Story | 07 Jun, 2023

Livelihood diversification for local communities

An option to enhance smallholder resilience and alternative sources of livelihood in the face of climate change.

The TRI project in Kenya is working to enhance the livelihoods and socioeconomic circumstances of local beekeepers by targeting skills for the improved production of quality honey and related bee products, better market access and group profitability.

The Mukogodo Forest is a dryland forest at the northern edge of the Laikipia North Subcounty (Laikipia County of Kenya), surrounded by rangelands. Such rangelands are occupied by pastoralist communities whose livelihoods depend on livestock. During dry seasons, cattle enter the forest in search of pasture and water, which increases the threat of deforestation and land degradation. This contributes to the already stressed forest landscape becoming increasingly fragile and vulnerable to climate change. There is a rampant loss of ecosystem services and biodiversity, which collectively undermines the ability of the biophysical environment to sustain human beings and their livelihoods.

Thus, income diversification is important to encourage communities to protect their local environment and natural resources. Given this crucial need, the activities of TRI in the Mukogodo Forest in Kenya have been focused on honey production and value chain development. It is estimated that only 20 percent of the total honey value of the greater Mukogodo Forest landscape is being harvested. This potential is what the Dupoto Beekeepers cooperative is tapping into by acting as a collection and aggregation point, processor and marketer for beekeepers across the Mukogodo Forest.

TRI Kenya ASAL Women belonging to the Olingo Lelatia Women Group work collecting firewood in the Mukogodo Forest. Photo: FAO/Luis Tato

Mukogodo has diverse agroecological zones – upper highland zones, lower highland zones and lowland zones – which are suitable for beekeeping in different seasons. As such, beekeeping is a smart land-use practice for improved incomes and livelihoods.

The TRI project implemented in Kenya by FAO, together with partners, is working to enhance the livelihoods and socioeconomic circumstances of local beekeepers by targeting skills for the improved production of quality honey and related bee products, better market access and group profitability. Community Beekeeping Committees were formed under the cooperative to enhance productivity and profitability in the honey value chain. The project is building the capacity in bee colony and beehive management, leadership and governance, and the control of pests and diseases, as well as providing access to quality honey and processing. 

Community members gain skills through training, which has been an “eye-opener” to many and is seen as a contributing factor to bringing back the glory of the great communities of Mukogodo and their forest. So far, membership is steadily growing from 270 to 350 members, along with an increase in beehives from 2 700 to 3 100 in less than one year of implementation. Members have also agreed on honey collection points, and this cooperation is leading to unity of purpose and the reduction of conflicts that previously existed over pastures. Apiculture – with the relevant infrastructure, technology and improved market access for honey and bee products – can build a good business model to create wealth, restore the environment, increase biodiversity and, overall, improve livelihoods for the people of the greater Mukogodo area.

While these apiculture activities have created important livelihood opportunities within the region, it is important to consider a related issue: the Mukogodo Forest and surrounding community lands have experienced a water crisis recently, with wells, springs, seasonal rivers and dams drying up as the forest has no permanent river flowing through it. Such water crises are largely attributable to climate change and climate variation, prolonged droughts and increased pressure on both forest and water resources, precipitated by an increased population of humans, livestock and wildlife.
TRI is combating this water crisis, by supporting the successful rehabilitation of five water infrastructure sites at a time of low rainfall. This has provided water for more than 10 000 community members. The project supported the rehabilitation of two boreholes and a concrete tank, the protection of three springs, the replacement of worn pipes, the construction of a new water tank, the installation of solar panels (to power the water pump) and the provision of three troughs for wildlife and livestock at strategic sites. To ensure sustainable operations and the maintenance of each water point, there is a dedicated community committee at each site.

“The Loolera water project has really helped bring water closer to people. We sincerely thank FAO, The Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) and ILMAMUSI for rehabilitating this spring and piping water closer to our homesteads,” said Amos Moiyare, Sieku location

Such activities were necessary to begin reversing the water crisis in the ecosystem as a part of the FLR process. The process also aimed to minimize human-wildlife conflict by rehabilitating and establishing water troughs and water points for wildlife and livestock.

"The water potential for wildlife of the Olgiriai water spring has been successfully unlocked in Il Ngwesi Conservancy. With the rehabilitation works by ILMAMUSI, FAO and LWF, tourists at Il Ngwesi lodge are now able to enjoy interacting with wildlife at the water point established close to the lodge by tapping water from Olgiriai spring and channelling it to the wildlife water point which is close to the lodge. We are really grateful to our partners who made this project a success," said Nancy Tausi, II Ngwesi Conservancy

The TRI project in Kenya has provided successful livelihood alternatives through apiculture while simultaneously addressing the needs of community members through water projects. Both actions are critically important in the face of climate change and will continue to be prioritized in future years of project implementation. The project looks forward to learning from fellow successes and lessons learned from projects across the globe.

This story is from TRI Year in Review 2022