“Honey is a secure source of income”

Story from the life of the Lopus family from Lomut in Kenya

By Peter Luthi, Project Reporter

Two small, sparsely furnished circular houses and an enclosure with 33 goats; such was the home of Chemunung and Peter Lopus in December 2006 when I last visited them. Their life in the remote Kerio Valley in West Pokot was not easy. Despite that, they radiated happiness because Chemunung had been delivered of a healthy boy three days earlier.

12 years later, last July, I visited the family again. They are now living further away from the village. When I entered the enormous yard with three spacious houses and a store, the couple came up to me with beaming smiles. “Do you remember”? says Chemunung pointing to a boy in a green T-Shirt. “That is Kibet.” When you last visited, he was three days old and I gave him his bath outside in front of the house”.

The couple now own a cow, a bull and four other cattle, 119 small domestic animals and an impressive array of chicken. They have bought a motorbike that Peter rides to take the honey harvest to the collection point in Lomut. Since 2004, he has been part of the Biovision project “Cabesi” and has learned how to produce pure honey. Peter started with five beehives and now has 35. In a good season he can produce half a ton of quality honey that he sells at a stable price at the Cabesi Marketplace for about 90,000 Kenyan shillings (about 800 Swiss Francs). “Honey is a secure source of income,” he says. “Even if the livestock die, the bees still continue to collect pollen and make honey”. Peter knows what he is talking about as during the last drought, he lost 7 cattle and 37 smaller animals. Fortunately, his livestock numbers have recovered.

Despite their success, Mr and Mrs Lopus still hold onto their simple life in the bush and their careful way of working. The profit from the lucrative honey business is invested cautiously. It allows all the children, including the girls, to complete their schooling. In West Pokot, that is not a matter of course. In addition, they are continuing to expand and Peter has already made 10 new beehives. This will allow them to improve their lives further and if the harvests collapse in the semi-arid Kerio Valley because of a lack of rain, they will have money to buy food.

As I leave, Chemunung presents me with a live hen. I am touched and I have no choice but to accept the gift. I ease my conscience with the realisation that the couple have achieved success and taken control of their lives.

  • With the project "Cabesi" a main source of income for the people of West Pokot was developed: High-quality honey.
  • In the beginning of the project was the training of the semi-nomads in modern beekeeping, shown here by the project manager Rolf Gloor.
  • 2006: Peter Lopus started with 5 bee hives. At that time he owned 33 goats, which formed the basis of his livelihood and that of his family.
  • 2006: Chemunung Lopus baths her three-day-old son named Kibet.
  • At that time the farm consisted of two small, simply furnished houses.
  • 12 years later: The farm and the buildings of the Lopus family are much bigger.
  • The decisive factor for the progress is the income from the sale of honey. Today Peter has 35 beehives. He is already storing additional hives in the stores.
  • 2018: Kibet is 12 years old today and attends school. In his spare time, he helps out with the goats.
  • The goat herd of the Lopus family has grown and totals 119 heads in July 2018. Peter and Chemunung have managed to significantly improve their standard of living.
  • Milking and the dairy business are women's responsibility. Here Chemunung Lopus receives help from a neighbour.
  • The market day in Lomut is very important for trade and as a meeting point for the population in the Kerio Valley.
  • The West Pokot were nomads and have settled down today. For them, honey production is an opportunity to master the transition and earn money.