Bees And Silkworms Mean Jobs For Ethiopia’s Rural Youth

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Written by Staff

From AllAfrica. Story by Munyaradzi Makoni, IPS.

Silkworm farming and beekeeping have long provided food, jobs and much needed income in Ethiopia.

An ancient tradition, beekeeping dates back to Ethiopia’s early history between 3500 and 3000 B.C.

Collecting and selling honey and other bee products produced in homes and home gardens is common throughout the country.

Silk production or sericulture is a growing industry in Ethiopia and offers a solution for the government’s quest to expand the textile industry.

Alemayehu Konde Koira, Youth Livelihoods Program, senior manager with The MasterCard Foundation, views it as a huge opportunity to benefit young people.

“With relevant and adequate support, honey and silk production and engagement across their respective value chain could be key sectors of opportunity for young people,” he said.

Earlier this year, MasterCard Foundation and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology announced a $10.35 million, five-year Young Entrepreneurs in Honey and Silk farming initiative aimed at creating jobs for young people through beekeeping and silkworm farming.

Project leaders said they will focus on peri-urban and rural youth and women who have difficulty finding decent paying jobs.

“The opportunity exists for harnessing the not-often-exploited potential of honey and silk-based value-added products through income-generating enterprises owned and run by Ethiopian youth,” said Segenet Kelemu, director general of the insect center, in an IPS interview.

She said this will enable youths to start and grow their own businesses.

Honey production has the potential to generate income from marketing honey and its by-products — beeswax, royal jelly, pollen, propolis, bee colonies, and bee venom, Kelemu said.

“Ethiopian honey production is characterized by the widespread use of traditional technology resulting in relatively low honey supply and poor quality of honey harvested when compared to the potential honey yields and quality gains associated with modern beehives,” she said.

Modern beehives yield around 20 kilograms of high quality honey compared to 6-8 kilograms from traditional beehives.

Silkworm rearing, on the other hand, is a new agrobusiness technology in Ethiopia.

The Ministry of Women, Youth and Children Affairs and other government departments will select the youth between 18 and 24 years of age who have completed grade 10.

Young entrepreneurs will receive starter kits and equipment that includes modern beehives, honey processors, silkworm rearing trays and silk yarn spinning wheels to get their businesses started.

Koira said the project design combines technical skills in production, processing and marketing across the honey and silk value chains, as well as life skills, including entrepreneurship, leadership, interpersonal and communication, business development, and access to financial education and services.

The project will create links to local, regional and international markets.

Koira anticipates the project will create jobs for 12,500 young people in beekeeping and silk farming in Ethiopia for youth out of school and earn less than $2 day.

Beekeeping also has the benefit of pollinating crops within the project region, which will increase the yields of agricultural production for the local farming community, Kelemu said.

Read more at AllAfrica.