Modern Beekeeping in Tolay

Growing income through high-quality honey and bee's wax in Ethiopia


-> News from the Project March 17, 2016

Demand for honey in East Africa is high and it sells at good prices. In Tolay, Biovision is supporting the training of beekeepers in modern techniques; they learn how to use simple beehives, smokers and hand-operated centrifuges. In addition, Biovision is providing trainees with information on marketing.


To provide famers in Tolay with opportunities to earn money and improve food security by introducing updated, sustainable methods of beekeeping that protect biodiversity and the ecosystem.

Modern beehives are now established in the project region and honey quality has steadily increased (without a strong taste of smoke or wax residues).


The food security of people in Tolay is increasingly threatened by the effects of climate change on agriculture and the increasingly frequent droughts. Bees render an important service to agriculture by pollinating plants consumed by humans as food, including a wide range of fruit and vegetables.  Any decline in the bee population can, therefore permanently damage agriculture production. However, in addition to the plants used for food, bees also pollinate trees and shrubs in the wild and so make an important contribution to keeping the ecosystem intact. A sufficient number of healthy bees are, therefore crucial for an intact environment and the associated food security.

There is a long tradition of using honey in Ethiopia. It is not only valued as a food but is also used in traditional medicine and at cultural ceremonies.  The traditional method of obtaining honey was to use smoke to drive bees out of the hollow tree trunks in which they lived smoke. This damaged the trees and often destroyed entire bee populations. A lack of knowledge and inappropriate methods of beekeeping made it difficult for healthy bee colonies to thrive and reduced honey production. Previous phases of the project successfully introduced modern, adapted methods. The current phase focusses more on marketing the bee products at the Market Place run by the established Honey Union.


A total of 600 farmers and 17 advisers (Development Agents) are benefiting from the training in beekeeping; this includes how to keep the bees, extract the honey and process it so that they can earn an income. Some 35% of the beekeepers are women. In the past, it was difficult for women to manage bee colonies living in trees as, unlike the men, they were not allowed to climb the trees. The targeted encouragement of women and the selling of discounted beehives have increased women’s status in society. As members of the newly formed cooperatives, they are now earning an income from which their family also benefits. The women use the income to buy essential food and medicines and also pay school fees. In addition, the pollination by bees of crops benefits farmers and others living in the project’s core area (about 20,000) as it increases fruit and cereal yields.

Honey contributes to food security and generates opportunities for an additional income.
Management of the Honey Union at the Market Place.

Activities 2016 – 2017

  • Maintain healthy bee populations by training specialists to monitor their health and take appropriate action if disease occurs
  • Increase honey production using updated methods
  • Analyse and establish links to markets and marketing strategies in order to maximise honey sales
  • Strengthen the Honey Union and the Market Place in Tolay


The scientific study of bee diseases in the project area was completed and an associated monitoring protocol produced. The market analyses identified several supermarkets, other local markets and a hotel as possible sales outlets and they have now been approached. In addition, contact was made with two other unions (Woliso Becho Union and Diredewa Union) opening up further sales outlets for local producers.

The project provided training in organisation and finance to 30 people from the Honey Cooperatives and the management team at the Market Place. In addition, 4 technicians were trained in honey processing, 30 local beekeepers trained in processing bee products and 5 skilled workers and 2 technicians trained in how to build beehives. A total of 6,000 kg of honey was harvested and sold to the Honey Union.

Handover strategy

It is planned that the project will be self-supporting from the end of 2016. As part of this process, the beekeeping cooperatives and the Honey Union will be strengthened further. Local members of the community will be responsible for managing the Market Place and the beekeeping. Local government officers and other stakeholders will receive guidance on how to continue the activities after the end of the project.

In addition, the Tolay Natural Honey Union is currently in discussions with the Limu Organic Coffee Union about possible cooperation.  The latter has considerable experience in selling coffee and such cooperative arrangements offer attractive synergies in terms of sales and marketing channels. The project is really taking off: Our partner,icipe has gained support from the MasterCard Foundation and will introduce modern beekeeping methods throughout the country and so create 12,500 jobs for unemployed youngsters.  This project will last for 5 ½ years and will be supported by the MasterCard Foundation to the tune of US$ 10.35 billion as well as by the Ethiopian government. In addition, a further 25,000 people within the wider supply chain will also benefit.