Killing two birds with one stone

Killing two birds with one stone

In 2014 Apiculture Scaling-up programme for Income and Rural Employment (ASPIRE) invited competent partners to provide capacity enhancement support for smallholder beekeepers.

In 2014 the Apiculture Scaling-up programme for Income and Rural Employment (ASPIRE) project invited competent partners to provide capacity enhancement support for smallholder beekeepers. The Department of Animal Production and Technology of College of Agriculture and Environmental Science at Bahir Dar University received a grant to establish practical field farms and provide honey production and processing materials comprising of refractometer, honey extractor, hives (nucleus, transitional and modern) etc. The department also will train and monitor 400 beekeepers in Amhara region particularly Bahir Dar Zuria and Fagita Lekoma districts.

Tessema Aynalem, Apiculture lecturer at Department of Animal Production and Technology and focal person for the partnership, will tell us more on the benefits of the joint intervention. Tessema joined the university as a lecturer, three-and-a-half years ago after acquiring extensive experience in researching apiculture in the field. He became Head of Department two years ago.

How does the farm contribute to the achievements of the objectives of the project as well as the university?

ASPIRE project has targeted to increase the incomes of 30,000 smallholder beekeepers from honey and other bees products by 2017. Likewise, the university envisions to become one of the ten premier research universities in Africa by 2025. To achieve the former’s objective we are engaged in enhancing the beekeeping capacity of the community in the target woredas through demonstration and practical training while educating apiculture specialists to contribute to the achievement of the vision of the later.

The practical field farm has helped teachers in the department to provide quality education. The undergraduate students also have a chance to do practical exercise as per the schedule (two or three times a week) unlike the previous batch of students. Previously, we used to take our students to individual households to show them parts of transitional hives and to the nearest research centre and centres like Holeta Beekeeping Research Centre (600 km away from Bahir Dar town) for practical exercise. These students were required to complete their practical course within one or two days. But nowadays the basic equipment for honey and wax production and processing have enabled us to engage the students in practical exercise such supervision, colony transfer (night activities) and production of quality wax. Moreover, the farm has helped us to do preliminary tests even before going to class. Postgraduate students have got a chance to do their researches within the premises of the university. It has helped them to get good grade. For example, in the history of the department one student from the apiculture has submitted an outstanding research and scored has excellent grade in his thesis.

How important is the farm establishment and equipment support for personal development?

Beekeeping is a practice dominated filed. Both trainers as well as trainees shall engage in learning by doing. The availability of practical field farm and basic honey production and processing equipment has encouraged me to do researches and test beekeeping options before going to class. For example, before I start beekeeping course I do test on transitional hive management options. It has increased the possibility of my engagement in research. Recently I have done two researches. One of the research is on using red light for inspection and honey harvest. Based on the scientific knowledge bees do not transfer pollen from red flower and observation of traditional honey harvesting practice, I tested red light to way off bees during honey harvest and supervision. Traditionally farmers after smoking the hive will light torch to harvest the honey. However, the bees swarm when they see the light. Then the farmers start to smoke the hive again. This results in over smoking and reduction in honey quality. The red light has become successful. We have started encouraging beekeepers to use red light during supervision and harvest instead of smoking.

What is the benefit of such kind of supports to create a dynamic apiculture sector?

Beekeeping is a profession dominated by generalists especially at region level. The government in order to tap the honey and other bees’ products potential in the country, has given priority for the apiculture sector. The sector has been identified as a promising sector for creating job opportunities for the youth. Cognisant of this, our university has launched apiculture department under the animal production and technology department. The university community is providing community service to address their problems and change their life. In addition to teaching the students the basics of beekeeping we tell our students to engage in beekeeping. For this the students should have the necessary theoretical as well as practical knowledge. Our students will easily produce and identify quality wax as they have got both theoretical as well as practical education. The increasing skilled manpower will provide knowledge based technical support, engage in professionalising the sector, research, awareness creation and improved service provision. Besides, that the project provides financial support for MSc students to do researches on prominent beekeeping issues. Such kind of support will facilitate scientific research and widen the knowledge base in the sector.

How does the university ensure sustainability?

From the beginning this farm has been established for two main objectives: for ensuring quality education and research as well as for capacity building. We move equipment from the University and provide community support. In Ethiopia context universities are mandated to provide community service, apply research outcomes to address their problems and improve their life. This farm will start providing short term trainings for woreda experts, development agents and other interested people. This will ensure sustainable income for the farm. The income will be used to purchase important laboratory equipment and other materials. The farm has its own farm management. This management will take over the already started activities and ensure sustainability and expand the farm and upgrade itself. What ASPIRE did has been taken up by the woreda livestock office. The office has included the activities implemented by the university in its annual paln. The woreda livestock office will train beekeepers using the facility in the university.

Thank you very much!