Endowed with natural tropical rain forests, varied ecological and climatic conditions, southwest Ethiopia is home to distinct, exotic, and indigenous vegetation. This diversity provides a variety of forage for bees, giving the country a comparative advantage for commercial apiculture.
In this region, traditional honey production techniques involve cutting down trees to access the honey in wild hives, use of fire to control the bees during honey harvesting, or dangerous climbing of trees to access hives. Such practices are not only risky and destructive, but they continue to hinder the involvement of women and youth in the honey value chain.
In partnership with Bench Maji Union, 2SCALE is transforming honey production in southwest Ethiopia from forest-based to backyard systems. Besides the objective of transforming the production methods, this partnership aims to use backyard beekeeping to promote the integration of women who are currently excluded from the sector.
Meet Andenet group, a pioneer in backyard beekeeping
In Bench-Sheko Zone, a group of 16 women has pioneered backyard beekeeping. For over a year now, these women have practiced beekeeping, a venture that was impossible before. The introduction of the Kenyan top-bar hives-which is more accessible- has allowed women to be more involved in honey production. According to the chairlady of the group, 28-year-old Metawork Neyata, backyard beekeeping is less risky and has promoted the active involvement of women.
Previously, beekeeping was viewed as a dangerous activity especially for women, mainly because hives were kept on treetops, and one had to climb on tall trees to access them. The harvesting was also a risky activity since it had to be done at night and fires were used to keep bees from raising attacks. Due to the perceived dangers associated with beekeeping, local authorities had in the past barred the practice of backyard beekeeping.
However, Andenet group, through the support of Bench Sheko zonal and local authorities, Bench Maji Union, and 2SCALE, have set up 18 modern hives.
Last year, we harvested 85 kilograms of honey which we sold to Bench Maji Union at 10,200 ETB ($225). This will increase over time since we are currently setting up more hives and rearing more bee colonies. We attribute our success to the support provided by Bench Maji, the Bench Sheko Zone Department of Livestock, and 2SCALE. Previously, we didn’t know about modern hives such as the Kenyan top bar, which were donated to us by Bench Maji. The union also trained us on how to strategically place them in an environment conducive to bees. In addition, they provided us with protective gear to enable us to inspect the hives and harvest honey and wax without exposing ourselves to any danger.