Uki wa Makonge
This honey is collected from the sisal plant (Agave sisalana), locally known as makonge, hence the name uki wa makonge among the Akamba community. The bees collect nectar from the sisal flowers and make honey which is thicker than the one collected from other plants, and its colour ranges from cream to orange, with a unique sour taste.
The hives are placed near the sisal plantations or near the sisal plant but cannot be hung on the sisal plant because it has one stem and flowers are held on the top. The log hives were mounted by on trees or poles by men. The honey is harvested by two men: an elderly man is accompanied by a young man so that the harvesting knowledge can be passed on from one generation to the other. It is done twice a year, June and December, though it varies with the flowering times. It is usually carried out in the evening because in the evening bees are less active, they are smoked to make them docile, and then the honey can be collected. The honey is harvested through manual squeezing and then it is sieved with a light piece of cloth. The wax is used in making candles and ointments, and propolis is mainly used for its medicinal properties, to improve digestion and make cosmetic products.
Culturally the honey is used as a form of dowry payment. Among the Akamba community it is a tradition that a bridegroom is to bring a bucket of honey to the bride’s family as a way of appreciation and it also implies the love the bridegroom has for the bride is as sweet as honey. The honey was also used in making of traditional brew known as kimee, which was also offered as dowry as an appreciation to elders for allowing the bridegroom to marry. It was also applied on open wounds for medicinal purposes.
Christian missionaries deemed the customs of brewing beer from honey and using honey to pay the bride price unacceptable. For this reasons, many Kenyans who converted to Christianity align to this opinion and gave up the beekeeping tradition. The Akamba have a saying: “yesu emuyo kwi uki wa nzuki”, which means “Christ is sweeter than honey” which was used to encourage the Akamba to join Christianity.
Uki wa nzuki is at a risk of extinction because of the reducing number of beekeepers and because it is only produced near one sisal plantation in Makueni County.