YAP proposal #130: Self-help Business Model in Harmony with Nature (Jony Girma, Ethiopia)

Picture_Beekeeper site_Happy farmer

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.

Picture_Working area in the forest

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.

This post is published as proposal #130 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.

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987 thoughts on “YAP proposal #130: Self-help Business Model in Harmony with Nature (Jony Girma, Ethiopia)

  1. I think the proposed business idea is not merly a business but also fills the gaps that farmers or honey producers have. And also it is a business & service provision model which could be replicated. On my side the amount of budget is not enough to do so, but can show innovative approach to support honey producers.

  2. it is a very nice proposal because it is eco-friendly and it is important to conduct eco-friendly research to protect our environment from pollution.

  3. This is the project with great vision to help poor traditional beekeeprs in rural Ethiopia. It deserve recognition. Great performance by Jony

  4. Supporting the projects of such educated young entrepreneurs conducted on agriculture sector is the spring board to transform the very traditional agricultural system of countries like Ethiopia.This project has so many social advantages,is viable economically and is environmental friendly.
    So johny do it or die!!!! We are with you.

  5. Indeed, it is a very interesting and motivating idea. I am sure many small-scale beekeepers will benefit from this.

  6. Such types of project are very vital towards sustainable production of any agricultural products and for combating of the ever-changing global climate. For ecosystem-based productions such as apiculture, holistic approaches are always critically needed. This project by Jony Girma is one of the best examples since it focuses on the main actors (farmers) and resources (the ecosystem – forest and bees), and their links. Furthermore, the project well addresses the processing and marketing parts of the system. The project proposal thus can help to achieve well-trained farmers that can focus on and targeting a sustainable apicultural production and thereby maintaining the balance between the production and the conservation and further expansion of the forest ecosystem. For such balanced production system the traditional knowledge and practices, which are considered in this project, are always very crucial. The proposed project thus deserves a selection for further evaluation and funding.

  7. Forest based honey production is good opportunity for the beekeepers living in the forest. As a result, they conserve the forest since they can make money from the forest. Good idea please push forward.

  8. It is an innovative idea to move forward; for improving the livelihoods of small scale beekeepers, forest resources conservation and keeping our ecology safely. Ethiopian Beekeepers will be highly benefited from such type of practically visible demonstration sites along with capacity building you have already started. Keep on working hard. Good Luck!

  9. Well thought I like how the idea affects the people(beekeepers). It can change many beekeepers life’s while helping our country show its potential. I have no doubt that if courage is put into every day tasks which i sense its already there in the blog , it’ll do nothing but spread and produce great outcomes…
    Best of luck

  10. It is an innovative idea to move forward; For improving the livelihood of small scale beekeepers, forest resources conservation and keeping our ecology safely. Ethiopian beekeepers will be highly benefited from such type of practically visible demonstration sites along with capacity building which you already have started. Keep on working hard. Good Luck!

  11. Organic honey from the forest area is the best way to support yourself, the comminute and to conserve the nature. This is in line with organic principles. Good Luck.

  12. One of the best way to support the community in the forest. Good intervention. Do you have honey processing center or it is under plan?

  13. Dear, Jony thank you for the initiatives. I like your idea to exploit the organic honey potential of the country.To establish the center and also materials for the farmers that they will lend from the training center, the budget you proposed is very small. Even you have to think boarding center like Holetta where other interested youth or beekeepers will pay and got training from all over the country. Therefore, you have make a big project and also dream that you will have millions of beekeepers from all over the country!!

    1. Thank you. The budget is only for the intended activities. Other activities will be done by own contribution.

  14. I think this business model is an innovative one. It is a kind of social enterprise in which both the bee keeper and the business owner mutually benefit. I would like to pass my appreciation for the initiator.

  15. You did a good job. It is a problem solving business proposal that helps the farmers or even anyone with a very little investment. It is environmental friendly and sustainable technology. Good luck.

  16. Indeed, there are huge knowledge and skill gaps among beekeepers in Ethiopia on modern beekeeping. Hence, your initiative in filling such gaps is an essential starting point. All the best.

  17. Certainly, there are huge knowledge and skill gaps among beekeepers in Ethiopia on modern beekeeping. Hence, your initiative in filling such gaps is an essential starting point. All the best.

  18. Organic honey production in natural forest area. Good opportunity for sustainable development for forest based community. Good luck. How the forest is managed is it government or farmers?

    1. Hi Selo thank you for the comment. Currently, the forest is managed by the beekeepers. the have interesting culture of conserving the forest. The forest land is owned by beekeepers and transferred from generation to generation. Cutting the forest is like killing a person. They have cultural court.

  19. Nice to have such ideas to link the farmers livelihood to the forest conservation. Without any benefit farmers have no interest to conserve the forest. Good luck.

  20. Organic agriculture for environment, community and business. This has multiple effect. Please keep it up. Good luck.

  21. I would like to appreciate your effort. This is important intervention for countries like Ethiopia with huge potential of honey production.

  22. Dear Jony I like your intervention and it is good for the beekeepers looking for sustainable development. Is there any support from govremnt for such intervantions? Good luck.

    1. Yes, the idea is in line with government agricultural transformation plan. After this pilot project everybody will use it to scale up.

  23. Since I am from the beekeepers family I know how it is difficult to produce honey in traditional system. this type of approach largely help the beekeepers to use modern technology. Good luck. Please think how to reach many beekeepers.

    1. Thank you Hailu. I am thinking to work with other stakeholders to scale up the project once it is well done in proposed areas.

  24. Organic Honey production for export market is really promising line in current international market. Good looking.

  25. It is a brilliant idea; I hope it will add one step further in the apiculture sectors.

    BTW. the slogan ‘No Trees, No Bees, No Honey, No Money’ is motivating.

    Good Luck Jony.

  26. I have question how can you participate the beekeepers in conserving the existing forest? Good luck. Nice idea.

  27. Hi Jony this project is important for beekeepers keeping the forest without any benefit. Everybody who like to see forest should support and follow such approach. unless it is near to loss the current forest coverage we have.

  28. The current economic development for agri based economy needs such type of approach in harmony with nature.

  29. Interesting project. This is vital for rural development forest based policy implementation. Be serious in scale up the idea.

  30. Nice project. It is a way to be out of poverty for forest based communities. Think about he finance source (loan) for beekeepers. Good luck.

    1. I have training package how to make beehives from locally available materials. Regarding the loan I will link them to finance institution and also I will arrange some small loan to be repaid in kind.

  31. Hi Jony this approach is important for country like Ethiopia with huge potential of honey production. Ethiopia is producing only 10% of the potential. Exploring this opportunity is good for the beekeepers and also for your. Please try to address many beekeepers in all regions. Good like.

  32. Beekeeping is one of the sector suitable for farmers living with in the forest. To potentially support the beekeepers and bring expected positive change on the rural development and livelihood of the farmers it is better to follow such approach. Nice idea please support. Good luck.

  33. Bravo well done. Nice direction for our beekeepers. Organic honey for export market. Please be strong and struggle to realize.

  34. The effect of learning center/demonstration site in continual adoption is vital. Please scale up this idea. Well done.

  35. Organic honey and other bee product demand is increasing on international market. Forest areas are the best place for organic production. I like your system. Good luck.

  36. Beekeeping sector is good for countries like Ethiopia. Especially for the forest area honey is one of non timber forest product. The big challenge is the lack of technology. In this regards, this project fill the gap and will be effective.

    1. There is coming initiative from different private companies. But is is to small. Hope many will come to this sector.

  37. Forest can be conserved only if the farmers with in the forest able to benefit from conserving it. In this regard this project is helpful. Good luck.

  38. This is innovative idea to support the community and a solution for the forest under risk of deforestation.

  39. Forest conservation should be linked with benefit from it with our cutting the forest. Honey production is one of the best way to conserve the forest. Nice idea. Good luck.

  40. Thank you Jony for bringing this innovative idea following the current increasing demand of honey and problem of forest conservation. This is big headache for many NGOs working on forest conservation. Good luck.

  41. Ethiopia is the 1st from Africa and 10th from the world in honey production. When we come to the benefit we are the last. The government should focus on this sector since millions of farmers are keeping bees culturally. I like your idea. Please work on it strongly. I will follow you soon.

  42. Beekeeping is a agri sector which can be done on small land small finance. This make the sector best for farmers in forest area. Good job. Like it.

  43. Organic Honey production attached with forest conservation is impressive idea. Excellent brother. Good luck.

  44. Forest conservation can be effective through improving livelihood of beekeepers. Good way to do that.

  45. Its feels like a good idea, just be patient with it!
    Everything takes time and if you take your steps carefully …its definitely possible.

  46. I read your project with great interest. Thank you for sharing your knowledge about honeybees. Help beekeepers as much as you can.

  47. Organic agriculture best applied in honey production in forest area. Once you have institutional arrangement with beekeepers you will have good market. Nice idea. Good luck.

  48. I read your project and impressed on the way you try to link the nature, the community and the economy. Please keep it up. Well done.

  49. The role of beekeeping in agri based economic development is to big. But not realized yet by many developing country government. Such intervention by skillful individuals need support to benefit the country farmers and to contribute to national development. Jony, good idea and development. Good luck.

    1. Definitely you family and other community near to the natural forest area will benefit for beekeeping but there should be support in diffrent way through identifying the gap.

  50. Nice jony, I like your approach to motivate and engage beekeepers as out growers. Real innovative idea. Good luck.

  51. Hope I will have a jar of organic honey linked to benefit millions of beekeepers in conserving the nature.

  52. Ethiopian organic honey and beeswax from the naturally conserved forest. Imagine how it is tasty and bring meaningful contribution to the rural development. Good luck. Great.

  53. I can imagine how this project contribute to the climate change problem. In addition to income source. It has multiple advantage.

    1. Thank you. The issue of climate change is highly linked with loss of our environment. Conserving our forest is not something we ignore.

    1. Unless there should be linkage between our economic development and nature in a positive way it not possiable to bring real change. This is important for our agri based economic development.

  54. I know Ethiopia has huge honey production resource not yet exploited. Such projects will do better to benefit from the sector. PLease work hard and try to scale up it.

  55. Organic agriculture is one way of solve the problem of forest area farmers. Good luck Joni

  56. I got this link from one of my friend from Ethiopia. I was impressed with this nice business idea which gas good market and real impact on the beekeepers and the nature. Good luck.

  57. I am from this area from your project area. I can imagine how beekeepers there including my family will benefit from the intersting project. Great well done.

  58. Organic product demand is increasing this days. So bringing such innovative idea is timely business model. Great job.

  59. To potentially support the beekeepers and bring expected positive change on the rural development and livelihood of the farmers it is better to follow such approach.

  60. you have make a big project and also dream that you will have millions of beekeepers from all over the country.

  61. This project has so many social advantages,is viable economically and is environmental friendly.
    So Joni do it . God bless you.

  62. I am invited by one of my friend to read this business idea. I like it. Nice business model and it will be helpful and practical.

  63. This project has so many social advantages,is viable economically and is environmental friendly.

  64. Natural forest benefit from bees pollination, bees receive nectar and pollen rewards from forest and finally beekeepers will have money from honey. Multipurpose project.

  65. √ It is great idea that consists solutions to the main challenges which impedes beekeeping achievements.
    √ It is a great tool that will bring radical change in the apiculture sector as aims at beekeepers honeybee management skill improvement, natural resources improvements and conservation through plantation. All these ensure high hive production and cash crop production through pollination which will increase beekeepers income and improve their living styles. It also increase national economy.
    √ This project is useful not only to the mentioned intervention locality but also to the whole potential areas of the country. So Jony please scaling up to all parts of the country to upraised the apiculture benefits as a national level.
    √ At last, I have some suggestions:
    1. In order to create awareness on advantage of beekeeping and minimizing damage on honeybee through different cases (example: use of agro chemical on crops) and to start (new beekeepers) on beekeeping practices as their income sources; I think it is better to include all non beekeepers (crop growers and others) in the training program of your project. In other words it is better if you arrange that training will give to all beekeepers and non beekeepers within the intervention localities. If you already have, it is nice.
    2. I think, it is better also if you include some strategy that limit distribution and application of agro chemical on any agricultural practices by any body not only in your intervention areas but also in other areas in order to create sustainable organic products.
    Indeed continue with your smart ideas; I appreciate you.

    1. Thank you for valuable comments. Agri chemicals are devastating bees. In the project area most of the farmers livelihood depends on forest. But there are some farmers use chemical. For this reason I have included in my training package how to deal with agrichemical application. Your comment is well taken.

  66. My father is beekeeper. He has many hives with traditional system. Such project is a hope for beekeepers like my father. Keep it up.

  67. You dream is big. Obviously, thousands of beekeepers are waiting for experts assistance like you. Make it true!

  68. Wow it is a business & service provision model which could be replicated. On my side the amount of budget is not enough to do so, but can show innovative approach to support honey producers.

  69. Currently even the gov’t is looking this sector to bring a change. New vision to help the poor community.

  70. Ethiopia has huge potential of honey production not yet touched. Such project will facilitate the benefit of the country from the sector. Good luck.

  71. Organic honey production has intersting market in the developed world . please try to realize it. Good luck.

  72. Ethiopia is known in honey production but not yet able to use it to support the rural development issues. Such project help to use the sector. Good luck.

  73. Beekeeping is a long standing sector in Ethiopia stay in traditional system for long time. This project will contribute to the sector development. Great.