Ethiopia produces about 24,000 tons of honey per year, which accounts to about 23.6% of total African honey production and 2.1% of total world production. Local consumption of honey, which accounts to about 80% of the total produced, is mainly for making ‘tej’ (a local honey wine) and as a food where both the honeycomb (during harvest time) and extracted honey is used.
Reports say Ethiopia is the fifth biggest beeswax exporters to the world market, amounting to 3,200 tons per year. This beeswax is largely collected from traditional hives. However, the extraction technique, which is mostly traditional, incurs high wastage.
Beekeepers usually get beeswax from an already existing traditional hive or they buy it from the market. ‘Tej ambulla’, the residue of Tej has a huge amount of beeswax, but not many know about this. This residue is usually accumulated in dirty containers and thrown away by the owners of the Tej bets where most Tej is consumed. It it’s not considered of much value.
In November 2013, the Capacity Building for Scaling up of Evidence-based Best Practices in Agricultural Production in Ethiopia (CASCAPE) project at Jimma University organized a two day training course on improved beekeeping practices and the extraction of beeswax from ‘Tej ambulla.’ Held in the Omo Nada district near Jimma, some 25 beekeepers took part in the training. It included making of transitional hives using local materials, colony splitting, and the process of separating beeswax from Tej ambulla.
Tej ambula, when left in a dirty container and ignored for weeks, turns muddy, is full of insects’ larvae, and has worms and wax moths. It has a strong smell and seems totally without value. However, trainers from Holetta research center and Jimma University demonstrated otherwise. The trainers showed the beekeepers how to extract beeswax from the residue by a simple technique comprising:
- Boil the muddy ambulla
- After boiling, allow the residue to cool for about five minutes
- Transfer the content into a jute bag that will be used to strain the beeswax from the impure materials
- Two people squeeze the jute bag holding the two ends of the bag and turning in different directions for maximum straining
- The tiny holes of the jute bag strain the beeswax from the impure materials and give pure beeswax
This process of boiling and straining should be repeated two or three time to get pure beeswax from the residue (see some pictures of this process)
This is a simple technique that anyone can do. The challenge is to bring this knowhow to beekeepers and Tej makers so beekeepers can buy beeswax at better prices and Tej bet owners could generate income from their leftovers.
Contributed by Gemeda Duguma, LIVES zonal coordinator, Jimma zone, Oromia