Butterflies are now becoming a source of livelihood for many Coastal region women. 

Is there a story unfolding in your community? Let Hivisasa know

These women catch the butterflies from Arabuko-Sokoke forest which is a habitat for over 260 butterflies species, according to a Kenya Forest Service Officer Elvis Fondo.

30 per cent of the total population of butterflies in the country are said to inhabit the forest. 

"Butterfly farming is an ideal alternative source of income as it offers livelihood for those living near the forest. It also needs little investment," notes Fondo.

Jamila Rashid, together with other farmers, traps the insects using trap nets or baits such as materials with pheromone scent. 

When the butterflies are trapped, they are collected and kept in special structures. The erected structures vary in size depending on the number of butterflies ought to be kept.

The structures are then stashed with leaves, indigenous vegetables plus chunks of sweet scent which the butterflies feed on during their stay until they lay eggs which later become pupae. 

"The butterflies lay between 1,000 and 2,000 eggs during their lifespan," Jamila said. 

After hatching, the larvae feed on plants until they become pupae. The pupae are then sold to Kipepeo Butterfly Centre in Mombasa managed by East African Natural History Society and the Kenya National Museums.

After hatching, the butterflies are then released back to the forest for sustainability. The pupae are then sorted and classified according to various factors. These include eminence, species and whether or not the butterflies are infected. 

The factors determine how much a pupa fetches, but they range from Sh25-70 each. The pupae are later exported to North America, Turkey and also Europe. Sometimes they are sold locally to national museums and any other exhibition institutions.

The butterfly farming exercise has seen some farmers fetch up to Sh10,000 per week, which has improved their livelihoods. 

"After establishing their butterfly farms, many are now earning substantial incomes and are realizing the importance of conserving the forest as opposed to engaging in charcoal trade," notes a National Museums of Kenya research scientist Hussein Aden.