Our Motorbike Apiary visits turned into a Friday morning community beekeepers meeting in Azedebo, Kembata-Tembaro, Ethiopia; thus we had the opportunity to exchange a bit more information with a handful of beekeepers in the area. Via my translator, Ashu, we began the meeting by thanking everyone for coming and joked how beekeepers are usually dependable for showing up on time, saying a lot especially being that we are in Africa. They chuckled and we rolled into the information session. I introduced myself as a beekeeper from Spain, who studied queen bee rearing and by using modern hives focuses on healthy beehives carrying forward strong health to humans. From English to Amharic, and then to tembarenyan the local language, it seemed as though the introduction got across smoothly as I received a few big smiles in return.
They were clear to inform me that women do not practice beekeeping here, traditions are strong and the men even say that due to the physical aspect of the work, they cannot partake. (Though after opening a hive with a local beekeeper two days following our meeting, I can better understand why no one would want to physically partake in beekeeping.) So as it seemed I gained their respect I continued with my question. “How does beekeeping affect you and your family’s life socially and economically?”, I asked. With a quizzical look Marcos, the same beekeeper that would later invite me to his home for a honey harvest, began to tell me how community members, especially farmers, feel that bees’ work is part of nature and therefore money should not be made by them. Consumers constantly ask for cheaper honey prices, and after Marcos chatted with the others they collectively explained how in general farmers don’t realize the necessary pollination work that the bees provide for their crops nor does anyone understand the work that actually goes into beekeeping and honey harvesting.
One kilo/ 2.2 pounds of raw honey, mashed up, wax honeycomb and all, is sold to a middle man at the market for 60 Ethiopian Bir. Traditional hives in the area typically provide 2 kilos/4.4 pounds of honey 3 times a year, which leads to 6 kilos/13.2 pounds of honey. One US dollar equals 18 Bir or one Euro equals 23 Bir, therefor according to this groups accounts a beekeeper in Azedebo makes 20 US dollars or 15.65 Euros, per hive per year.
When I stated how beekeepers using modern hives could harvest over 60 kilos or 150 pound a year they once again smiled and laughed. However I wasn’t there to sell them a modern hive, I’ve found out that it’s been done before, in 2002 in fact, by an organization by the name of World Vision.Long story short, According to the beekeepers the organization provided a select few beekeepers with the standard box style, framed comb beehive, very little education, and no withstanding infrastructure nor support. While a few have the wooden beehive, they lack the resources to carry forward with the method with confidence.
I finished the meeting by sending around a chunk of propolis. Upon their first whiffs I could see that the beekeepers recognized brown sticky bee resin but couldn’t place it. I told them a bit about the medicinal qualities of the product as well as my personal interest for harvesting the product in the future, and they all agreed that it was a worthwhile endevour. However, being that none of them had even seen protective face gear before, the beekeepers group in Azedebo also agreed that they had alot to learn in order to meet the full potential for beekeeping in the area.