The Akamba are a Bantu-speaking people from the semi-arid regions of central southern Kenya. Traditionally, they have traded wool, ivory, seeds, and other goods with Arabs and tribal peoples throughout the region.
For the Akamba, honey is an especially important product, with both nutritional and cultural value. One legend says that the gods living in the mountains gave honey to the Akamba ancestors, distributing it equally to the people, regardless of their wealth.
Prosopis juliflora honey is collected from the Prosopis juliflora tree, a leguminous tree that grows in semi-arid lands and whose bark is used to cure stomach pains. The beehive, called mwatu, is made from the wood of a tree known as kithulu (Croton megalocarpus). The wood for the hives is shaped and left to dry in the sun, to rid the bark of its undesirable fragrances. Preparation of the beehive can take an entire month and is very delicate work.
It is said that the Akamba ancestors positioned their hives high in the Prosopis juliflora trees, as close as possible to the ancestral gods, and that, 4 months later, a community festival was organized so that the harvested honey could be shared. Today, Akamba beekeepers tend to place the hives in hilly and mountainous areas. During the harvest, which takes place at night, the beekeepers light enormous fires to smoke out and stun the bees so that the honey can be easily collected. Traditionally, only adult men in groups of five were allowed to extract the honey.
The honey, which is ready to eat 4 months after it is harvested, is used in various food preparations, or added to infusions. Additionally, Prosopis juliflora honey plays an important role in ceremonies such as baptisms, weddings, and initiation rites. This honey is at risk of disappearing because the native bees are becoming rarer due to climate change and the number of people dedicating themselves to traditional beekeeping continues to decrease.