Beyond the hives

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Kedir with his ten transitional beehives

Busy, busy, busy…This quarter has been huge for our young agripreneurs in the GFAR-YPARD Young Agripreneurs Project. It’s now 10 months on since they thrilled the audiences at GCARD3 with their enthusiasm, drive and energy in describing their projects. These have all started, with the young agripreneurs matched with mentors, engaged in coaching and training, and utilizing their seed funding aligned with their business plans. There have been the inevitable ups and downs – all part of being a young agripreneur and it’s great to see that they are all on track and embracing the challenges and opportunities that the YAP project has offered.

Jony Girma shares the latest exciting news on his project to establish a demonstration site inside beekeepers’ villages in rural Ethiopia where beekeepers can receive training, share experience and put new technologies to the test before adopting them.

End of March is the honey harvesting month and the youth in our project are keen to harvest the first honey from their beehives.

To prepare for their first harvest, the young entrepreneurs have, since late November, been busy in transitional beehive establishment through swarm catching and transferring to the transitional beehive. Swarm catching is perhaps the most difficult activity of beekeeping. The small beehive used for swarm catching should be smoked and polished with different leaves with a good smell to attract the bees.  Then the beehives are hung on big trees in a forest where the movement of bee colonies is good. Frequent visiting of the hive to check if it is occupied is important. Once occupied by a swarm, the hive is transferred to the new hives on the apiary site.

On average, out of ten hives in total, since mid-January, each participant has had five beehives occupied by bee colonies.  The adoption of the bees in the new hive depends on the strength of the colony, the flowering condition and the method used to transfer the swarms.  If the swarm is strong (big colony) and properly transferred, the chance of adoption in the new hive is high.

The swarm catching and transferring will continue until the flowering season ends. In our follow-up, we noticed that some of the youth got weak colonies that left the new hive after transferring. However, it was nice experience for them to follow the colony development.

Honey yield is expected from some beehives with strong bee colonies, although it is actually too early to get honey for colonies transferred in January. However, since the YAP participants have an ambition to see the first honey yield and make some money, we are supporting them to harvest. For the next season, which is in June, 85% harvest is expected.

Having a learning center in the village simplifies the follow-up and coaching activities that the YAP project includes. Whenever participants face problems during transferring and colony establishment, they come to the centre for discussion and support. Or, using our established mobile SMS system, they send us a text message about the problem. The technical staff provides advice and visit youth apiary sites to support the participants. Moreover, different tools of beekeeping are also supplied from the centre. Protective cloth, smoker, water spray and other tools have been used by the youth in group. This system helps not only the rural youth, but also other beekeepers in the village.

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Six month project evaluation with the rural youth

Perhaps one of the most important results of the YAP so far is that attitudes of the rural youth with regards to self-employment in organic honey production, is changing – for the better! Other youth in this village is starting to follow the trained youth in their endeavor.

Despite these achievements, however, we are also facing some challenges. These include shortage of land to establish youth apiary sites, problems related to getting strong swarms, and difficulty with colony adoption in new beehives. The issue of land has been addressed in the sense that the local administration is providing temporary land for apiary site. The problem of colony adoption can be solved through proper colony management and queen rearing programs. Once the youth adopt the beekeeping management system, we will engage them on simple colony multiplication program. As a result, there will be no need to climb big trees to catch swarm and it will be easier to maintain colony strength.

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Jony leads the project evaluation

Based on this experience we have planned to expand this model to other potential villages and the local administration office has suggested some alternatives. As a business approach to develop a sustainable supply chain of organic honey, this is a good opportunity. Currently, we are engaged in a selection process with the aim to start in the coming year. But the number of villages we can engage in depends on the impact of the current project on the income of the participating youth, the quality of the honey produced and the adoption level of the participants. For us it is not possible to reach all beekeepers. Our model employs fifty youth per village, each of which should coach five other beekeepers. Using the trained youth in this way, demonstrating the increased honey supply, motivates the youth and increases their self-employment in organic honey production.

Visiting an apiary site in the morning means starting your day start with an amazing gift of nature. Honey bees fly from their colony looking for nectar and pollen. If they are successful in locating good food source, they return to their hive and perform a dance on the honeycomb. They do this to inform other worker bees of the exact location of the flower and details about the food’s quality. Moreover, scientists have discovered that flowers also give bees specific information, including how much pollen they have, if visited by another bees recently, and what type of flower they are. In other words, flowers and bees communicate effectively to support each to achieve their goals. This best image I can think of to visualize the implementation of this YAP; the rural youth need money, I need honey, and our efforts are mutually supportive.

Our ambition is to see happy rural youth and produce quality honey in a healthy environment!

 

Blogpost by Jony Girma (jgmeshesha(at)gmail.com), one of six finalists in the Youth Agripreneurs Project, a pilot project targeting young agricultural entrepreneurs (“agripreneurs”), co-organized by GFAR and YPARD. The YAP Finalists launched their projects during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016. Read the original YAP proposal here.

Photo credits: Jony Girma


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