A Shifting Market

A Shifting Market

Kembata Tembaro honey is currently an untapped and unrecognized honey market in Ethiopia. Local use of the sweet stuff primarily supplies the brewers of Tej,  the thousand + year old fermented honey wine which requires being made from the wax and honey mix in it’s crude form. Therefor as our beneficiary beekeepers evolve in their practice, harvest increased amounts of honey and have the tools for separating it from the wax, theoretically increasing their market value, they are currently only running into more problems.


As no other table honey, as it is known, exists in the local market, potential buyers are only skeptical of the product, believing that the honey is mixed with sugar. Truly, this is a much too common reality on both a local as well as national level.  Because of this lack of market confidence, beekeepers continue to sell their honey wax mix to the current market need at the price the buyer marks.


Hence, the main purpose of our teams last 10 days in country has been to better understand this reality and find immediate solutions for our beekeepers increasing production.


Having previously made contact and visited with a neighboring Angacha beekeepers cooperative, we decided to check in with the 250 + member group early in the week, and were once again quite impressed. With initial 4 year funding and support by a fairly large and well known NGO they are producing, packing, selling, and managing, the sale of over 2,000 kgs per harvest.


Their collaborative efforts have also greatly influenced the local agricultural office so much so that they’ve donated a plot of degraded and eroded land for the use of a community apiary and melifera, nectar and pollen producing reforestation program. We first hand witnessed how this effort is simultaneously increasing the overall land quality as well as brings additional support to the resident bees.


The following day we arranged a gathering with beneficiaries, our team representatives, as well as with a local government livestock extension officer. When community concern for market opportunities arose as well as for their interest in additional bee friendly flower and plant seeds, it was only natural to wonder if the neighboring cooperatives model would also suit ourselves.


My Hands are Dirty

My Hands are Dirty


 IMG_3608 All in all, my trip to Ethiopia was a success. Now that I have returned to Madrid, where I have decided to call home for now, I have an abundance of work ahead of me. All the better, as I like to keep myself busy. There is nothing like shoveling dirt and planting gardens that keeps you connected to where you are.

Along with the Kenyan Top Bar hives I built before leaving we have plenty of beekeeping related work ahead of us as well. We’re currently in the process of restoring hives from a local beekeeping friend and waiting for the swarms to arrive. A cold front just passed and now that it seams spring and maybe even summer is here to stay, we will be be filling our hives shortly.

The 2 hectars of land belonging to Ramon’s family is also awaiting our labor, and we’re hoping that over the course of weekend encounters between friends and a few organized work seminars we can bring the land to life.

I managed to carry some American Heirloom seeds with me to Madrid, and after leaving them in the greenhouse 8 weeks ago now, I am proud to say, collections of cherry and beefsteak tomatoes, Mexican peppers, giant sunflowers, lettuces, celery, spinach and both sweet and Hopi corn are all in the ground. I’ll be even prouder when I can share them with my Spanish friends but as for now I am just happy to get my hands dirty on a daily basis.

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Beekeeping In Madrid Underway

Beekeeping In Madrid Underway


I wasn’t kidding, Anyone anywhere can be a beekeeper.

After 4.5 months of wonderful time spent between friends and family in beautiful landscapes across the United States, I arrived back to Madrid, Spain Tuesday morning still in time for some morning tapas of Spanish egg and potato tortilla garnished with a sauted green pepper and accompanied by the typical garlic toast and olive oil tomato marmalade. Oh yeah, and a glass of morning wine to break the jet leg.

Though I already miss the good times spent with loved ones back home, there’s something about Spain that just feels right.

I’ve jumped right back into the Spanish dialogue of day to life without much of  problem, though friends are eager to get there practice in and I welcome as well as encourage vocabulary sessions and joke telling in English as they come. My head is of course swimming between all the new and old contacts of great people I have around me, and I am currently going through the Spanish Synchronization process of reconnecting with all my friends on this side of the Atlantic. Smart phones, WIFI signals, and personal laptops make this all a breeze, the secret is creating the time to make it all happen.

After 2 days and a night spent in Ramon’s family’s apartment in Madrid, we made our way out to La Parcela, his family’s rural home in San Martin de La Vega, 35 kilometers  (about 22 miles) southwest of Madrid, and have been quite busy since.


The majority of our time has been spent hauling wood. Though its NOTHING like the cold where I most recently came from back in Minneapolis, Minnesota, nights out here get a bit chilly and it’s oh so  nice to have a fire to warm up this big ceramic Spanish castle.

Many years ago Ramon’s Father bought 2 hectares of land, 20,000 square meters (almost 4 acres), down the valley from La Parcela, with the hopes of one day turning it into agriculture land. In the many years between the valley itself, for its relative closeness to the city has become a hub for resource digging, cement and stone the two most prized. Though the family land has remained untouched,  some of the neighboring land is nothing but quarries, filled with leftover laborer tools. Not the prettiest sight to say the least.


Regardless, there happens to be quite a bit of abandoned property as well, filled with dead fruit trees and lumber making for great fire wood. In a stack of abandoned lumber we also happened to come across what in my eyes is a gold mine. A stack of 30 cm, 24 cm and 20 cm wide, 3 meter long boards. Just perfect for the Beehive prototype building we have in front of this coming week.


There’s a bit more organization of the tools and the workspace to be done, as well as some sketches and conversions to be calculated, but all in all I couldn’t be more satisfied with whats been accomplished in the past 6 days since I’ve been back. I have a good feeling about all the work yet to come, and as we continue to organize our makeshift greenhouse this afternoon, I’ll continue to dream of all the bees we’ll be attracting here shortly.