Beekeeping and honey production in southwestern Ethiopia

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1 Beekeeping and honey production in southwestern Ethiopia P. Gallmann and H. Thomas Beekeeping in Supé: traditional Ethiopian bee hives Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

2 Content 1. Potential of beekeeping as a business in Ethiopia 2. The local honeybee subspecies a. Pollination b. Threats and diseases 3. Traditional beekeeping a. Traditional honey production b. Traditional hive products 4. Modern beekeeping a. Large-scale honey collection b. Honey extraction and filling c. Quality aspects in the honey production chain d. Beeswax production e. Other hive products 5. Honey business a. Apinec, Bonga b. Honey Union Bonga c. Honey business projects in Supé d. Beekeepers association 6. Beekeeping associations 7. Recommendations 8. Contacts 9. Acknowledgements 10. Appendix Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

3 1. Potential of beekeeping as a business in Ethiopia Apiculture in southwestern Ethiopia provides an opportunity for impoverished or low-income people to supplement their earnings by the sale of harvested bee products such as honey and beeswax at a suitable market. Despite severe deforestation throughout many regions of Ethiopia, the landscape, especially in the southwest, still contains many nectar and pollen producing plants suitable to bees. Although pure honey is barely traditionally consumed by Ethiopians living in rural areas, honey containing bee body parts and brood, as well as fermented honey wine, or mead, called tej, are common. Because there are no genetically modified crops (GMO) planted in Ethiopia, a unique opportunity to export this highly sought after honey to Europe potentially exists if its quality can fulfill strict European regulations and standards. Especially after a basic court decision of the European Court of Justice ruled in September 2011, banning honey with GMO pollen from the market, importation of honey from South America to Europe is heavily affected. Photo: sample of local honey Currently, Ethiopia is listed as a Third Country permitted to export honey by the European Commission (COMMISSION DECISION of 11 June 2010, amending the Annex to Decision 2004/432/EC on the approval of residue monitoring plans submitted by third countries in accordance with Council Directive 96/23/EC, notified under document C(2010) 3548 (2010/327/EU)). To export honey to the EU, a number of requirements must be met. Some are primary requirements that are essential for export; whereas, others are secondary requirements that are also necessary but can fall into place after the primary requirements have been achieved. Primary requirements: a. Viable offer to the market b. Listed in the EU inventory of Third Countries eligible to export honey to the EU c. Clean honey (i.e. filtered, with no chemical residues) Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

4 Secondary requirements: a. Business relation with a buyer b. A traceability system for quality control c. A HACCP plan (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points concept) The third country listing of Ethiopia was achieved by Dr Juergen Greiling (see chapter contacts). 2. The local honeybee subspecies The honeybee Apis mellifera occurs naturally in a great range of habitats and climatic zones across Africa, the Middle East and Europe. This has resulted in the evolution of many different honeybee subspecies that each with their own biological and behavioral variations because of unique environmental adaptations. As a result, one subspecies may do well in a particular location but not necessarily in another. The race used can have a considerable impact on practical beekeeping. Photo: A local honeybee in southwestern Ethiopia In the region of Metu, as well as Bonga, a dark, tiny subspecies of Apis mellifera was found and subsequently named by the Holeta Bee Research Institute A.m. gambella because it was determined to be new to science and not any of bee species expected in the region, such as A.m.scutellata, A.m.jemenitica, and A.m.simensis. A worker from this subspecies is only 10 mm long, and build cells with a diameter of 4.7 mm in contrast to 5.4 mm by European subspecies. The behaviour of the subspecies is typical for a wild population with no beekeeper selection pressures. Swarming, the natural way a honey bee colony reproduces, is frequent in September and during winter until April in the Supé and Bonga regions, respectively. Defensive behavior is intensive, and beekeepers also report a tendency for absconding (i.e. bees leave for a more suitable environment in times of food shortage). Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

5 Skilled beekeepers in Supé (Mr. Wodajo) and Bonga (Mr. Mirutse Habtemariam) showed that honey production from the local bee can be fruitful and produce good quality honey. It is very important that beekeepers work with the locally adapted honeybee, and another, exotic bee race should never be imported because this greatly increases the risk of introducing diseases that local populations are not adapted to. If the local bee is aggressive, proper queen breeding and selection of the resulting stock will lead to gentler, more manageable bees. a. Threats and Diseases Photo: Varroa mites on A.mellifera Beekeepers must protect their bees from robbing ants and honey badgers. In addition to simple protective measures such as metal or plastic funnels (see photos), beekeepers sometimes shoot honey badgers. No sign of significant disease, especially American or European Foulbrood, was observed; however, contradicting official government statements, parasitic Varroa destructor mites are ubiquitous. Beekeepers do not actively control V. destructor, apart from infrequent application of smoke from herbal leaves as a general pest protection with questionable effect. The local bee therefore appears to co-exist with the mite; the underlying mechanisms of this relationship is of significant interest because of the problems this mite causes to honeybees in other regions of the world. A simple explanation could be frequent swarming or absconding, as well as defense behavior and mutual grooming. Photo: Brood cell with varroa mite Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

6 Photo: Ant protection tools such as simple plastic bowl or metal casing around the pole b. Pollination The main role of bees in general is to pollinate flowering plants. In the investigated area, pollination is important to the production of coffee, mango and avocados. A relatively high density of honeybees were observed in both Supé and Bonga. 3. Traditional beekeeping Traditional beekeeping is extensive and closely tied to swarm management: hives are hung up in trees to catch swarms and are then transferred to the ground. Often, such hives are placed in a kind of bee house that protects the hives from the heat and rain. Traditional hives are crafted by creating a tube shaped structure using branches, straw, cow dung and clay. Hives are typically cm across and 1 m long. Sometimes they can be carved from a soft log, such as from a cactus tree. Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

7 Due to the defensive behavior of the bees, honey harvesting is done at night. A long knife is used to remove the combs full of honey. Photos: Cactus tree Traditional hive The knowledge how to produce first quality honey from this traditional system is locally available with only few beekeepers.. Numerous disadvantages of this hive system are listed in Table 1. Photo: traditional bee hives placed in different house types such as of Mr Jamal (right) and Mr Wodajo Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

8 Table 1: Disadvantages of traditional hives Beekeeping No possibility to inspect comb for brood diseases Work with open hives must be performed in complete darkness at night No possibility to split the colony for artificial colony reproduction No selection for honey yield and behavior No possibility to feed a colony during times of food shortage Honey harvesting High chance that the colony (queen) is killed during harvesting Very difficult to judge the maturity / ripeness of honey before harvesting Brood and honey combs are harvested together because separation of the two is laborious and difficult a. Honey production Honey is traditionally consumed by Ethiopians in small quantities, and most honey is diluted with water, mixed with herbs and fermented in big pots. So-called tej is a very popular honey drink in Ethiopia, and is consumed by people across the country. There is no need to harvest ripe quality of honey (i.e. honey with a low water content) to produce tej. Thus, beekeepers are often not aware of any differences in quality of honey due to water content. Photo: Tej pot in National Museum Addis Ababa Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

9 b. Traditional hive products To our knowledge, and based on what we learned from the beekeepers we accompanied for 3 weeks, there is no tradition of using other honeybee hive products such as pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom; some beekeepers know that there is a certain market for wax. Hive products in health care is limited to treating a sore throat with honey, but not to support wound healing. There is, however, a tradition of using honey from stingless bees found in Ethiopia for medicinal purposes. Photo: Comb of a earth-nesting stingless bee species in Lomut, Kenja 4. Modern beekeeping Because improving honey quality and bee behavior is not possible using traditional log hives, transition to a system with removable combs is recommended. Two different types of hives should be considered: the Top Bar Hive (TBH) and or the modern, western-style Zander or Langstroth wooden box hive. Top Bar Hives are simple in design and can be constructed for free using locally available materials. Construction plans for TBH from local timber and bamboo are available and published by Ethiopian bee scientists (see Appendix). True to their name, TBH s need only properly spaced bars on the top; even twigs will do. Bees start building combs from these top bars down to the bottom of the hive, and due to the slanted walls of the outer hive box, will not attach comb to the side. The result is a hive that allows combs to be easy removed and completely inspected. Zander or Langstroth hives with removable frames are much more complicated to construct. Precisely machined parts from high quality, imported wood, must be produced on professional machines. Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

10 Photo: Apiary of Mirutse Habtemariam in the Bonga region Unfortunately, frame hives are generally not suitable for African beekeeping conditions and are not readily adopted because of price and the need for precision parts. If not crafted precise enough working with these hives becomes a nuisance. Ethiopia already has experience with such a transition program to modern frame hives. For example, a few years ago NGO s, together with the government, initiated the construction and distribution of frame hives. To this day, the legacy to this ambitious program could not be seen in Ethiopian beekeeping. The hives simply disappeared. In Africa, apiculture using frame hives is only feasible if the beekeeper can self-produce an appropriate hive and fitting frames that can be lent to farmers. Beekeeping training for these farmers is also required. Payment by the farmer is made using honey. Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

11 Photos: Different types of TBH Books and manuals can nicely complement personal training on beekeeping. A new beekeeping manual written in Amharic and Oromo languages should be available in Spring 2012 from the Holeta Bee Research Institute. Another well-elaborated manual by FiBL, the Swiss Institute for Organic Agriculture, can be download from the internet at Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

12 a. Large-scale honey business Honey businesses operating on a larger scale and aiming for export, or at least marketing in Addis Ababa, collect honey from farmers/beekeepers over a wide area. Usually, collection centers are established to collect and extract honey from a distinct area. Farmers harvest the honeycombs at night and carry the honey on plates or in baskets to the centre for extraction. They have to follow a strict delivery plan to cope with the capacity of the extraction facilities. Photo: Basket for transportation of honey combs (APINEC) Honey is extracted by pressing combs or by using a commercial honey-extracting machine to remove honey from intact frames. After sieving, the honey is filled in buckets or drums. Photo: Collection centre of the Honey Union in Bonga Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

13 b Honey extraction and filling The types of honey presses in use are acceptable. Some have a wooden bottom that could be a source of yeast infection. Pressing the combs twice improves yield but there is a quality issue. Sieving is a necessary step to remove wax particles or dead bees form the honey. Sieving equipment made from stainless steel is available, but plastic sieves, which do not qualify for this purpose, are also used. Photo: Comb presses for extracting honey Photo: A centrifuge for 3 frames Photo: A simple frame design that allows for the extraction of broken combs by centrifuge (CABESI-project, Kenya) Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

14 c. Storage of honey and wax Honey is sensitive to light and temperature, and can absorb odors or water from the air easily. It should be stored in airtight drums or buckets in an dark, air-conditioned (max. temp = 20 C), dry room free of odors and ants. Storage of wax is less demanding: dust free and away from small animals. d. Quality aspects in the honey production chain The entire production chain is listed and discussed in Table 2, with special emphasis on where improvements can be made. Photos: traces of wax moths on TBH-comb and on timber (box hive) Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

15 collection centers Beekeeping Honeybee Table 2: Honey process chain, including risks and hazard control points Subject What Problem Recommendation/control point No breeding/selection Temptation to introduce other bee races Honey harvest at night High risk of introducing diseases and epidemics Start breeding/selection program Defensive bees Overuse of smoke Check honey delivery for smoky odor Traditional (fixed comb) Top Bar Hive Frame hive Cannot distinguish between brood and honey combs Contamination of honey with brood and dead bees No possibility to check for honey ripeness Checking for ripe honey High wood quality and accurate machining needed No experience Change to removable comb system Use honey from traditional hives exclusively for tej production Hive inspection during day time Harvest only capped brood (80% capped) Very expensive, financing Training courses necessary Transport of honeycombs Protect against bees, dust, humidity Bee tight, floor and walls tiled for easy cleaning Honey extraction Honey extraction room Good illumination, water tap Food grade equipment ready and clean Several honey sieves available for easy change Air tight honey storage tanks Honey quality Water content, dark combs, dead bees Separate incoming honey into two quality categories 1. premium honey: water content below 19%, no dark combs 2. Rest: use for tej production Honey extracting equipment All materials in contact with honey in stainless steel only Honey extraction Storage First pressing for premium quality honey only Quicker work time as honey absorbs water and odors easily Use of air tight containers only Wax Honey jar filling Traceability Wax moth Wax melting and cleaning in open air Air bubbles and wax in container will float to the surface within 2 days Sanitary filling of jars Name of beekeeper on each container Combs not stored; immediately process combs into solid blocks Wax melting inside solar heater or in bee tight building. Avoid open fire for risk of explosion Remove by skimming off Performed in a clean room, bee tight, with water for washing Filled jars Store filled jars in a dark, cool and odorless room Bulk honey storage Temperature and humidity Store in cool location with low humidity and no odor Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

16 e Beeswax production Beeswax is a very different commodity from honey. Many local market niches can absorb small quantities of honey; whereas, beeswax buyers are few and frequently only interested in large quantities that are greater than 1000 kg. Another problem is with its storage; empty brood or honeycombs cannot be stored because of quick infestation by wax moths. It takes this pest species only three to four weeks to completely reduce combs to rubbish, damaging the wooden Photo: wax cake at Holeta bee research centre frame as well. Wax combs have to be melted and passed through a coffee bag in order to remove the black residues in the combs. The resulting yellow wax cakes can then be stored indefinitely. These necessary steps make preparing and selling small quantities of beeswax rather difficult for small beekeepers. Beeswax is therefore very often disposed of rather than collected. Beeswax presents problems for larger consolidators too, as a lot of capital may have to be allocated to beeswax purchases to build up a large volume for onward bulk sale. However, because African beekeepers do not use chemicals their wax is pure and free of such contaminations, and therefore is in high demand internationally from cosmetic manufacturers and beeswax foundation makers in Europe and America. Rather than exporting beeswax, it is possible that a small local business can be started using an investment of about 4000 US$ to receive beeswax nationally that could then be exported, cleaned further to create candles, or made into wax foundation using a special press to create wax sheets 2mm thick with a regular hexagonal pattern embossed on the surface. Wax foundation is used by all frame hive beekeepers to Photo: A wax melter powered by solar energy Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

17 provide a surface for bees to build comb onto. Ethiopia covers its demand for wax foundations by import. Manufacturing part of it locally makes sense and would generate much needed jobs. Photo: A wax foundation sheet being created on a press (CABESI- project, Kenya) f Other hive products Hive products such as beeswax, bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom have a well documented and effective tradition in healthcare, especially in Asian and Eastern European cultures. Respective knowledge is available through different apitherapy associations. Such products, together with adapted beekeeping and local production of ointments and tinctures, could provide further income and useful, affordable medicine to health centers for people living in rural areas of Ethiopia. Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

18 5. Honey Business a. Apinec, Bonga With the help of SNV (Netherlands Development Organization), the business Apinec was created to perform the entire honey production chain. The company has a carpentry workshop capable of producing accurately machined box hives and frames. Beekeepers are given the boxes in exchange for their honey. Apinec has established a very effective training for its beekeepers and guests. In addition, they provide all necessary apiculture tools, such as protection gear, hive tools, smokers and transport baskets to their affiliated beekeepers. Apinec supports and improves beekeeping with a selection and breeding program of the local honeybee race. They have their own queen-rearing program and provide members with mated queens. The most important step for honey quality is the separation of honey into two quality levels. Honey with high water content is collected separately for tej production. Only honey classified with lower water content finds its way into the processing line for high quality honey. However, very often the water content is generally too high to make a stable product. Therefore, Apinec installed a dryer to keep honey at approximately 40 C to evaporate water to a level of about %. Afterwards, the honey is stored at the appropriate temperature and humidity in sealed containers. High quality honey from Apinec is shipped in drums exclusively to Norway. There is no domestic honey business established so far. Apinec is ISO certified and fulfills all the EU Third State requirements for honey. Respective Honey analysis are performed in Hohenheim, Germany. This is the easiest, and at the moment, most economic way to fulfill the sampling requirements for exporting to EU. In the future, a national Ethiopian honey lab should take over this responsibility. The Apinec process would not comply with the Swiss organic regulation agency bio.inspecta because of the honey drying step. Further training and strict separation of raw material is necessary to eventually remove this drying step from the chain. b. Honey Union, Bonga The Honey Union is a competitor to Apinec Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

19 Photo: demonstration of wax filtering with aid of a coffee bag c. Honey business projects in Supé Photo: Beekeeping workshop Supé Groups of young men and women have applied for micro credit start-ups at the Learning for Life Foundation. One such application was to gain Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

20 credit for buying frame hives and extracting equipment for a beekeeping business of about 100 hives. In our opinion, beekeeping must start small (i.e. 5-8 hives), and then slowly expand. Knowledge of bee biology and hive management is a prerequisite. Since respective training is barely available in the region, projects should consider other means of training such as by recruiting an experienced beekeeper to provide information. Collaboration with common extracting facilities, as well as proper honey storage and quality control is also necessary. We suggest that Learning for Life Foundation supports beekeeping start-ups that aim to set up a business in collaboration with existing local beekeepers who are willing to join a network as described in chapter 6. We do not recommend investing in extraction facilities and equipments for individual beekeepers because they are used only twice a year, but rather in communal materials that can be shared. The modern frame hive is successful in Africa only if there is an internal production and supply of the hives and the frames within the same business. For all other situations, TBH types are strongly recommended. The Apinec model is a good example how to manage a honey business properly and successfully on a relatively large scale. 6. Beekeepers Association The idea of sharing knowledge and problems with fellow beekeepers in an association is standard in European countries. Such associations can provide education, such as training schools or publishing instruction manuals or a journal, or by simply engaging beekeepers to tackle a common problem by collaborating with members. The latter is especially important for queen breeding because it is crucial to work together and know beekeeping neighbors because bees mate with drones that do not discriminate among beekeeper. In Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Apicultural Board, founded and directed by Juergen Greiling, provides the top down approach of such a venue to support beekeeping efforts. However the local association is needed to effectively develop beekeeping in an area. Such a bottom up approach of beekeepers associations has the potential to grow to regional levels. Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

21 7. Recommendations For the Bonga area, it is not productive to run two honey collection organizations in parallel. Merging the Union and Apinec likely needs the involvement of former SNV experts who built the organizations. Those people, especially J. Greiling, are open to such ideas. Original Food honey export project: Must seek collaboration with Apinec. Relying on the existing certified processes, as well as the established honey analysis, will give tangible results and saves time. Establishing a national honey laboratory equipped and ability to perform honey analysis required for EU exportation. The national Holeta Bee Research Institute has a respective facility, but lack the knowledge, equipment and respective orders from the government. Uniting local beekeepers by setting up beekeeper associations with the aim of sharing knowledge using common extraction equipment and establishing a selection and breeding program. Investigating the use of micro credit projects to give local associations a chance to prosper. Incorporating TBH boxes, which will be an important step from a traditional to modern hive. TBH made from timber are rather expensive ($30-50 or Birr). Farmers can alternatively produce non-timber THB from local materials such as bamboo, branches and grass (See ppt presentation in Appendix). Recommending frame hives in specific circumstances as described in the chapter Apinec. Starting working on achieving all points mentioned in table 2 in the column improvement / hazard control Bringing stakeholders and people interested in honey business in Ethiopia together: our contact list in the following chapter can help. Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

22 8. Contacts Dr Juergen Greiling former SNV expert EAB (Ethiopian Apiculture Board) and SIN and GiZ P.O. box A.A, Ethiopia Tel +251 (0) Maria Müller Original Food GmbH Kellenweg 8 CH Hergiswil Tel Fax Josefine Buergin President Learning for Life Schaffhausenstrasse 89 CH-8042 Zürich Tel Kinfe Mamo PPP OF Project Coordinator Addis Ababa GIZ Tel.: +251(0) Apinec P.O. Box: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Contact Person: Wubishet Hailemariam Phone: Mobile: Beekeeping Training Course Bonga - Kaffa Zone - SNNPR - Ethiopia A Cooperation of Apinec Ethiopia and Trichilia ABC The Netherlands Wubshet Adugna - P.O. Box Bonga - Ethiopia - Marieke Mutsaers - The Netherlands Lamessa Bekele School director grade 5-8 Supe, Prov. Illubabor mail: Tel Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

23 Holeta Bee Research Centre Director Kebebew Wakijira Tel +251 (0) P.O. Box 22 Holeta, Ethiopia Admassu Addi Holeta Bee Research Centre Bee plant and pollen expert Tel +251 (0) FiBL, Swiss Institute for Organic Agriculture Manual for organic agriculture in Africa The beekeeping chapter is part of module 10, Animal Species Bereket Dessie Tel mail: Mirutse Habtemariam Bonga Agronomist and Beekeeper with good motivation and skills Beekeeping tools Selam Technical & Vocational College P.O. Box 8075 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Phone +251 (0) Fax +251 (0) Website: Bees for Development PO Box 105, Monmouth, NP25 9AA, UK Tel: +44 (0) Hansulrich Thomas Zeppelinstrasse Zuerich Dr Peter Gallmann Nelkenweg Liebefeld Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

24 9. Acknowledgement We like to thank all the people who contributed to our beekeeping journey in Supé, Bonga and Addis Ababa, namely Josy Buergin for hosting us, Lamessa Bekele for organizing the beekeepers workshop, Kinfe Mamo for being our guide in Bonga and Jürgen Greiling for his very useful advises with respect to beekeeping in Ethiopia. 10. Appendix Link to Holeta paper on alternative top bar hive crafting: Link to BFD home page on legislation and standards Ethiopia: Honey bee investigation

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