Livestock Research for Rural Development 21 (10) 2009 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD News

Citation of this paper

Constraints and prospects for apiculture research and development in Amhara region, Ethiopia

Kerealem Ejigu, Tilahun Gebey* and T R Preston**

Andassa Livestock Research Center, P O Box: 27, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
* ILRI-IPMS, Fogera Pilot Learning Site, Woreta, Ethiopia
** TOSOLY, AA 48 Socorro, Santander, Colombia


Ethiopia has been amongst the principal honey and beeswax producers worldwide for centuries.  Beekeeping in Amhara region could be one way of assisting millions of the region’s farmers to improve their cash income, provide additional food, assist in pollination, generate employment and at the same time produce honey, beeswax and other hive products which can bring foreign currency into the country. 


This paper discusses the constraints and the future prospects on apiculture development of the region. The challenges are many but can be overcome while the opportunities are very encouraging.


As a conclusion, developing appropriate policy and beekeeping development strategy that would be applicable to the different production systems will ensure the sustainable development of apiculture sub sector.

Key words: Apis mellifera, beekeeping, hive products, honeybees


Amhara National Regional State (ANRS) is located between 80 45’N to 140 N latitude and 350 46’E to 400 25’E longitude. It covers an approximate area of 170,752 square kilometer with an elevation ranging from 500 to above 3500 m.a.s.l. The regional population is estimated to be about 16.7 million out of which 89.3 percent resides in the rural areas (CSA 2005). Administration division includes 11 zones, 116 districts and 3224 peasant associations.

The land use pattern of the region is 28 percent arable land, 30 percent pasture land, 2.1 percent forest land, 12.6 percent bush land, 7.2 percent settlement, 3.8 percent water bodies and 16.3 percent unusable land. Mean annual rainfall ranges from 700 to over 1400 mm characterized by two rainy seasons: Belg (short rainy season) and Kiremt (main rain season); and the annual mean temperature is ranging from 15 to 210C.


Agriculture is the dominant economic sector of the region employing 90 percent of the labor force and contributing 70 percent of the regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The production system of the region is characterized by a crop-livestock mixed farming system with an average land holding of 1.7 ha. Based on CSA (2005) census, the region has about 8.9 million cattle, 3.8 million sheep, 3.7 million goats, 1.4 million equines and 9.1 million poultry and constituting about 35 percent of the national livestock population. Moreover, according to Central Agricultural Census Commission results 917,460 honeybee colonies are reported to exist in different zones of the region (CACC 2003). In general the density of honeybee colonies is more in high biomass areas of the west and northwest parts of the region. However, some of the low biomass and moisture stress areas of the eastern region supports quite large number of honeybee colonies.


Recent studies indicate that the share of the sub sector in the GDP has not commensurate with the huge numbers of honeybee colonies and the region's potentiality for beekeeping. This is attributed to different factors and constraints. In this regard, for better utilization of unexploited economic potential of the apicultural resources in a sustainable way as well as to upgrade and to promote beekeeping in Amhara region, it is timely and relevant to investigate major constraints and opportunities as well as to come up with possible suggestions and recommendations.


Therefore, the overall objective of this work was to significantly increase the understanding of the constraints and opportunities facing the apiculture sub sector. It also attempts to identify apicultural research and development interventions that are required in order to make the sub sector more competitive in the domestic and export markets, and thereby improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers in the region.


Materials and methods 

In this study, both secondary and primary sources of data were used.  The main sources of secondary data for this study were previous research findings, Internets, reports of Agriculture and Rural Development Offices at different levels, reports of NGOs, and other published and unpublished materials. In addition to thorough review of literature and collection of relevant secondary data, primary information was gathered using different approaches. These include a focused group discussion, interview with key informants and household survey. The survey was undertaken in six districts that best represent the high potential honey production areas in the Amhara region from October 2005 to January 2006. These districts were Baso Liben, Jabi Tehnan, Guangu, Gonder Zuria, Sekota and Tehulederie.  The collected data were coded and tabulated for analysis. The statistical analyses used in the study were Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS 2003) 12.0 version software and descriptive statistics.


Results and discussion 

Beekeeping conditions of the Amhara region


Beekeeping is the most widely spread practice in the farming communities of the region and it is an integral part of the smallholder farming system. In the region, the apicultural resources are immense, particularly in the western parts of the region the natural vegetation coverage is relatively high, as a result in this area the honeybee population is dense and production is relatively high. In the eastern parts of the region, in spite of scarcity of natural vegetations, large areas of inaccessible lands for cultivation and livestock grazing are covered with various types of bushes and make this part of region still to remain potential for beekeeping.  Besides this, the beekeeping potential of the region is partly attributed to the various cultivated oil crops, pulse and field flowers, which are very important to bee forages and honey production.


Moreover, farmer beekeepers of the region have well developed and long standing traditional beekeeping skills. In the region beekeeping is mostly practiced at a backyard level by keeping beehives either under separate shelters or around the house wall or even inside the house with domestic animals and family members without any problems (Figure 1). In the region beekeepers have relatively better know-how to manage their honeybee colonies.  Moreover, some beekeepers practice migrating their colonies for better forage. However, the level of beekeeping still remains in traditional system and about 94 to 97 percent of bees are still kept in traditional hives with its various limitations (BoARD 2006). But the chances to introduce and adopt improved beekeeping practices are very high since it is based on improving and expanding the existing rich traditional beekeeping practices of the people (BoA 2003).

Figure 1.
 Honeybee colonies placed inside the house: top bar and local hives (left) and frame hives (right)

Honeybee races found in the region


Four geographical races of honeybees (Apis mellifera monticola, Apis mellifera bandasii, Apis mellifera jemenitica and Apis mellifera scutellata) are reported to exist in different ecological zones of the region (Nuru 2002). Among these Apis mellifera monticola and Apis mellifera bandasii are widely distributed mostly in high and mid altitude parts of the region. Behaviorally, the migratory tendencies of monticola and bandasii are very low. Even in the absences of food they remain in their nest up to starving to death. The reproductive swarming tendencies of these bees are also very low. Some colonies reported to remain 5 to 10 years without having reproductive swarm. Compared to others, these bees are relatively gentle, which may be due to the fact that they have been kept very close to human and livestock for many centuries. The other bee races, jemenitica and scutellata are found in the western mid and lowland areas of the region. The migratory and reproductive swarming tendencies of these bees are relatively high and are more defensive. Generally the bees of the region are fast in population build up and in exploiting resources in an erratic environment (BoA 2003).


Honey production


Ethiopia has been amongst the principal honey and beeswax producers worldwide for centuries.  Amhara region is well known for the production of large amount of honey in the country. According to CACC (2003) census report 69,757.87 quintals honey is produced annually. This accounts for nearly 25 percent of the total honey production of the country. In the region many districts from both moisture stress and moist areas are well known for honey production particularly Gojjam and Gonder are famous in the country for the production of quantity and quality honey.  In terms of productivity (yield per colony) North Gonder, West Gojjam, and Wag Himra are reported to be highest. Moreover, many districts from moisture stress areas are also highly productive (BoA 2003). The honeybee population and annual production and productivity by zone are shown in Table 1.

Table 1.  Honeybee population, honey production and productivity of honeybees by zones of   Amhara  region


Honeybee colonies

Honey production, kg 

Productivity, yield in kg /colony

North Gonder




South Gonder




North Wollo




South Wollo




North Shewa




East Gojjam




West Gojjam




Wag Himra















           7.6 (mean)

Source: CACC 2003; BoA 2003

Socio-economic importance of beekeeping in the regional economy


Honeybees are one of the few assets available to the rural poor. The ownership of honeybees in the region is regarded as an investment and beekeeping has many advantages that help farmer beekeepers to improve their well being. Its advantages can be itemized for the socio economic impact of beekeeping. Successful beekeepers raise their socio economic standing in areas with subsistence agriculture, and farmers in the region can substantially supplement the family income, some times even double it. This means the family is food secured.


Generally, beekeeping is a valuable small scale activity and it plays a significant role in providing nutrition, cash income, pollination service and social benefits to the economy of the region as well as in the subsistence smallholder farmers.


Dietary use


Honey is a useful source of high-carbohydrate food, and usually contains a rich diversity of minor constitutes (minerals, vitamins, and proteins), adding nutritional quality to human diets. In areas where caloric intake is low, the inclusion of honey in the diet will help supply needed carbohydrates. If basic calorie requirements are met, protein foods may be used by the body as protein.


Seasonally it can provide a useful addition to the diet, as it often can be gathered or harvested when other food is limited or monotonous. If harvested and processed properly, honey may be stored for long periods of time with no adverse effect; therefore, it can be use in times of food shortage. As Crane (1990) noted compared with industrialized countries, honey consumption is generally low in developing countries. There is no exception in Ethiopia as well as in Amhara region. This is because honey is regarded more as a medicine or tonic, rather than a daily food. The tradition of using honey making mead (locally known as ‘Tej’, the national drink, is possibly Ethiopian’s oldest alcoholic drink) must not be neglected in the dietary discussion (Bradbear 2003).       


Some studies conducted in the region have shown that the percentage of honey utilized for household consumption ranged from 23.0 percent to 36.5 percent (CACC 2003; Kerealem 2005). The proportion that is eaten is normally taken at harvesting and often said to be the lowest quality part of the harvest that includes: bee-brood, unripe honey and dark color honey.


As a source of income


Beekeeping is one of the most important income-generating activities in the rural communities. The main emphasis given on honey production is as a cash crop. Honey has good domestic market all the year round with slight price change at different market points. In the region honey selling helps for the diversification of the incomes of farmers. Some farmer beekeepers of the region reported to earn up to 3000 Birr (about US$ 353) annually from honey selling only which contribute the largest portion of their annul incomes (BoA 2003). These facts indicate the high potential of apiculture as source and means of diversifications of incomes for the rural communities. Many resource poor farmers sell their honey to the local markets and use income to purchase livestock, agricultural inputs, food crops and other household items. Many beekeepers sell their honey mixed with beeswax without further processing. Honeybees can also be sold to meet cash requirements (Figure 2). 

Figure  2
.  Marketing of honeybee colonies with local hives (Source: Burie ILRI-IPMS)

Pollination service


Honeybee is also believed to play a significant role in the economy of Ethiopia through pollination services. Pollination is one of the most important factors that affect seed production in agricultural crops. In Ethiopia, an experiment was conducted to evaluate the effect of honeybee pollination on Niger (Guizotia abyssinica) and the result revealed that honeybees increased the seed yield of Niger by about 43 percent (Admassu and Nuru 2000). These indicated that honeybees have a vital role in increasing food production and overall agricultural productivity.


Social benefits


Beekeeping also has considerable socio-cultural significance. In the region farmer beekeepers are appreciated by the community for their sweet product. Moreover, production of honey mead (‘Tej’) as a local festival drink and the use of beeswax for making of votive candles is an integral part of the cultural heritage within the many ethnic and religious groups.


Development attempts in apicultural sub sector 

In Ethiopia the extension program on beekeeping activity was started in 1978 together with other activities of Livestock Department of Ministry of Agriculture. In order to start beekeeping extension activities the program prepared was first to make trials of improved hives in areas selected as demonstration sites.  Finoteselam in Gojjam was one of the selected sites used to demonstrate improved beekeeping in the region. Thereafter during the Dergue regime many box hives have been distributed mainly to farmer producer cooperatives, but all the efforts failed with the abolition of cooperatives and the collapse of the regime.


Following the establishment of the Regional National States in the country, the Amhara Region Agricultural Bureau took over the responsibility of the apicultural sector development. Between the years 1993 to 1996 the Regional Agricultural Bureau attempted to distribute frame hives to different zones of the region. During those periods efforts were made to give technical assistance in transferring of colonies from traditional to box hives and rendering of training services to farmers, development agents and district staff. In those periods the focus was only on frame hives technologies. However, from 1997 to 2001 beekeeping a package was developed and three levels of beekeeping technologies (local, top bar and frame hives) were considered for different income groups. Accordingly 1614 frame hives and 8080 top bars were distributed and 20,450 local hive colonies included and necessary inputs were provided to package participants (BoA 2003).


Though Amhara region has enormous untapped potentials for development of beekeeping until recently, apiculture was not a priority in the research activities and development programs of government. The year 2002 brought sever drought in Ethiopia: a country known for its cyclical droughts, which are often followed by famine. Even though the drought did not lead to serious famine, it did, however, force the regional government to embark on other campaigns and it aimed at minimizing the effects of drought in drier areas. This program is directed at harvesting rainwater runoff, developing springs and sinking shallow wells. And, based on the amount of water harvested, ‘Integrated economical important technology packages’ were under implementation. In this regard, the regional government formulates strategies to reduce poverty, to bring sustainable development and to make the people food self sufficient in one way or another by categorizing the region into moist and moisture stress areas. In moisture stress areas more focus will be on livestock production mainly small ruminates, poultry and beekeeping. Therefore, beekeeping, though marginalized by planners in the development themes for a long time, it is a pursuit that can be used to realize our most idealistic visions of regional development. Beekeeping seems to be fairly well adapted to the semi dry and dry land areas where there are few other sources of income.    


From 2003 to 2005 market-oriented commodity packages were developed. In this regard emphasis was given for frame hive production and more than 110,000 frame hives were manufactured in the region. However, due to high price of the hive and other associated problems the number of hives reached to the end users was about 7.5 percent (BoARD 2006).


Along the efforts of the government some NGOs like SOS Sahel Ethiopia, Agri-Service Ethiopia, Save the Children Fund (UK), World Vision Ethiopia, and the like are most active in promoting beekeeping development in the region. SOS Sahel did a lot to introduce top-bar hives in Meket (North Wollo) and in many surrounding districts and found to be successful in fast diffusion of the technology. Agri-Service Ethiopia also involved in promotion of top-bar hives in Enebse Sar Midir district (East Gojjam). The successes obtained from these NGOs can be scaled up to other parts of the region. However, from the vastness of the region, the number of farmers involved in beekeeping and great potentiality of beekeeping for sustainable development the efforts made are not adequate enough to bring significant changes in the sub sector.


Recently, in the year 2008, the Government of Ethiopia laid dawn foundation stone at Lalibela of Amhara region to establish “National Apiculture Museum” for honey and other hive products production, processing and marketing. This project may have as an implication for sustainable eco-tourism development and heritage maintenance in Ethiopia.


Research in apicultural sub sector 

Apiculture research in Ethiopia is one of the neglected and untouched fields of agriculture. Until very recently, Holetta Bee Research Center is the sole mandated institution undertaking adaptive and applied apicultural research work that would support development (EARO, 2000). Some of research activities that have been conducted include in the aspects of bee forage identification, honeybee management, honey and beeswax quality, honeybee enemies and diseases identification, honeybee races identification, low cost top bar hives and foundation sheet technologies developments. Some of the out puts are disseminated to few beekeepers at few places. However, these information and technologies were found inadequate to promote or improve the productivity of honeybees as expected. The centre is currently, the co-ordinating centre for the national apiculture research program.


Nowadays, modest start on apiculture research has been made in Regional Agricultural Research Institutes. Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI) is one of the institutes that given mandate to undertake apicultural research at regional level. The livestock research strategy plan for 2001 to 2005 was designed to be demand-driven, market-oriented, agro-ecology based system approach in problem solving that draws insights from interaction with farmers. Under ARARI there are eight Agricultural Research Centers, of these nearly half of them given mandate to carry out applied research projects on apiculture, meliponicultue and sericulture. Some works have been conducted in the first one while the last two are the new concept. However, this new orientation of research can be hampered to a number of factors. These include lack of trained man power (researcher) and absent of laboratory facilities in the sub sector. Therefore human resource development and construction of laboratory facilities should be given due attention.



The prevailing production constraints in the beekeeping development of the country are complex and to a large extent vary between agro-ecological zones and production systems (EARO, 2000). Variations of production constraints also extend in socio-economic conditions, cultural practices, climate (seasons of the year) and behaviors of the bees (Adjare 190). According to the results of this survey, the main constraints of apiculture sub sector in Amhara region are indicated in Table 2.

Table  2.  Major constraints of beekeeping in the study districts (2006)


Apiculture constraints

Percent of respondents who experience constraints


Shortage of bee forage



Pesticides poisoning



Lack of skilled manpower and training institutions



Low level of technology used



Honeybee pest and diseases



Shortage of bee colony



Marketing problems



Absence of policy in apiculture



Other constraints





Shortage of bee forage


Shortage of bee forage due to population pressure, lack of land use policy and the high demand for farmlands put pressures on mountainous areas to be used for crop production and livestock grazing. These create deforestation, soil erosion and irreversible ecological degradation (Figure 3). Moreover, burning of undergrowth and destroying of forestland for expansion of farmland could trigger a reduction of honey producing floras and foraging areas. The elimination of good nectar and pollen producing tree species in many areas makes it difficult to maintain bee colonies without feeding (Kerealem 2005). Based on the results of rural households’ socio-economic baseline survey, shortage of bee forage was the major constraint of beekeeping in the Amhara Region (BoFED 2002; 2004).


Pesticides poisoning


The use of chemicals and pesticides for crop pests, weeds, Tsetse fly, mosquitoes and household pests control brings in to focus the real possibility of damaging the delicate equilibrium in the colony, as well as the contamination of hive products. Of the various kinds of chemicals only insecticides and herbicides are now major problems to the beekeepers. The chemicals used for crop protection are the main pesticides that kill the bees. Moreover, there are two other circumstances in which bees are killed on plants by chemicals. These are by insecticides applied to non-crop pests such as mosquitoes and Tsetse flies and by herbicides applied to plants on which the bees are foraging. Insecticides have a much more dramatic effect on population of bees, thus, the important contribution made by bees to the production of food and human nourishment is being jeopardized. On the other hand, herbicides, which are commonly not toxic to bees, destroy many plants that are valuable to bees as source of pollen and nectar. The types of chemicals used include Malathion, Sevin, DDT, 2-4 D and Acetone.  As it was seen from the beekeeper point of view, poisoning of honeybees by agrochemical has been increased from time to time. Some beekeepers lost totally their colonies due to agrochemical.

Figure 3.
 An indication of deforestation: degraded area (left) and extensive deforestation of
Becium grandiflorum and other vegetation by children around Lalibela (right)

Lack of skilled manpower and training institutions


Beekeeping is one of the disciplines which suffered and is being suffering from the lack of skilled manpower, appropriately skilled trainers, training materials and training institutions in the region. Majority of the beekeepers lack the knowledge of appropriate methods of beekeeping. In the country there is no concerned college or university which can provide diploma or certificate level course in beekeeping. Holetta Bee Research Center is the only institute that provides basic trainings to farmers, technicians, and experts. However, this doesn’t meet the ever increasing demand of trained manpower in the region.


Low level of technology used


Some studies indicate that the level of beekeeping in the region still remains in traditional system and about 94 to 97 percent of bees are still kept in local hives with its various limitations. An introduction of improved beekeeping technologies to the rural communities are beyond the buying power of the farmers and not easily available for those who can afford it. Most of the local beekeepers lack the basic tool that would be needed for private work like bee veil, hand gloves, smoker, chisel, and overall (beekeepers suit).


Honeybee pest and diseases


Ethiopia, as one of the sub-tropical countries, the land is not only favorable to bees, but also for different kinds of honeybee pest and predators that are interacting with the life of honeybees (Desalegn 2001). The existence of pests and predators are nuisances to the honeybees and beekeepers. Pests and predators cause devastating damage on honeybee colonies with in short period of time and even over night. According to Kerealem (2005) ants, honey badger, bee-eater birds, wax moth, spider and beetles were the most harmful pests and predators in order of to decreasing importance. Some studies indicate that Ethiopia appears to be free from various honeybee brood diseases and at the same time at low level of adult bees’ diseases incidences. A major category of diseases which cause economic loss comprises amoeba, nosema and chalk brood.


Shortage of bee colony


The majority of the beekeepers interviewed said that one methods of obtaining bees is by capturing a wild colony during the reproductive swarming season. However, wild bees habitats are increasingly being destroyed as a result of expansion of farmland and are often suffer from total destruction of their nest.  Recent studies also revealed that in most part of the region acquiring honeybee colonies is a major problem to start bee farms and to expand the existing ones.


Marketing problems


It has been observed that in the region the marketing system of honey has many problems. Most of the local markets are far away from the beekeepers and are inaccessible. Beekeepers travel on foot for several hours to sell their honey. The lack of grading systems does not encourage farmers to produce high quality products, thus, the price of honey changes widely based on the good will of buyers. Gezahegne (2001) discussed the constraints to marketing of honey and beeswax in the country and these include low and discouraging price of honey and beeswax in local markets, lower quality of products, lack of market information, absence of organized market channel, transportation problem, lack of appropriate technologies for collecting, processing, packing and storage of honey to keep its natural quality, lack of government support in promoting market development, and low involvement of private sector. Because of beekeepers have limited knowledge of the preferences of their target market, they do not try to make any changes in the quality of their product. Presentation of quality honey is generally poor. Most honey come to market is un-extracted, unstrained and poorly managed.


Absence of policy in apiculture


The livestock sector in Ethiopia has probably suffered more than the crop sector from inappropriate government policies and the apiculture sub sector is no exception. Amhara region doesn’t have any development strategy and policy in apiculture.


Others constraints


Others technical constraints in beekeeping activities include poor extension systems (absence of coordination between research, extension and farmers), lack of credit service, shortage of records and up-to- date information, shortage of reading materials regarding to beekeeping, and lack of research stations to address the problems related to apiculture.  


Opportunities for beekeeping development 

Beekeeping is a sustainable form of agriculture, which is beneficial to the environment and provides economic reasons for the conservation of native habitats and potentially increased yield of food and forage crops. In Amhara region beekeeping provides a good example of one activity which has a strong local tradition, where there is a local market, and which is environmentally beneficial. Besides the challenges mentioned in Table 2, the main opportunities for beekeeping development in the region are:


Suggested research and development interventions

The major problems of honeybee production in the country can be tackled with the appropriate research and development. Researchers are needed for a number of investigation and strengthening simple and adaptive beekeeping practices that best suit the local condition and changing demands. In order to be effective, research must be targeted at the smallholder farmer. It must also be systems oriented, practical and adaptable. A careful assessment and analysis of the production environment is required in order to formulate apiculture development strategies that will lead to better use of local resources, improve the living standards of poor farmers and ensure the sustainable development of honeybee production. 


Inadequate feed sources (nectar, pollen, and water) due to drought and deforestation is a major limiting factor to honeybee production in Amhara region, particularly during the long dry season. Most of the honey plants flower and provide ample nectar and pollen sources after the main rainy season (September to December). Indigenous honeybee floras of various location should be identified and study on species diversity, species composition as well as bee-plant interaction is required. Research into providing good quality, year-round nectar and pollen source plants for the honeybees is therefore very important. Re-forestation program and utilization policies for the efficient use of natural resources should be developed at regional and national level. Integration of beekeeping to others development activities such as conservation of natural resources and promote the sowing of multipurpose legumes as a soil conservation measures as well as a fertilizer saver and that retain moisture to the soil may help as best means to green the futures. They also provide nectar and pollen for honeybees. Some browses can also occupy an important role in honeybees feeding, particularly during the dry season. This is because most browse species are drought resistant. These need to study. Generally, honeybee plants such as Vernonia spp., Echinops spp.,  Acacia spp., Acanthus spp., Helminthotheca echodes and Caylusea abyssinica are well known for their dry period flowering and serving as subsistence forage to bees in dearth periods (Nuru 2002; Gichora 2003). The agronomic characteristics of these honey plants need to be explored in order to achieve maximum benefit from them. Selection of honey flora suitable for integrated agro forestry-apiculture program should be undertaken. It was generally accepted that a colony must be left with portion of its honey or otherwise be given suitable substitute foods if it is to survive or remain in the hive. Thus flour of pulses and barley (‘shiro’, ‘besso’), milk, sugar syrup and the like could be provided to bee colonies as supplementary feed during the dearth periods. Their feeding value and rates of incorporation need to be determined. 


It is in no one's interest for bees to be harmed by agrochemicals. Their pollinating activity is a vital part of food production. However, bees can be harmed at any time by chemical sprays present on any plants where bees might forage, even the flowering weeds along the sides of fields. Many beekeepers lose their honeybee colonies every year due to agrochemicals applications. However, this is not considered as a serious problem by the government and other concerned bodies. Perhaps it is because of the generally low status of mere insects or the fact that bees are not highly visible livestock that the problem is not more fully appreciated. Since some agrochemicals have some residual effect on bee products, these residuals might be hazardous to human health. Although it is difficult to completely prevent the effect of chemicals on honeybees, their effect can be reduce by strengthening integrated pest management programs, using insecticides of relatively low toxicity and residual effect for bees and other pollinating insects, not applying insecticides toxic to bees when crops are flowering, use proper methods application, and the like. In this regard there is a need of timely advice and use of educational programs to beneficiaries, chemicals applicators and beekeepers on how to reduce poisoning by proper selection and application in insecticides. Techniques of beekeeping management (like moving bees out of hazardous areas, supplementary feeding and various protective measures) that will reduce the harmful effect of exposure to insecticides should be developed and practiced. Research should focus on the effects of agrochemical application on honeybees and means of minimizing their effects as well as on development of non-chemical methods of insect control. There is a need of establish better liaison between the members of the Ethiopian Beekeepers’ Association and concerned officials who set up regulations for applying insecticides. The regional governments should provide insecticide free “sanctuaries” and crop zones where bees can be isolated from insecticides. The government should be also focused on formulating appropriate policies on proper use of agro chemicals and accountability regarding to application. 


Rendering training that covers the overall aspects of beekeeping and working tool (equipment) to training of trainers and beneficiaries should be given due attention. Priority should be given for training of technical and professional beekeepers and providing public education on modern beekeeping. Locally beekeepers would be train and then serve as extension agents in their own village. Development agents who would be involved in beekeeping must have the training first to enable them adequately provide technical assistance to beneficiaries. The farmers selected for beekeeping development program must have the knowledge about biology of honeybees, equipment and working calendar of the areas. Moreover, modern beekeeping requires close attention and giving technical assistance to the farmers who had little knowledge in operation techniques. In all of the working areas developing honeybee calendar, continuous supervision and some assistance in hive management would help farmers learn more and improve their working capacity better.


Most of the beekeepers in the region have been using local beekeeping technique that result in low hive products. Much of the honey produced by the beekeeper is of very low quality because it is mixed with wax, pollen and brood. Some of the products are even unknown or unexploited. Management systems need to be improved in order to improve the quality and quantity of hive products. The beekeepers should use a year-round plan of management favorable to the bee colony. The choice of beekeeping technologies varies across geographical areas because of differences in biophysical and economic conditions of beekeepers. Research should focus on development of appropriate bee equipment (hives, protective, honey and beeswax extractors and containers).  Beekeeping is practiced in most parts of the region, but the type of operation varies greatly with respect to geographical area, farming systems and size of operation. Research into the local husbandry system for honeybees is a priority. The indigenous honeybee colonies exist in large numbers in most parts of the region, and a small increment in productivity per colony will collectively lead to large volume of hive products. Moreover, at any kind of beekeeping development the use of the necessary tools and appropriate hives is essential for effective result. Effort should be done to evolve the most suitable hives to the beekeepers local condition so that they can understand and operate the hives without badly stung and destroying the colony. Knowledge on how to incorporate new technologies profitably into farm level production strategies will become more important.


Honeybee pests and diseases threaten most parts of the regions and cause high mortality rates and severe economic loss. The needs for effective honeybee health delivery service and appropriate control methods in order to reduce diseases, pests and predators constraint remain very important. In this regard research must focus on investigation and diagnosis of factors that endanger the health of local honeybees in different agro ecology zones and establishing ways of prevention and control measures.


Shortage of honeybee colonies is one of the constraints mentioned by beekeepers. To alleviate the problem queen rearing technique that can easily adopted by farmers should be practiced. Colony splitting technique is one of the easiest and promising ways of colony multiplication. Therefore, to implement this activity provides practical training to beekeepers and supports them with nucleus hives and other beekeeping equipment have paramount important.


More attention should be given to market development. Linking production and post production components to efficient market information and extension services, infrastructure and marketing schemes, and establishing standards for quality control of bee products should be the major focus in hive products marketing. Farmer beekeepers should be encouraged to establish a "honey and beeswax producer cooperatives", trained in proper management and processing of locally produced hive products, thus creating better potential to the local and international markets. A central collection and processing center for both honey and beeswax should be established, with numerous local collection sites available to beekeepers. Much of the honey produced from local hives is mixed with wax, pollen and brood and this procedure has not changed because there is a high demand for the supply for the making of ‘Tej’. Grading the incoming crops and basing payments on their quality will give beekeepers an incentive to try new methods of production. More emphasis should be given to unifying and merging the various beekeeping organizations, honey promotion institutions, honey packer and producers in to a strong regional organization with common goals and objectives. 


There is a strong need for an apiculture development policy with appropriate guides and well-defined goals in order to attain a thriving production sector with accelerating and environmentally sustainable growth. Technology packages have to be developed through farming systems research. A research system that benefits small-scale farmers operating in different farming systems and agro-climatic zones should be strengthened.  Creating a system that develops a mechanism for strong links between research and extension services should also be an integral part of the envisaged development strategy and policy.  A successful apiculture development strategy requires the formulation of natural resource management plans that complement the wider economic and specific agro-ecosystems objectives. The strategy will also need to consider the social, cultural, political and institutional elements that affect the management of natural resources. On the policy side, issues relating to land-use, bee resource conservation and development strategies, priorities for apiculture development and research capacity have to be addressed. 


To encourage the development further, consideration needs to be a number of factors, including improving access to credits, encouraging involvement of women in beekeeping development, making farmers aware of the usefulness recording and developing of reading materials to farmers regarding to beekeeping. Again, the implementation of action programs require both technical and institutional support and, equally important, government commitment and unlimited cooperation of all concerned. It is difficult to suggest solutions to our economic problems involved in beekeeping development in the region unless we are interested, concerned and dedicated to willingness on the part of all involved to raise and spend more budget on proven research and to disseminate the finding results.





The authors are grateful to the Amhara Regional Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau for financial and material support during the study period. We would also like to express our gratitude to the extension staff, sample respondents and concerned organizations that cooperated with us in supplying relevant information’s during the period of data collection.



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Received 27 July 2009; Accepted 14 August 2009; Published 1 October 2009

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