Simachew Mekonnen, Manager, Zembaba Bee Products
We estimate that Ethiopia contributes 24% of African and 2% of the world’s total honey production. In the Amhara Region alone, there are 650,000-700,000 honey bee colonies and about 819,000 local, 55,000 top-bar, and 44,000 frame hives in the hands of 230,000 beekeepers.
Despite the long held traditional beekeeping practices in the region, the benefit gained from the apiculture sub sector is insignificant. This is mainly due to the absence of any policy framework and regulation, limited local and overseas markets, and the absence of a secondary processing industry that could add values and diversity to bee products.
We believe that the setting up of primary and secondary level co-operatives will help to resolve some of the challenges. Therefore, Zembaba Bee Products Development & Trade Promotion Cooperative Union has been established towards improving bee products’ marketing in the region.
The Union was established in May 2006, with support from SOS Sahel and from eight primary co-operatives located in Gojam, Gondar and Wallo, Amhara Region. These primary co-operatives are made up of individual farmers who are beekeepers. Total Union membership is 3,415 of which 2,940 are men and 475 women.
· To promote the market for honey and other bee products
· To provide training, good materials and market information for members
· To establish a honey processing factory
· To assist members to improve methods of production.
To be our farmers’ and beekeepers’ economic and social problem solver.
To enhance production, capital, marketing and management skills of co-operatives and achieve successful and sustainable development by expanding beekeeping systems for the benefit of the members.
Households in Ethiopia face difficulties if they have less than 0.5 hectares of land to cultivate. The only option for farmers is to participate in other income-generating activities. Apiculture is one such activity as it may be practised with a small plot of land, and farmers are able to use degraded land that supports bee forage. Young and old people are involved because it does not need much labour, capital or land.
Union Members must have more than two years’ beekeeping experience. They provide an agreed number of kilograms of honey to their co-operative, and the co-operatives sell to the domestic market. The co-operative distributes the annual profit to members as a dividend.
Even with 3,415 members, the total amount of products collected is not enough. Currently the Union has bought 15,237 kg of honey at 250,908 Birr (€18,523; US$26,936) from member farmers and 12,922 kg of honey has been sold at 219,055 Birr (€16,191; US$23,516) on the domestic market. In 2008 we plan to collect 100,000 kg of honey from our members.
· To promote Union products in domestic and foreign markets
· To enhance Union products in quantity and quality
· To facilitate members’ production methods
· To provide continuous training and technological support to members
· To increase membership of the Union annually
· To build a honey processing factory.
First published in Bees for Development Journal #86