Kiambati easily passes in my home area as a man who would have gone places if he had gone all the way and did his KCPE. Unfortunately, he dropped out in class seven after a thorough beating by Mr Mutugu, the ruthless head teacher of Mashambani Primary School.
In the village, Kiambati is known to introduce most of the new technology and unique crops. He becomes a chief campaigner of the new thing he introduces and is known to make tidy sums of money from these ventures. However, he always abandons the new thing within a year and leaves many people on their own.
He was behind the aloe vera scandal, where many farmers uprooted food crops to plant it only to be disappointed. He again introduced the quail idea that saw hundreds of farmers discard chicken rearing for the ill-fated quail madness.
In his latest venture, Kiambati has been on a daring mission. A certain NGO has been selling the idea of bee keeping in my sub-location. What attracts farmers is that it does not require land, it needs only trees. So, farmers imagine that with the high demand for honey, which the NGO is buying anyway, it is a good deal.
However, my people still have this uncanny fear of bees and many are being charged exorbitantly for harvesting their honey.
There are approximately 300 families with at least six hives. So Kiambati is doing quick mathematics. Honey harvesters from Kitui charge Sh500 for each hive. This is the money Kiambati is eyeing.
Kiambati wants to drop these charges to Sh200. But he wants to be unique. Instead of harvesting honey wearing all the anti-sting outfits, Kiambati had been told by his friend, Nzuki, a top bee farmer, that some honey harvesters in Kitui do it while naked!
Nzuki doesn’t believe in magic and has always rubbished these stories. Instead, he has adopted modern beekeeping.
This is what Kiambati wants to do — harvesting honey while naked and charging Sh200. For this drastic drop in honey harvesting charges, Kiambati is sure to make a killing.
On a recent Saturday morning, Kiambati, accompanied by Mutie, Nzuki’s former school mate, arrived in Endau, a remote village just before you cross over to Tana River County from Kitui. Mutie took him to a small compound after the usual no vaa no vaa (it is just here) that ended up with them walking for almost 20km!
Here, he would be trained on naked honey harvesting by an elderly man who is more known for witchcraft-related gimmicks than anything else.
Naked honey harvesting would be the selling point for his new cheaper charges. It would also create mystery around him, or so he thought.
“You are lucky as this is the harvesting season,” the old man remarked after Mutie explained to him the mission.
After paying Sh2,000 for the training, Kiambati was ready for the first lesson. The old man narrated his long experience in harvesting honey and the enviable knowledge he has about bees. “The practicals will be done at night,” he told them.
When evening came, they headed to a baobab tree that had about 15 bee hives. They made a fire to provide smoke. The honey containers were ready.
“Remove all the clothes,” ordered the old man. Kiambati was then given some honey to smear all over his body. The bees wouldn’t sting, they said. They would just lick the honey.
The aging man went up the tree first. Mutie and another younger man followed, but on a different branch. Still naked, they smoked the entries of the hives and the lid was removed. The old man started blowing the wooden torch to provide some light and smoke. With ease, he put his hand in the traditional hive!
Kiambati almost fell off the tree as the hundreds of bees buzzed around him.
“I could feel some crawling on my body. The assurance that they can’t sting wasn’t sufficient!” Kiambati narrated. He sweated heavily and started shaking like a leaf.
“Bees don’t like that!’ shouted the elderly man. The honey on his body started flowing with the sweat. One by one, the stinging began. They started with his back, down his belly and then his face. He could stay up longer.
He quickly climbed down the tree as the enraged bees followed him. Once down, he run towards the old man’s house shouting for help.
The only thing he remembers is that when he woke up, he was buried in soil in the old man’s compound.
The scary mission was aborted. He would never try naked harvesting again. Kiambati is now back to the village with a swollen body.