Apiculture / ASSP / Honey / Oromia

Beekeeping as a family business: A case from Jimma Zone in Ethiopia

Abajahad, beekeper in Jimma zone holding his wax (Photo:ILRI\Dereje Legesse)
The beekeeping sector in LIVES project intervention zones in the SNNPR and Oromia Regions of Ethiopia suffers from shortages of inputs – specifically accessories such as molding casts, honey extractors, queen excluders, honey sifting tools, smokers, etc. But there are some households who have overcome these challenges.  The family of Abajihad Ababulgu, in Tikur Balto kebele of Kersa district, Jimma zone is one of them.

Abajihad and his two wives and their children engage in backyard beekeeping. It’s a family business! Abajihad, spearheading the business, experiments with better production system by mixing indigenous knowledge and modern skills from extension experts in Kersa district. His efforts are well recognized by the community and the extension office. Abajihad and his family own all types of hives: Traditional (80) hung on the tallest tree in the compound, transitional (30) and modern (8) lined up under a well-built shed in the family’s backyard. The entire compound, green with forest coffee trees and various hives, is about 1,000 square meters. The orderly mixture of hives and coffee trees creates an exciting environment for visitors. The family also owns a few livestock.

In addition to extracting their own honey, Abajihad extracts honey for other farmers in his neighbourhood for a small fee. Although modern hives give higher honey yields, the major drawback is that wax cannot be extracted from them. Therefore, farmers who only own modern hives are forced to buy costly wax for foundation sheets. In the case of Abajihad’s family, Zemi, his first wife, extracts wax from their traditional and transitional hives to prepare a foundation sheet for their modern hives; they sell excess wax to other farmers. Keeping traditional and transitional hives along with modern hives seems to be a wise option.

Experts from LIVES , the livestock development agency and the irrigation development authority identified two main success factors accounting for Abajihad’s family backyard beekeeping.

The first is that Abajihad and his family are hard working, have a keen interest in applying skills and techniques provided by the extension service. The second, and by far the most important, is that Abajihad makes sure that all his family members, wives and children have active roles that are well-recognized and appreciated in the family business. This is rather unique in a culture where the roles of women and children are usually less pronounced.

Abajhad was one the farmers who participated in ApiExpo Africa in Addis Ababa in September 2012. He is interested in technical support that would enable his family business to succeed in producing quality honey for bigger markets. In addition, adopting technologies used for harvesting, storing, processing and packing honey will contribute to his beekeeping business.

Moreover, Abajihad’s backyard beekeeping can be used as a centre of learning and inspiration for other farmers within the region and beyond.

The LIVES project, together with the district and zonal offices of agriculture can facilitate skills development, business plan development, input supplies and value chain platform meetings/activities. These can contribute to the transformation of modern beekeeping practices in many areas in Jimma and thus increase economic and socio-cultural benefits for farmers.

Contributed by Ephrem Tesema (gender expert), Dereje Legesse (Agri-business expert), Gemeda Duguma (zonal coordinator, Jimma), Temesgen Minamo (Livestock expert, Jimma zone), Lelisa Fekadu and Mustefa Amano (Livestock expert, Kersa district).

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