Dar es Salaam — Through the great faith he has in the beekeeping business - and the plans that the government has put in place to bolster beekeeping and transform it into a viable commercial undertaking - an up-and-coming entrepreneur, Philemon Kiemi, believes that his chosen field of activity could one day make him a shilling billionaire.

This belief comes after he started producing other beekeeping products - including royal jelly and pollen - which currently have a large market locally and internationally.

Mr Kiemi started the beekeeping business at the age of 21 after graduating from the Sokoine University of Agriculture (Sua) in 2013, with a Bachelor's degree in Family and Consumer Studies.

He then took up post-graduate studies in Commercial Beekeeping at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel in 2014. After picking up practical experience in 28 other countries worldwide, he finally returned to his home village of Kisaki in Singida, central Tanzania, where he started beekeeping activities involving his relatives and fellow villagers.

When Kiemi was just 10 years old, he had a dream after he saw a wealthy version of himself surrounding with honey. With a few hives which he made from wood on his father's apiary in Kisaki, he started beekeeping in earnest in 2008 with a dream of seeing other youth benefit from his skills, knowledge and experience.

Mr Kiemi appreciated the government through the ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Division of Forest and Beekeeping resources to ensure effective management of beekeeping forages, review of beekeeping policy 1998 and current development of different policies and regulations at ministerial levels focusing on forestation and beekeeping income generating activities for improving community well-being of the people of Tanzania.

Currently, he owns 5,000 acres of land in Kisaki, which is appropriately enough named 'Kijiji Cha Nyuki' (Beekeeping Village), and on which he had established 9,000 commercial-class beehives, and a number of beekeeping-related factories.

The markets for beekeeping products are relatively large at both domestic and international/export levels. Domestic demand is currently high in Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, followed by Arusha, Morogoro and Singida regions.

Export markets for the products include Kenya, Rwanda, South Korea, the United States, Canada, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Mr Kiemi believes that the beekeeping subsector has the potential to contribute significantly to the national economy if people will transform beekeeping into an effective commercial undertaking. For starters, beekeepers must change from using traditional hives and adopt state-of-the-art technologies for increased productivity and bigger returns.

"My belief in the next five years the next billionaire will be from the bee industry because the government, through the ministry, is well prepared to continue investing in the people economically, it is also making efforts to help individuals to own private beekeeping reserves and protect the environment," said Mr Kiemi as the managing director of Kijiji Cha Nyuki Co. Ltd.

Future plans

Last year he started to produce other bee products pollen - which he branded 'Vumbi la Singida' - and royal jelly. But also the production of honey which is the core product increased and this year's plan is to double the production.

The company by the end of this year will be expanding its investments in Dodoma, Morogoro, Iringa, Manyara, Shinyanga, Arusha and Kilimanjaro regions so that residents and customers in those areas can access commercial beekeeping products and services more easily in line with the provision of monthly practical commercial beekeeping training for one month.

Some 3,245 youths have been trained on functional beekeeping in the past six years. Some of the young people have started beekeeping businesses in different parts of Tanzania and are reportedly doing quite well under the prevailing circumstances.

"We recommend that people continue to learn beekeeping commercially here to enable more young people to become self-employed in beekeeping," Mr Kiemi says. More than 80 people are employed by his company, while about two million others are currently benefiting through the beekeeping value chain.

The capital of the Kijiji Cha Nyuki Co. Ltd has increased to over Sh1 billion, and it plans to invest Sh200 million in 2021/22 in the production of new goods, namely royal jelly and bee pollen.

Statistics from the company show that last year the company produced more than 465 tonnes of honey, 546 kilogrammes of pollen, 11 tonnes of beeswax, 2 liters of propolis, 4 grams of bee venom and 23 litres of 'bee soup.'

The company also plans to complete the construction of primary, secondary schools, as well as a college next year, which will award certificates and diplomas based on a training course in commercial beekeeping.

Currently, the company owns five factories including those engaging in bee products processing, hives and protective gear production, as well as the manufacture of wax candles and pollen traps.

Why new products

"Basically, the market for honey is very large, and we have not been able to meet the demand," Mr Kiemi says - encouraging the youth and women to get into the clearly lucrative business of beekeeping as a self-employment tactic.

The government has now put in place a very good environment to ensure that beekeepers have the opportunity to prosper, and their products have the required market.

"I'm saying this industry can create wealth from bee products," he says, adding that, "the advantage of beekeeping is that each bee product is harvested without interfering with other production, unlike other crop production in which the beekeeper and farmer will have to stop one thing in order to get another product.

"For example, royal jelly is used as a nutritional supplement and treatment - with one litre of the product fetching Sh5 million in the market. A kilogramme of pollen is sold at between Sh250,000 and Sh300,000. All these provide a complete diet, and strengthen the immune system," Mr Kiemi says.