Bee Pollination, Improving Biodiversity and the Livelihood of Communities across Tigray
REST/USAID contribution through beekeeping
The Tigray Regional State, specifically the Eastern part of the region, is well-known for the production of high quality honey in Ethiopia. This is largely due to the availability of diversified plant species, climatic condition, topography and rain fall distribution.
According to studies conducted by one of the largest public universities in Ethiopia, Mekelle University and Tigray Agricultural Research Institute, there are around 113 bee flora species in Tigray.
The topography of the Tigray region is undulating with mountains, making it suitable for beekeeping, while leaving the flatter areas for crop production. Furthermore, the semi-dry climate condition of the region with erratic rainfall creates opportunities for beekeepers as the erratic and reduced amount of rainfall in the region allows forbs and shrubs to dominate the open grazing land, yielding good quality honey.
Traditionally farmers kept honeybees at home, in their backyards due to a lack of awareness and little skill regarding beekeeping management on the rehabilitated mountainous areas.
Since the late 1990s, with the support from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) and the Tigray government, Relief society of Tigray (REST) has been working on land rehabilitation and conservation. As a result, the Tigray Government was awarded Gold in the 2017 Future Policy Award for world’s best policies for tackling land degradation organized by the World Future Council and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
Additionally, through the support of BHA, REST is operating various projects and programs such as “Bee flora,” area enclosure and regeneration activities to engage farmers in beekeeping as a way to generate income through honey production and create beekeeping cooperatives on enclosed and rehabilitated mountainous areas.
Simultaneously, REST is focusing on sustainable intensification and diversification of farming systems, including home gardening, intercropping and agroforestry, providing clients training and technical assistance to engage them in activities that are critical conservation strategies to support wild pollinators.
Beekeeping providing economic opportunities while improving biodiversity
“12 years ago our land was very degraded, it was dry and no one used it”, says Teklebirhan Tadese, the chairman of Shewit Honey and Beekeeping Cooperative in Negash, Kilte Awulaelo.
After the area was closed and rehabilitated, in 2017, Teklebirhan and his cooperative purchased honeybee colonies. “Within a short time we were able to see the difference in the land itself,” said Teklebirhan. “There was clear differences between the area that had bees and those that did not.”
The bees not only improved the ecology through pollination, but they acted as guards to the area and protected it from grazing by domestic animals and from deforestation due to the defence behaviour of the honeybees.
With 12 members, Shewit Honey and Beekeeping Cooperative have 43 honeybee colonies. In 2020, the cooperative is expecting to harvest 200 kilograms of honey, valued at 400 ETB per kilogram in the local market, making an estimated 80,000 ETB in a season. “Many landless youth have improved their livelihood by engaging in beekeeping. It’s saving them from migrating for job opportunities”, said Teklebirhan.
Pollination is critical to many aspects of our planet. Honeybees play a vital role in improving the quality and quantity of agricultural crops. As the world population continues to increase and arable land decreases, beekeeping can improve the livelihoods of communities by increasing household economic mobility.
How you can help
1. Raise awareness on the importance of bees and their impact in our world
2. Plant nectar plants such as sunflowers and marigolds in your home
3. Try to use pesticides that do not distress bees in the early morning or late at night