A lot can go wrong – Kerry Glen
Hurters owes its success to having ownership of the entire supply chain and working closely with, training and investing in beekeepers – but few other companies have been as business-minded in their approach. Beekeeping in Africa is largely run by NGOs, which set up rural communities with basic equipment and then leave. There is not enough training and no access to market; within a couple of years, it’s common to find the equipment has been sold for cash or used as firewood. A lot can go wrong – Kerry Glen Kerry Glen founded Ewaso River Honey in 1995, as more of a community project than a business, purchasing honey from people in northern Kenya. Glen says beekeepers are either unable to scale their operations or unwilling due to the costs of taking honey to market and the unpredictability of yields: “A lot can go wrong,” she says, using Kenya’s drought two years ago as an example. Pesticide use on commercial farms is another problem. Hurters offers pollination services – another income stream for beekeepers – on litchi and orange farms in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province. “We go in with 2,000 hives. We come out with about 200,” says Jacques Hurter, the founder’s son and until recently, the CEO of Hurters. “It’s killing off the trade.” Ernest Simeoni, owner of Nairobi-based African Beekeepers, also tells me he’s lost a lot of bees to pesticide use in Kenya: “It’s a serious problem,” he stresses, adding that it’s the same story in Tanzania. Jacques Hurter left his CEO role last year to explore new ventures in Zambia and Malawi. His aim is to build a high-end Southern African honey brand. He has a site just outside Livingstone, Zambia, where he is setting up 1,000 Langstroth hives – the first of 200,000. There will be a processing plant at which outgrowers (contracted beekeepers) can drop off their honey, which Hurter will then buy and market. He will also provide training and funds for Kenyan top-bar hives, which are more commercial than the traditional bark hives.