Bridging capacity gaps in bee products quality testing


In Ethiopia there are few accredited agri-food quality testing laboratories. SNV is bridging this capacity gap.

“Lack of accredited agri-food quality testing laboratories in Ethiopia made testing the quality of honey for export more expensive” said Timotowos Hayesso, Senior Business Development Advisor, SNV Ethiopia.

Apiculture Scaling up Programme for Income and Rural Employment (ASPIRE) project has conducted capacity assessment of 10 agri-food laboratories in Ethiopia with the overall objective of bridging the capacity gap of Ethiopian agri-food laboratories for testing quality of bee products.

The result of the assessment revealed that some of the surveyed laboratories have skills gap in principles of laboratory analysis and management and, lack necessary equipment to test quality and undertake the required level of testing.

Based on this finding, ASPIRE designed three capacity enhancement training modules: General Principles of Laboratory Analysis and Management, Full Honey Analysis (including nutrition value, proximity and contaminants), and Residue Analysis related to chemicals and other residues.

Accordingly, eighteen laboratory technicians from nine laboratories of private sector, universities, research centres and government agri-food laboratories attended Module I training on basic laboratory analysis and management principles for 10 days.

Wessenyeleh Ambaw, Genet Mengesha and Abebe Mengist have attended General Principles of Laboratory Analysis and Management and Full honey Analysis trainings, module based trainings on honey quality.

“The basic training helped me to identify our gaps and make improvements in documentation and recording. Although the training has focused on honey analysis, the techniques could be applied to all food items” said Wessenyeleh Ambaw from Ethiopian Food, Medicine and Health Care Administration and Control Authority (EFMHACA) laboratory.

Out of nine laboratories, seven laboratory technicians have attended Module II (Full honey Analysis) training. For 43 days the technicians conducted practical work to get hands on experience on all the required equipment and materials, making the testing environment ready and developing methods of quality control for conducting full honey analysis.

During Module II training, laboratory technicians acquired basic skills on nutrition (carbohydrate, mineral and quality assurance), proximity (Ash value or minerals, HMF, specific rotation and conductivity, acidity, water insoluble matters, and moisture), and contaminants (heavy metals, pesticide residue, antibiotics and sulfonamides, dioxins and Polychlorinated Bi-phenyls, and aflatoxins) analysis.

Similar number of technicians will also attend Module III (Residue Analysis related to chemicals and other residues) training based on the status of their respective laboratory facilities and human resource potential for application of testing services.

“Our organisation has the equipment but lacks the capacity to conduct full honey quality test. It is an important training to confidently engage in full honey analysis” said Genet Mengesha, a technician from Bless Agri-food Laboratory Service, a private company.

Trainee laboratory technicians conducting full honey analysis

Trainee laboratory technicians conducting full honey analysis

Coming back to office after Module I, Genet and her colleague had a chance to share the experience from the training.

Abebe Mengist, a Laboratory Technical Assistant from Bahir Dar University, vowed to share his experience and insights from the trainings to his colleagues in the Food Technology and Processing Department, responsible to providing laboratory support on fee basis for private sector, cooperatives and NGOs in Amhara region, Ethiopia.

“This training is an eye opener for me. I used to think the quality control that we do at our university is of high standard. I will pay serious attention starting from sample taking while teaching” remarked Abebe.

Holeta Bee Research Centre (HBRC) - mandated (nationally) to assure quality of honey and other bee products, work closely with beekeepers, and support organisations and honey processors - has sent laboratory technicians to build its capacity.

Gemechis Legesse, Laboratory Technician and Bee Products Analyst, said, “The researches, promotional materials and manuals from the HBRC must address the issue of quality of bee products. The centre should install improved quality standard checking system to deliver quality results and build capacity.”

The trainees were exposed to management practices and laboratory facilities in the Ethiopian Conformity Assessment Enterprise (ECAE) where the trainings were conducted. AMLENA Environment and Development Consulting PLC in collaboration with Food, Environment and Engineering Solutions Consultancy PLC from Kenya has provided the trainings. Further coaching of the trainees in their respective labs will be conducted by AMLENA to ensure trainees apply the new skill and knowledge.

“Such kind of laboratory capacity building is the first of its kind in Ethiopia. SNV’s ASPIRE project invested on capacities with greater impact. The trainees are assets for their respective organisations. When they fully engage in quality control, they will take country’s quality testing one step ahead” said Tarekegn Berhanu (PhD), lead trainer.

Apiculture Scaling up Programme for Income and Rural Employment (ASPIRE) has been contributing to the apiculture sub-sector development through supporting various innovative practices, private sector development and institutional systems strengthening.

It is also addressing sub-sector development constraints such as low quality of honey and other bee products, lack of facilities as well as limited capacity of laboratory personnel to improve quality in food safety at domestic level and meet the requirements of export markets.