Beyond My Expectations

Beyond My Expectations


In collaboration with WEEMA international, It’s been 2 years since we led 2, week long beekeepers training programs in Kembata-Tembaro Ethiopia, 350 km southwest of the East African capital Addis Ababa.

In each of the introductory training programs, 35 community members were introduced to the basics of bee biology, health, and beehive management. As part of the workshop community members participated in the construction of their own locally resourced transitional style top bar hive and were actively trained in how to transfer bees from the transitional type as well as how to catch swarms in order to grow their apiary site. 8 months later we returned to the communities, introduced a honey press machine, and spoke and demonstrated proper honey harvesting techniques, which enabled beekeepers to increase the value of their product by separating it from the wax.


At that point, in November of 2014, beekeepers had already begun to see an increase in honey product, from harvesting 4 kilos of honey singlehandedly from the traditional basket hive; they were now harvesting 12+ kgs, increasing their production 3 fold in only one harvest. Before our departure beekeepers were encouraged to increase their hive number which they enthusiastically agreed.


Soon following WEEMA followed our suggestions and contracted Tameskin Alemu, our beekeeping assistant, translator and carpenter, to work directly with the beekeepers in order to increase hive numbers and address challenges as they surface.


With WEEMA’s additional support, bamboo and rope, 2 necessary materials for hive construction were sourced from neighboring towns and sourced to the beneficiaries as they continued constructing more beehives.

12 months later, I’ve returned with a group of Columbia University Graduate student who through their semester long course have partnered with WEEMA International to better understand the honey value chain in Ethiopia therefore making suggestions on the best way for our beekeepers to market their more readily available honey and wax product.


With all this instruction behind, I wasn’t quite prepared to find such great success upon our visit with beneficiaries this past week. Not only have hive numbers increased, but livelihoods have noticeably been altered for the better. In one of our apiary site visits Bakalesh proudly showed us 10 active hives behind her Medula home. 


Considering she hadn’t kept bees before our training session, this is considered quite the accomplishment regardless of her circumstances. Through the sale of her honey she is now sending her children to school as well as training her son in beekeeping with hopes to continue increasing her hive numbers.

Building Beehives

Building Beehives

This past week sure would have been different had we gifted all our program participants pre-made beehives following the completion of their coursework. Yeah it would have been easier and more efficient in the eyes of many, but for the sake of the projects sustainability we took the time to stand next to each group member as they constructed their own hive.


With frames sourced from young Eucalyptus trees, side walls woven from a mix of bamboo and sorgum, and lastly lined with a layer of a mud/straw plaster all hive materials are readily available to the community.


A bow saw, hammer, and nails are necessary for the hive foundation work, followed by a bit of wire in all the corners for reinforcement. Rope is then tied to 4 of the vertical supports on 3 of the 4 sides and used to fasten the bamboo/sorgum side walls.


Top bars for the bees to hang their honeycomb are cut to their precise measurment (3.2 cm) and a protective roof is shaped out of more eucalyptus, before being covered with a waterproof covering.


Doing so, all participants spent all daylight hours outside of “classtime” spread out over the community school yard.

Lucky for us, school was out this week and we had all the time we needed.