By Ephrem Tesema and Mesfin Tefera
Apiculture is one of the new ventures introduced by the Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for the Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project in South Wollo, Amhara Region.
Locally made transitional beehives, which are easily managed by women, were installed close to farmers’ homesteads and LIVES facilitated awareness-raising activities on the importance of enhancing women’s involvement in beekeeping.
One of the immediate outcomes of the intervention has been an increase in the number of women beekeepers, from virtually none to 15 women beekeepers at present in intervention areas in South Wollo.
The use of top-bar beehives contributed to an increased household income not only because of increased yields but also because of the higher quality of honey produced. This growth is leading to growing demand for high-quality honey in the market and opening up new opportunities for upscaling this intervention model into areas beyond the intervention sites.
Zeritu Ahmed, a female smallholders in Kalu District attended apiculture training organized by the LIVES project and the district office of agriculture. Afterward, she became one of the innovative full-time farmers engaged in apiculture overcoming constraints related to existing gender norms and the challenges of working in a male-dominated enterprise.
Zeritu is now a model farmer for other farmers (both men and women) in the surrounding area and has earned respect for her courage, innovativeness and for being a role model for other women to venture into apiculture.
Zeritu’s experience and her role as a model beekeeper shows that integration of women into the honey value chain has a positive effect on household income and employment. The program has encouraged partnerships between women groups of beekeepers and the Honey Producers Associations in South Wollo to further strengthen the honey value chain as a whole. A revolving fund that can provide affordable input technology services to group members and embedded management skill training by the Honey Processors’ Association is now being explored to ensure the initiative is sustainable.
Setting up input supply mechanism for bee colonies and wax and also engaging in honey production simultaneously would enable more women bee keepers to generate higher income from apiculture. And these groups would also help in bulking produce and enhance access to markets thereby reducing instances of arbitrary selling of honey at low prices. Increased support to the initiative is expected to yield enormous benefits in terms of gender empowerment, value addition to products in the honey value chain and in improving incomes for smallholders.