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Livelihoods-conservation initiatives: Evidence of socio-economic impacts from organic honey production in Mwingi, Eastern Kenya

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Community-based initiatives with a double objective of improving rural livelihoods and conserving forest resources face the challenge of balancing the two objectives without creating trade-offs. Our study investigates the socio-economic performance of a community-based initiative that uses cooperative-driven organic certification of honey producers in Mwingi, Eastern Kenya, to improve livelihoods and acacia woodland management. Data were collected through a household survey of 303 beekeepers from 38 organic certified and 16 non-certified beekeeper groups. More data were collected using key informant interviews, informal conversations, participant observation, participatory rural appraisal, internal document reviews and secondary sources. The survey included questions regarding beekeepers' livelihood activities, organisation involvement, quantity of honey produced and sold, net honey income and welfare perceptions after certification (2015) and before certification (2008), retrospectively. The results showed minimal to no significant impacts of certification on households' incomes, honey quantity or sales prices, as the general development, though positive, followed that of the non-certified households. The lack of impacts stemmed from failure to monitor and technical backstopping of certified beekeepers, a poor cooperative management and mistrust among the members and Mwingi organic cooperative board. The board mainly bought honey from a non-certified middleman thereby undermining the Mwingi organic cooperative's values as well as their own potential niche market. On a positive note, the cooperative's honey market place, receiving customers from afar, has the potential to support the development of a niche organic market outlet. However, this requires reconnection of the cooperative to its members, trust rebuilding and transparent management of the cooperative. The study exemplifies a case of community-based livelihoods-conservation initiative which did not take local community capacity development and more general long-term project sustainability into consideration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalForest Policy and Economics
Volume97
Pages (from-to)132-145
Number of pages14
ISSN1389-9341
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

ID: 203371900