Beekeeping in Amhara is a well-established activity, part and parcel of the livelihoods of very many farmers. Selling honey for honey wine, medicine and to be eaten as a food has driven the trade. Selling refined honey or table honey is a relatively new idea.
Early in 2012 Tilahun Gebey, an exceptionally highly motivated beekeeper and development worker in Amhara contacted Bees for Development expressing his strong interest in dedicating more of his time to beekeeping development work. BfD have known Tilahun for many years and knew and valued his expertise and experience.
Tilahun Gebey, Director (right) and
Ammanuel Mengiste , Coordinator, in the office of Bees for Development Ethiopia in Bahir Dar. Bees for Development Ethiopia has been registered in Ethiopia as a local charity and is governed by 5 Board Members.
Together we formed the idea of setting up an Apiculture Centre of Excellence in Amhara. The idea was to establish an institution which could act as a hub and a catalyst – for trade, for knowledge, for research and for learning. It was clear that beekeeping and honey trade had the potential to alleviate poverty in Amhara – but developing this potential is a complex business. Markets are changing, agriculture practices are changing, new challenges and opportunities are emerging and for beekeeping to have an impact on poverty calls for actions on many levels.
Trade Advance Ltd joined forces with Bees for Development in 2012 and supported BfD and Tilahun Gebey to make the Centre of Excellence a reality. This report tells of some of the main achievements over the past six months.
Below, Tilahun is discussing with beekeepers in Libokemkem woreda. Beekeepers say they mainly use local style hives but the Livestock Agency encourages them to use frame hives. It is relatively easy to sell honey – there are many local traders. Beekeepers say the price they get is too low but they also know that traders pay higher prices for the best quality honey.
Here beekeepers are learning how to make top-bar hives using materials they can access easily. Top-bar hives allow some colony management but they are cheaper than frame hives and no additional equipment, such as a honey extractor, is required.
These hives are owned by a group of young people who have no land of their own. They have been allowed to keep hives in catchment areas which are being protected to restore the natural vegetation (see background). Bees for Development Ethiopia is planning to work with these groups to help them progress. The potential is there, but it will take time for these youths to gain good skills in beekeeping and make a real success of this opportunity.
ApiExpo 2012 was an international show which took place in Addis Ababa in October. Both Bees for Development Ethiopia and Molla Jember, another partner of BfDE and Trade Advance, gave talks at the conference.
Tewebe Nigru and Muluken Anteneh keep bees. They also apply pesticides to their vetch crop. They know that the pesticides are killing the bees but don’t know what to do about it. This is a clash between beekeeping and modern agriculture which is happening all across Amhara. Bees for Development Ethiopia has submitted a funding application to Big Lottery UK for a project to try and solve this problem. There are changes that can be made to the way people use pesticides so bee poisoning can be reduced. It takes dialogue, discussion and new policies to make this change. That is what BfDE is setting out to do.
Honey traders buy and sell honey. They reach even the remotest communities and play an essential part in the honey market chain as a whole. They don’t have it all their own way. Some beekeepers deliberately store honey for the post-harvest season so they can sell to the traders for a higher price. The biggest constraint which traders face is that they too are poor! They can only buy small volumes of honey which means they can never make enough money to build a honey store, to bulk honey, to process honey. This makes it hard for traders to take advantage of new market opportunities for refined or table honey. Beekeeping cooperatives are able to do this because they can attract help from the government. However, unlike traders who are canny business-men co-operatives tend to suffer from being too bureaucratic and they incur wasteful overheads. This then means they become uncompetitive. In the end beekeepers find traders can pay better prices than their ‘own’ co-operatives. For trading systems to work well for the trade and for the beekeepers there needs to be information and networking. Bees for Development Ethiopia is working to make this happen.
Apiculture is taught at Bahir Dar University. Bees for Development Ethiopia has been approached by the University with view to working together to develop a new MSc course. It is essential that professionals working in government and in the NGO sector are well trained and understand how to develop beekeeping, the industry as a whole, in a sustainable way for the benefit of the poor.
Achievements June to December 2012
Bees for Development Ethiopia registered as an Ethiopian NGO
Full time staff, including accountant, in place
Board of 5 Trustees have volunteered to govern the organisation
Attended ApiExpo 2012 in Addis Ababa and made presentation at the conference
Translated Bees for Development training modules into Amharic
Won an additional £10,000 from Marr Munning Trust to train beekeeper trainers
Written three funding applications to train trainers, develop new trading systems with local honey traders and to develop a Code of Conduct for improved use of pesticides to reduce honey bee poisoning
Liaison and sharing of ideas with SNV, OXFAM and ACDI VOCA with view to collaborative working
Technical advice given to Link Ethiopia about apiary establishment
Worked with Livestock Bureau in developing apiculture training manual for Amhara
Formed an agreement with Bahir Dar University concerning supervising research projects of apiculture students and developing a new curriculum