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Tadesse Abeno started practicing beekeeping in 1981 as a side activity, managing one traditional hive with an average production capacity of five to ten kilos of crude honey per annum. At a later stage he expanded to 12 hives but until the time of his engagement with Apiculture Scaling-up Programme for Income and Rural Employment (ASPIRE), his business was limited solely to trading honey.

Tadesse Abeno started practicing beekeeping in 1981 as a side activity, managing one traditional hive with an average production capacity of five to ten kilos of crude honey per annum. At a later stage he expanded to 12 hives but until the time of his engagement with Apiculture Scaling-up Programme for Income and Rural Employment (ASPIRE), his business was limited solely to trading honey.

Tadesse observes, "As is the tradition in our area, I learnt beekeeping from my father. I had 12 traditional hives before ASPIRE trained us on how to make transitional hives in 2013. As a result of the training, I realised that the income from the honey trade was not as attractive as the hives trade."

ASPIRE, a project designed to transform smallholder beekeepers to semi-commercial beekeeping practitioners and thereby contribute to poverty alleviation, aims to increase the income from honey production of 30,000 traditional beekeepers from €40 to €360 by 2017 in Amhara, Oromia, Tigray and SNNP regions.  

“The traditional production system in Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) Kadida Gamella wereda affected the quality and amount of honey produced in the area and prevented the sector from significantly contributing to household income,’’ explains Mesfin Markos, the Woreda beekeeping expert.

Realising the skill gap, the Kadida Gamela Woreda Agriculture Office (one of ASPIRE’s implementing partners) selected early adopter  farmers like Tadesse from five selected target kebeles and provided a Training of Trainers (ToT) on improved beekeeping, transitional hive making, record keeping, bookkeeping, pricing and marketing.    

The ToT elevated Tadesse’s  confidence to practice and promote modern beekeeping practices and become a front-runner in training fellow beekeepers on making and trading  transitional hives – with production capacity ranging from 16 to 19 kg. He also engaged in colony supply and within four months’ time he made 22 transitional hives out of which he sold 18 transitional nuclei hives with colonies. As a result, he earned 18,000 birr and also trained 10 beekeepers out of which five have started improved beekeeping. With the income he bought four frame hives. Currently he owns 74 traditional, 13 transitional and four modern hives.

"I wish my friends could earn more income and improve their lives. I also hope to establish a honey producers' cooperative and sell our honey to a bigger market" said Tadesse. 

He expects to harvest 1000 kg of honey in the recent honey harvest season. The technologies he was introduced to as well as the improved management practice and his wife’s active involvement in managing the hives will all help him to upgrade the quality of the honey. His ambition is to establish a modern apiary, to intensify promotion of improved beekeeping and to establish a honey producers' cooperative.

ASPIRE supports such initiatives through its matchmaking - linking smallholder beekeepers with processors and the outside market through international exhibitions. In the meantime, the Woreda Agriculture Office facilitates the collection and trade of the honey so that the beekeepers keep producing a quality product and benefit from their hard work.

Many traditional beekeepers like Tadesse already have experience and motivation but lack the key success factor of being business orientated. "ASPIRE, in partnership with the woreda agriculture offices, private companies, sectorial associations, livestock development agency and research institutes is working with the smallholders to transform them into commercial beekeepers through building capacity, facilitating business–to–business relationships, providing linkages with local and international markets, and addressing sectoral challenges" said Yetnayet Girmaw Apiculture Programme Manager, SNV Ethiopia.