Azedebo Beekeepers Meeting

Azedebo Beekeepers Meeting

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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. Last Days in Fundame 043

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.

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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.

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Woven Bamboo Baskets

Woven Bamboo Baskets

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As I jumped on the back of a motorcycle this morning here outside of our temporary home  in the jungle paradise of Azedebo, I couldn’t feel more in my element. We only arrived yesterday afternoon, and I have already had my first contact with traditional beekeepers in the area. I couldn’t have done it myself though, and have Ashu, an extended Minneapolis family member so to speak, as well as Sigamo, my brother‘s local father figure to thank. Sigamo is very well known in the area so as we pulled up to the door, on our seperate motorcycle taxis, of local beekeepers who were more than happy to introduce us to their hives. I haven’t taken my head out of the trees since arriving, and this morning was no different. Each of the apiaries, placed behind the home of their owner are smack dead in the middle of an uncountable variety of acacias, banana, mango, avocado and coffee trees, as well as corn and the local teff grain.  We visited three beekeepers and their families, and each of the owners walked me straight to the hives so I was able to see firsthand what their style of beekeeping entailed. Made from woven bamboo these light weight cylindrical baskets were buzzing with action, especially on a cloudy and cool morning. Thanks to my friends and translators I was able to ask them a few questions in order to better understand what was going on. Using this traditional method a women speaking for her beekeeper husband, said that they are able to collect 2 kilos of honey from each hive each month.  Working during the night while the bees are resting, and therefore more docile, they smoke out the hives to rid the majority of bees and break off as much honey comb as possible. Because the fauna is dense and there is practically always a flower to visit, the bees are able to rebuild their honey combs in a matter of weeks. Just in time for the next months’ harvesting.  

As I Tag Along With Pride

As I Tag Along With Pride

Cien and Kololo making strides

Cien and Kololo making strides

I really couldn’t be more proud of my brother Cien. Via a 6 hour mini bus drive we successfully made it down to the Kembata-Tembaro region of Ethiopia, and are here to celebrate the completion of the two Kindergarten schools built under his leadership in the last 5.5 months. Cien has been in Ethiopia for just under 3 years now and though I have heard him speak of his work team, with whom he travels with from village to village, engaging and training the recipient communities in the construction of their new schools, there is nothing more inspiring than sitting around a table eating mangoes listening to them exchange laughs over the challenges each day presents. Cien’s got a firm grasp of the Amharic language that not only organizes his very effective crew, but quickly gains the respect of any local within 2 sentences. He’s got a cute little dog too, named after last years completed school, and anywhere we go, the attention diverts from us and all the kids shout out Kololo, Kololo! The completion parties begin tomorrow and as I tag along full of pride, I’ll be sure to snap every photo I can to relay my sense of gratitude for sharing first hand in these moments.