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African bee expert is mad about bees, honey and changing the status quo

Kenya’s passionate bee expert Jess de Boer, is one to watch as an emerging ChangeLeader in the sustainable world.

I first connected with Jess as the founder of INSPIRED Talks in Nairobi, where local ChangeMakers are invited to share their conscious work with the community.

But I didn’t fully appreciate who she is, until I tasted her spectacular caramel-flavoured raw honey and learned more about her work.

This magical sweetness is “chokka blok with all the super enzymes and pollen” that is usually destroyed with commercial, heat-treated honey. Add to that the loving vibration passed on from the happy bees.

Merging ancient practices with modern methods

Jess 1What makes Jess so special are her desire to preserve age-old sustainable practices, and her commitment to supporting women in rural areas.

Her work as a bee expert (initially trained in South Africa) and a sustainable livelihoods consultant takes her to rural and traditional communities, where she learns about their reverence for nature.

In the Cambodian interiors, for instance, Jess found that the traditional hunters had surprisingly destructive bee keeping practices, but “were otherwise so connected and dependent on their environment for survival, that it made me appreciate how detached I had become as a modern westerner.”

Transformed by her experience, Jess is committed to working more with traditional communities and sharing their best practices. “They have so much to teach about balance and respect of the natural world.”

In January 2015, she left Kenya to learn more about bee keeping in Ethiopia where honey is in high demand, though the hives sit mysteriously up high in the trees.

Growing the potential for bee keeping and honey production in Kenya

Bee keeping is well practiced throughout Kenya and local honey is delicious, but still a luxury that most Kenyans cannot yet afford.

Despite the thriving practice and nutritious benefits of consuming home-based raw honey, Kenya unfortunately imports 60%jess 2 of its honey from Tanzania and Ethiopia, Africa’s two largest producers. Even more disappointing is that European honey is also available here.

“There is SO MUCH potential in this country,” says Jess. “But the lack of support and information available for people interested in bee keeping means there is much work to be done!”

Where to buy raw honey

Part of that work also includes making it legal to sell raw honey in the supermarkets. For the moment, you can purchase Jess’ stunning 500g jars for 700 kshs each. Email deboer.jess@gmail.com. All of the proceeds from her sales go towards local bee projects.

You can also purchase good raw honey from Honey Care Africa, based in Nairobi. A 1 kg jar is 600 kshs and free delivery may be possible. Email Natasha Nurani: natasha.nurani@honeycareafrica.com.

Bees need our support. What can we do?

Jess 3Let every taste of your beautiful raw honey remind you that bee populations all over the world are in danger, which threatens our food security and environmental balance.

“One in every THREE mouthfuls of foods we eat depends directly and indirectly on pollination by honeybees,” says Jess. “We humans are just one small aspect of an incredibly complex system, and we are responsible for maintaining that system for ourselves and for future generations.”

Here’s what you can do:

1. Support a local, eco-friendly bee keeper.

2. Do not buy imported honey. Local, raw honey is best.

3. Get a bee hive, or plant some flowers for them in your garden. Bees get so hungry, especially in the urban areas and each little blossom helps.

4. Give thanks to our bees for their incredible gifts. Your gratitude will help to increase their chances of thriving.

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