Mapping of the honey value chain and analysis of changes in gender roles and factors influencing women empowerment among beekeepers in Kitui county, Kenya
Beekeeping is an important activity that helps rural communities to raise additional income to improve their livelihoods. Often, among rural beekeeping households, it has been widely adopted as an income diversification strategy. In addition, it is a sustainable form of agriculture beneficial to the environment. An intervention conducted by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), introduced modern hives such as the Langstroth and the stingless beehive through the Commercial Insect Programme (CIP) of the institute. Trainings given to the community were for the development of a value chain and hence the formation of farmer groups that aided in marketing of honey and other beekeeping products. Furthermore, the introduction of stingless beekeeping that is friendly was to encourage more women to participate in beekeeping. Owing to these interventions, beekeeping had now become an important income generating activity for both men and women in Kitui County. However, how beekeeping and commercialization of beekeeping products had influenced gender roles at the household level and factors influencing participation of households in CIP as well as women empowerment remain unknown. In this study, the gender analysis framework was used to identify gender roles, while beekeeping value chain analysis gave the study a structure and was useful in identifying actors along the value chain. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to construct a composite index of Women empowerment. Indicators used to proxy women empowerment were drawn from five key areas; entrepreneurship or management of the apiary and other farm enterprises; labour use; acquisition and disposal of apiary; household and farm assets; children schooling decisions as well as acquisition and use of credit. A total sample of 498 household beekeepers comprising 251 CIP beneficiaries and 247 non-beneficiaries (NCIP) were interviewed during the study. Data were collected though the use of a semi-structured questionnaire and analysed using descriptive statistics and the Heckman sample selection model. The findings of the study indicated that among the CIP households, women performed significantly more beekeeping activities for honey production compared to those in the NCIP households. Results also revealed that CIP women participated significantly more in making key decisions regarding beekeeping enterprise compared to NCIP women. This indicated that participation in beekeeping through the CIP led to a positive change in gender roles. Further, the study revealed that positive and significant factors influencing households’ participation in CIP were dependency ratio, number of income sources, age of the household head, experience in beekeeping, quantity of honey harvested and access to credit by the household head. In addition, significant factors influencing women empowerment index (WEI) positively were gender of household head, number of income sources and beehive types used while dependency ratio was negatively associated with WEI. Finally, the difference in WEI was statistically significant when comparing CIP and non-CIP beneficiaries. The study concluded that, adoption of modern technologies among rural households such as modern hives contributed significantly to changes in gender roles, increased women participation and empowerment among beekeepers. The study provides evidence that income diversification and use of modern beehives are likely to improve women empowerment. In addition, championing of income diversification through introduction of modern technologies by governmental and non-governmental agencies and consideration of gender mainstreaming may contribute to income and food security among rural households.