IMPROVING BEEKEEPING AND HONEY PRODUCTION THROUGH ICT BASED METHODS AND TECHNOLOGIES
Ethiopia, a country of 92 million, has over 80% of its population employed in the agricultural sector, mainly as smallholding farmers, while industrial farming is in its budding stages. This large number of small holding farmers who heavily rely on rainfall is extremely susceptible to drought and food insecurity. Meanwhile, Ethiopia has the highest number of bee colonies and surplus honey sources of flora in the world (Gidey and Mekonen, 2010). The Ethiopian team recognizes the possibilities for a thriving apiculture sector in Ethiopia and wants to explore the existing systems of honey production and its value chain. But the team also recognizes the gap hindering smallholder farmers to integrate and make use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). So they want to make a significant contribution in closing the gaps between ICT and apiculture in combination with private sector business development methodologies.
Challenges and realities
A solid first needs assessment phase, including several repeated site-visits and well prepared target group interviews conducted by a team of interviewers with representative stakeholders from farmer level up to cooperatives, advisory services and buyers / consumers has taken place and led to the formulation of a few main challenges that focus the continued innovation process:
First of all, the lack of availability of value-adding equipment, such as extraction machines, wax casting mold, queen excluder and other equipment is rarely available and thus reduces the potential of modern hives and bee keeping methods. Further, there is low market accessibility and knowledge sharing as regards honey marketing strategies. Farmers have limited access to market intelligence like price structures and sales channels and need to make sales decisions based on their own intuition. Also challenging is the low awareness of the high market potential of honey products. Only around 20% of farmers are engaged in honey production and even those are not taking advantage of the full potential of beekeeping in Ethiopia as they lack information to boost value, quality and quantity.
The Ethiopian experts have also observed some systemic risks or obstacles for their approach. So organizational systems are already in place but not optimized. The extension worker and model farmer system offers high potential but could be optimized in terms of efficiency of information flow, training effectiveness and accountability. Training all farmers in an adequate way remains a challenge. The collection and selling of honey is not organized or coordinated among and across the individual farmers. This lack of unification and utilization of synergies among the actors within the value chain is also based on the fact that single farmers are having low production volumes, low quality-, packaging- and marketingknowledge and thus reduced sales potential. And finally it would be a costly process to coordinate the beekeepers. Since farmers are living in dispersed locations and coordination is mostly based on face-to-face communication, the coordination efficiency is low.
Honey or money!
The Ethiopian network developed three idea drafts, which are firmly based on and derived from the local needs established through the needs assessment. The ideas at first appearance rather represent the bundling of needs and demands into info portal & service centre functionality, as well as the transfer of internationally well established technologies and concepts unto the situation of the local honey producers. But in reality, the approach allows for a focused yet flexibly adaptable further iterative development and testing over the next few months by the involved partners to arrive at a unique configuration and design, optimized to the intended target groups and usage context that have the potential of adding clear benefits to the local small-scale honey producers.
One example of these prototype ideas goes under the working title “Honey or Money – crowd funding for Ethiopian honey producers“. The aim is to test a financial model based on crowd funding that enables local beekeepers to purchase shared bee-keeping and honey processing equipment. The IF team has identified crowd funding as an instrument that is suitable for interventions on small-scale level. Through a crowd funding campaign, beekeepers are able to access an international market, which helps them to finance their investment in technological development. Besides the more immediate financing opportunities, this instrument provides other benefits for the beekeepers, such as improved branding, media coverage and logistics.
To find out more about the projects, click on the flags below.