The smell of flowers during the brilliant 13 months of sunshine, the buzzing of bees flying out of their hive on a beautiful morning, the collection of ripe honey; apiculture is an intriguing profession. On the first sunrise of the year, the bees leave the hive looking for nectar and pollen. When collecting nectar and pollen, the bees land on many flowers and ensure the pollination of the plants. The bees draw the nectar from the flower and enrich it by adding enzymes. In the beehive the bees thicken the honey, after which the honey is stored in the wax cells to ripe.
My name is Jony Girma, I am 38 years old from Ethiopia, the country with a huge potential of high value organic bee product like honey, beeswax, and propolis. I am a professional in organic agriculture and agricultural economics. The experiences that I have developed in the bee research centre, and honey and beeswax processing company I worked at, have motivated me to work with the honeybees.
After critical evaluation of apiculture sectors, a decision was made to enter into organic honey production, processing, and marketing business due to the high and intact potential of the country. The honey sector in the country is one of the few sectors that has the most potential to achieve transformation and growth across all categories of rural households. There are an estimated 5.15 million hives in Ethiopia almost all of which are maintained entirely by traditional methods by approximately 1.4–1.7 million beekeeping households. They keep bees as a means of income generation.
Beekeeping does not require fertile land, a large area, or much initial capital. This makes the sector attractive for small farmers with limited resources. It is also an environmentally sustainable activity that can be combined with crop production, animal husbandry, horticulture, and conservation of natural resources without clashing with any of these activities. As a result, the importance of beekeeping to poverty reduction and conservation of natural resources has been emphasized by different stakeholders.
However, despite its potential role in the development of rural economy, the beekeeping sector faces a number of problems. Lack of beekeeping skills, inappropriate production technologies, weak market access, weak price incentive systems, and limited financial capacity of beekeepers are the major problems which largely reduce the potential contribution of the honey sub-sector.
As per my perspective to have sustainable honey supply for the market, it is vital to intervene to control these major problems. As a result, I have started working with beekeepers to fill the skills gap; to create access to improved technology and market. To solve these problems strategically I plan to establish well-organized and -equipped demonstration site inside beekeepers’ villages. This site is a centre of knowledge, skill, and information source for the beekeepers.
Since beekeeping activities are seasonal, it is important to make all season specific information available on time. Beekeepers will be trained, share experience and practice before adopting improved technologies. In addition, beekeeping researchers use this site as research unit which create good opportunity for beekeepers to meet with experts.
The site will consist of modern technologies, ideal apiary site, training room, information source like posters, videos and audio, books, bulletins, and any related information from the government, research centres, and any other sources. Colony management follow up, consulting and monitoring of organic system production will be facilitated from this site. Mobile system alerting of beekeepers will be also done from this site. All the beekeepers will receive information message using their mobile about seasonal activities to be carried out.
Currently, I have 200 beekeepers trained and already signed onto contracts to supply their product to me. The training package is farmers’ level business training to shift them to commercialized beekeepers. All are organized as one to five with the model beekeepers for easy apicultural technology dissemination. I also have the land to develop demonstration site near to beekeepers village.
I have planned to train and certify 2,000 organic beekeepers as suppliers of organic bee product. All my out-growers should have tree plantation program. Each beekeeper will plant and grow multipurpose trees ten times the number of beehives they have. As a result of this approach I will have organic-certified beekeepers who can generate income to improve their livelihood and conserve the natural forest.
I have a slogan to motivate out-growers to achieve my plan called ‘No Trees, No Bees, No Honey, No Money’. This plays a great role in keeping our business and system work sustainable. Unless beekeepers enjoy an income, they don’t have an interest in supplying honey. The intended project will use the budget (USD 5,000) as follows:
- Establishing modern, well-organized apiary site
- Construction of training room (32 square metres) with mini information centre
- Purchase beekeeping accessories equipment
- Purchase and compiling of information related to apiculture, books, manuals, posters, brushers, video, research output, and others.
- Purchase of training materials.
The beekeeping materials, which are expensive for beekeepers, will be available for beekeepers to use in group by lending it from the learning centre. The impact of this intervention will be evaluated by, technology centre/learning centre established, adopted technologies, tree planted and grown, quantity and quality honey supplied, and income generated by beekeepers. The nature of the business and potential of the area make the intervention strongly sustainable.
The intervention area is covered with immense natural forests which can be used as nectar source for honey bees. Consequently, this area is the ideal place for organic honey production. Every household has its own forest land with big trees used to hang traditional bee hives.
The forest land is traditionally transferred from generation to generation through a system called Kobo. This cultural practice helps the farmers to conserve the natural forest. The involvement of households in honey production is more than 80% in the intervention area.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Jony Girma (Ethiopia): jgmeshesha[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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