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The United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution declaring 20 May as World Bee Day. Bees and other pollinators are vital to the global food chain. Not only do they ensure food security but they also provide an economic service worth up to $577bn, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Find out how the production of organic honey is offering the youth of Ethiopia a chance to become self-employed.

A Market with High Potential

Beekeeping does not require fertile land, a large area, or a lot of initial capital. This makes it attractive for unemployed youths with limited resources. There are approximately 1.4-1.7 million beekeeping households, who keep bees as a means of income generation.

Crucially, there is potential for the current organic honey market to support higher supply and the beekeepers can earn premium prices because the honey is organic.

However, the sector still faces many problems. The Young Apipreneur Project (YAP) works with young people, supporting them to develop well-organized apiary sites near the forest and establishing a learning and collection centre in a youth village with a strong coaching system. The collection centre helps the youths to supply their products to the market easily without any problems with transportation.

The production system is highly integrated with natural forest conservation, so it is environmentally friendly and economically sustainable. Because a sustainable supply chain is in place and supported by a strong market, beekeepers can support their families while protecting the forest.

Conserving the Forest

Ethiopia has experienced significant deforestation and ecological degradation, which has hindered the country’s economic development. At the beginning of the 20th century, forest covered around 40% of Ethiopia’s landmass. By 2000, this had fallen to just 2-3%.

One of the main causes of deforestation is high population growth. Due to low agricultural productivity and lack of income diversification, many young people are unemployed, or they expand the agricultural land through deforestation.  The Young Apipreneur Project (YAP) addresses these challenges by creating an innovative agri-based business.

The young beekeepers plant trees and conserve the existing natural forest, to help ensure a healthy ecosystem. The organic certification of the production system includes principles to secure a healthy environment. The result is happy beekeepers, quality honey, and a healthy environment. It is a self-help business model in harmony with nature.

Case study: Tadess

Tadess is 22 years old and lives with his family in South West Ethiopia. He started beekeeping after attending a training held by Apis Agribusiness in their village.

He said “The motivational, business and technical training encouraged me to think and look about opportunities around my village. Beekeeping was interesting for me since it is implemented on small pieces of land with little capital. I have 13 transition beehives made from locally available materials and 12 of them have bees. I harvested 195 kg of pure honey from 10 beehives.

“Now I feel if I am self-employed in my business. I plan to increase the beehives and harvest more than half a ton per year. We are unemployed, having big untouched natural resources. These days nobody is cutting the forest after tasting the sweet honey and the earned money from honey sales.”

The Young Apipreneur Project (YAP) is a project run in the natural forest area of South West Ethiopia. It connects rural unemployed youths to the market for sustainable organic honey, and conserves local forests because a healthy forest environment is a backbone for the sector. The project supports the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 3, 5 and 12.

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