his wife Jenica Mkashoro have been farming in Mwambiti since 1972, they have a large family of 10 children and 9 grandchildren. One of their sons Josphat (another Mwambiti beehive farmer) lives right next door to his parents with his own family. Prior to farming, Granton worked as a (night) watchman in Mombassa, Nairobi and in Mwambiti, now he and Jenica both farm and are church elders in Mwambiti.
Granton and Jenica live on their farm with five of their children and grandchildren and Granton’s twin sisters, the produce from their farm is needed to feed 9 people. Prior to his beehive fence, farming for such a big family used to be a huge challenge for Granton, as he would be visited by elephants almost daily during the harvesting season, however now his farm is secure and he is capable of producing enough food to feed his family. Granton comes from a family of beekeepers, his parents and grandparents harvested their honey for medicine and to make traditional brew. However Granton claims he never learnt how to bee keep from his parents and that the Elephants and Bees project has taught him how to have healthy occupied hives. Granton is very enthusiastic to harvest his hives, he hopes to use some of it to make medicine and sell the rest back to the project, he is hoping to raise enough funds to buy water tanks and gutters to increase his family’s water supply and also to provide for the bees.
Bleston Mwawasi Likana
Bleston started his farm in 2005. He used to work with the ministry of Lands as a lands officer in the Taita/Taveta country. He is currently the deputy clan leader of the Wenimwakidua clan. Bleston and his wife, Gladness, have 9 children and 12 grandchildren. Some of them are living and working in Mombasa and Kilifi and others still live with him on Sagalla hill. Bleston takes great care of his farm to feed his large family. He grows a variety of crops, from watermelons to sunflowers, and he also owns three goats. He used to be visited very regularly by elephants, but now his beehive fence does a great job protecting his crops from elephant visitors. He doesn’t find beekeeping to be too challenging, and he is very eager to harvest honey so that he can raise the money to buy a cow!
Daudi previously worked for Kenya railways as a ticket booth salesmen until he moved to Mwambiti to start his farm in 2006. Daudi works and harvests his farm by himself, he grows a mixture of palatable crops, which encourages the elephants to raid his farm, Daudi also grows several chili pepper plants, in hope that this will deter the elephants from entering his farm, however they are not always successful at scaring bigger herds of elephants away. Daudi’s fence was constructed in early 2015, and is already providing protection, with or without occupied beehives! Daudi’s children live in other areas in Kenya, most of them have their own children, and he loves it when his grandchildren come to visit.
Ileli Daudi Wangama
Ileli started farming in Mwambiti in 2007, prior to this he worked as a welder in Mombassa, but moved to Mwambitti to live closer to his brother, and fellow beehive fence farmer, Daudi. Ileli and his wife, Defence Mwake, have four older children, who live independently. Ileli’s farm consists of maize, green grams, watermelon, cow peas, popo and cassava, all of which attracted the elephants to his farm up until the installation of his fence in 2015, he also grows chili pepper plant, an alternative technique to deter the elephants and protect his farm and home. Now however he is delighted that his beehive fence is keeping the elephant crop raiders away, and is eager to harvest his hives and be able to reap the benefits from honey sales.
Josphat, is the son of our beehive fence farmer Granton, and lives directly next door to his parents in Mwambiti with his wife Schola Mrari, and their children Granton and Jenica (named after Josphat’s parents). Josphat’s children are both young and attend the local primary school. Josphat is appreciative of his beehive fence farm which allows him to harvest his crops, and feed his family, prior to the fence Josphat and his family were used to being raided by elephants. Once he receives his first honey harvest and is able to make a profit from his hives Josphat is ambitious to rebuild his house so that it can comfortably fit his family. Josphat takes pride in his beehives and is very engaged with the project, he is regularly producing new inventive ideas to prevent honey badger attacks, Josphat’s father grandfather and great grandfather were all beekeepers which could explain his enthusiasm.
Phelicia, is one of our newer beehive fence farmers, and has a big farm with a great variety of crops, all of which are very inviting to elephants after they have visited the water hole that is right next to Phelicia’s farm. The arid environment in the Sagalla area, means this water hole is a popular place for elephants wandering outside of the national park, making Phelicia and her family susceptible to visiting elephants and consequently elephant damage. Felicia and her husband Mwabwaka Mwabili, have five children, three of which are still living at home and need to be supported, they hope that the money raised from selling their honey will help pay for their education. If you visit their farm, the likelihood is that you won’t see Phelicia, because as well as being farmer, she is also the treasurer to both the Kenyan Womens finance Trust and the Evangelical church in Mwambitti – she is a great role model to many of the female farmers in the community
We are positive about the success the beehive fence will bring Phelicia and her family, by protecting them from the many elephants that wander past her farm in search of water, but also from the honey she will produce due to an abundance of healthy and assorted plants and crops and a good supply of water. Many of Phelicia’s hives are already occupied and are successfully deterring the elephants from raiding her farm.
Nashon was one of our initial farmers in the Mwambitti community, he has been a long sufferer of elephant crop raids due to the location of his farm, preventing him from being able to harvest his crops since 2006 – up until now. The construction of his beehive fence in 2015 has meant that this year was the first year he was able to harvest his crops and provide food and support for his wife Rose, and two small children Jenta and Livingston. Nashon is fully engaged with the project, he takes great care of his bees and constantly monitors his hives and posts to ensure that the beehive fence is providing his farm and family with protection. Nashon began farming In Mwambitti in 2003, prior to this he was bought up by his grandparents who were also farmers and taught him how to plant and harvest crops, he also spent time with his uncles and worked as a carpenter selling furniture in the Mwambitti community. Not only does Nashon have the skills of a farmer and carpenter, but he has been selected by the community to be the Secretary of the Elders, making him responsible of bookkeeping and scribing during community meetings.
Nashon’s enthusiasm to the project is demonstrated not only by his careful attendance to his hives, but he has come up with new ideas to prevent honey badger attacks, such dedication has landed him with a part time job with the Elephants and Bees project. We are so pleased to have him on the team, he primarily assists with the Mwambitti farm and is a fantastic asset to the project. Nashon is looking forward to harvesting his hives, he has lots of hopes and ambitions for the money he receives from his honey sales.
Prior to being a farmer, Kala worked as a policeman in Mombassa and Nakuru. He began his farm in Mwambitti in 2003 with his wife Hana. They have 10 children, some of which live in town, Nairobi and Kibuesi, only one of his children remains at home to help Kala tend to the farm and take care of his beehive fence. Some of their children have their own children, and Kala and Hana love receiving visits from their 15 grandchildren. Kala’s farm consists of maize, peas, watermelon and Cassava, and a chicken and goats, he works hard to look after his hives and maintain his beehive fence, to ensure that the elephants that visit cannot cause damage to his farm. He is eager to start harvesting his honey, and has plans to use some of it to make medicine and the rest he wishes to sell back to the Elephants and Bees project to enable him to buy some animals for his farm, or more beehives with his profits.
Dinnaice “Dina” Kulolakiteto and Ngwale Mwasi
Before starting her farm in Mwambitti, Dina and her husband, Ngwale Mwasi, had a small farm in the nearby town of Voi. Dina moved to Mwambitti in 2002 for a larger plot of land to grow her crops and keep her goats and chickens, her husband still lives and works in Voi but relies on produce from Dina’s farm for food. Their four children live with her, and split their time between school and helping on the farm. Along with farming, Dina works as a housekeeper at a nearby hotel, she therefore spends a lot of time away from home, and relies heavily on her children to tend to the crops and livestock, and protect the farm in her absence.
Dina is the first beekeeper in her family, she works hard to take care of her hives and to teach her children how to maintain the fence. Many of Dina’s hives are occupied by large and healthy bee colonies, and she is looking forward to harvesting the sweet honey and using the profits to help pay for the school fees. Prior to her beehive fence she says elephants used to raid all the time, but now the beehive fence is deterring the elephants from entering her farm and she is able to harvest her crops successfully.
Wanjahi joined our team as a beehive fence farmer in July 2016. Wanjahi and his wife, Doris, moved to Mwambiti village in 1995. They grow a variety of crops on their farm including maize, cowpeas, cassava and pigeon peas. Wanjahi and Doris live on the edge of the village which unfortunately means that they are often the first farm visited by elephants who are looking for a tasty treat.
Wanjahi and Doris have six children, four boys and two girls. Their two eldest sons live in Voi and the four youngest children live at home and are still in school. They also have a young granddaughter who lives with them. Their eldest daughter hopes to be an English teacher when she leaves school.
Wanjahi’s brother lives on a neighboring farm and has his own beehive fence so Wanjahi and Doris have already experienced the benefits it brings. They hope to use the money they raise from selling their honey to pay for school fees and to build a new house. Doris likes elephants and hopes that the beehive fences will help to change the views of elephants among people in the village.
Eric Mwadime Mwasi
Eric with his big smile, hardworking persona and positive outlook on life is an exciting new member of the elephant and bees team. Eric inherited his shamba from his brother Judah who was one of our original beehive fence farmers in the village of Mwakoma. Eric cultivates maize, green grams, cowpeas and sunflowers on his land and rears cattle and goats which allows him to support his mother, sister Mary and her two children.
Eric like many of the farmers in Mwakoma was born and brought up on the Sagalla hill but today farms at the base of the hill, with his farm located at a key elephant corridor making him highly susceptible to visits by crop raiding elephants. Therefore, the construction of the beehive fence is of great benefit to him in his efforts to protect his crops from elephants. In fact, he has noticed a change in the transit patterns of elephants since the construction of the fence with the elephants making efforts to bypass his farm and keeping away from the periphery of the fence.
Eric is eagerly awaiting the next honey harvesting season so that he can sell his honey back to the Elephant and Bees project and with his profits he is hoping to buy a solar panel for his home. The investment in a solar panel will supply him power after dark and more importantly he wants to use the light as a further deterrent to keep the elephants away from his farm.
Josiah is one of our new beehive fence farmers having had his fence built in July 2016 due to the generosity of a donation from the Elephant Ignite team. Josiah and his wife, Margaret, moved to their farm in 1987. They grow many crops on their farm including cowpeas, melons, maize and chili. They find it challenging to farm their land as they are frequently raided by elephants.
Josiah and Margaret have four children; two boys and two girls. Two of their children are of school going age but currently only one of them attends school. They hope to use the money they raise selling their honey to send the other child to school. Josiah also has a bakery business and would also like to use the money to expand it. Josiah believes that the beehive fences are important for allowing the village and the elephants to live peacefully together. Margaret feels that their beehive fence has lifted their spirits and feels inspired to work hard on the farm. Margaret is a church elder and is involved in many church activities including the choir and the women’s guild.