The Ogiek people are one of Kenya’s oldest tribes, living in the Mau Forest and other forests around Mount Elgon near the Ugandan border. The current population of 20,000, divided into groups and clans, has survived many years of persecution: during colonial rule they were exterminated and driven from their land and as recently as 1993, a British committee investigating land issues did not recognize them as a true tribe, but rather as a nomadic and unlawful population.
The Ogiek’s way of life is based on the natural resources provided by the forest; they are hunter-gatherers whose main activity is apiculture, but some also grow crops and raise animals. At one time beekeeping was carried out exclusively by men, in particular the community’s elders, who were entrusted with constructing the hives and harvesting honey without damaging the trees. The traditional hives – large cylinders of red cedar (a wood resistant to parasites and the elements) – are hung from tall trees. Today women are also getting involved in beekeeping, however they manage “top bar” hives situated on the ground. The men, continue to practice beekeeping in the trees, using vines to help them climb and burning dry moss to smoke the hives prior to harvesting honey.
The small black African honey bees kept by the Ogiek prefer the nectar produced by the Dombeya goetzeni plant’s flowers, which gives the honey collected in August its characteristic whitish-grey color and unique flavor. Honey harvested in December is instead slightly yellow in color and honey from February and April varies from reddish to almost black.
The Presidium was launched to protect the Mau Forest ecosystem and promote the value of the Ogiek people’s ancestral culture through their flagship product: honey. The Macodev cooperative, which brings together 12 groups of beekeep- ers, is working to increase pro- duction volumes, differentiate the various types of honey produced, improve packaging and promote the honey in shops, restau- rants and hotels. Since 2015 the Ogiek commu- nity has taken part in responsible tourism initiatives in collaboration with the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity and NECOFA.
Marioshoni district, Nakuru county
Martin Lele Kiptiony (Chairperson)
Tel. +254 725858713
Samson Kiiru Ngugi
tel. +254 719100913