Of all the countries in the world, probably none has a longer tradition of bee keeping than Ethiopia. The country is ideally suited for apiculture because of its ecology with an estimated 10 million bees and a long history of traditional honey and wax production. Apiculture provides direct income benefit to beekeepers and other actors in the value chain. According to the Ethiopian ministry of Agriculture, the nation, on average produces more than 50 thousand tons of honey and 3,500 tons of beeswax annually. The same source indicate that about 1.8 million farmers engaged in the sector collect as much as 50 kilograms of honey from a modern beehive in a single harvest and sell the honey for up to 100 birr a kilogram and the sector earned 2 million US dollars in honey exports in 2012.
Despite its great potential and contribution in improving the livelihood of subsistence farmers, much effort has not been made to its development. More than 90% of beekeepers in Ethiopia still employ ineffective traditional methodologies in hive construction, maintenance and sustainment. This is significantly affecting both quantity and quality of the bee products. Furthermore, Rural Ethiopian beekeepers lack exposure to apiary education and new proven beekeeping equipment. In particular, due to this absence, rural farmers and beekeepers are not reaching their potential. This myriad of constraints is responsible for the inadequate production and use of bee products in Ethiopia. Conclusively, Ethiopia’s current honey and wax production rates only fulfill a fraction of their potential. Following transitional and modern practices, if improved, the country as a whole can multiply its current output more than six-fold increasing to an export potential of 503,000 tons of honey per year.
Development of the beekeeping sector greatly depends on integrated applications of improved beekeeping techniques and technologies. Assisting local beekeepers through education and grass-roots technology support is critical. Through an effective implementation, BeeFree’s proposed programming will improve the livelihoods of beekeepers and farmers alike. Beekeepers will have greater access to salient resources and be more knowledgeable of effective beekeeping practices. Together this will ensure a higher yield and more effective use of bee products, as well as the increased pollination of local farmlands. BeeFree´s beekeepers education program will positively impact the livelihoods of all participants in the value chain; when beekeeper’s are empowered the entire community benefits.