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Apiculture in Ethiopia
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2000px-Flag of Ethiopia.svg.png


[3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Official name Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Capital Addis Ababa
Area 1,104,300 km²
Regional States further divided in eight hundred woredas and around 15,000 Kebeles; 9 ethnically based regional states: Afar, Amhara, Benshangul Gumuz, Gambella, Hareri, Oromia, Somali, Tigray, State of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP)

2 Chartered Cities: Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa

Population 104,957,438
Demographic structure 0-14 years: 43.5% (= 45.827.250)

15-24 years: 20.1% (= 21.175.350)

25-54 years: 29.6% (= 31.183.600)

55-64 years: 3.9% (= 4.108.650)

65 years and over: 2.9%* (= 3.055.150)

Life expectancy Average: 65,9 years (men: 63 years, women: 67 years)
Currency (02.2021) Birr (1$ = 40 Birr, 1€ = 49 Birr)
Official national language Amharic (29,3%)
Additional Major languages Oromo (33.8%), Somali (6.2%), Tigrigna (5.9%), Sidamo (4%), Wolaytta (2.2%), Gurage (2%), Afar (1.7%), Hadiyya (1.7%), Gamo (1.5%), Gedeo (1.3%), Opuuo (1.2%), Kafa (1.1%), others (8.1%)
Ethnic groups Oromo (34.4%), Amhara (27%), Somali (6.2%), Tigray (6.1%), Sidama (4%), Gurage (2.5%), Welaita (2.3%), Hadiya (1.7%), Afar (1.7%), Gamo (1.5%), Gedeo (1.3%), Silte (1.3%), Kefficho (1.2%), other (8.8%)
Religion Ethiopian Orthodox (43.5%), Muslim (33.9%), Protestant (18.5%), traditional (2.7%), Catholic (0.7%), other (0.6%)

Ethiopia – a land of high civilizations, impressive and breathtaking landscapes, world heritage sites as well as myths and legends

The oldest African independent country, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa with a population of around 105 million people, [8] of which more than 84 percent live in rural areas and it comprises at least 80 ethnic groups and as many languages. Compared to the EU, Ethiopia provides a home to 1/5 of the European population.[9]

History & Legends

Ethiopia is one of the world´s oldest countries, with a history, which goes back at least 2000 years. Based on the legend of the Queen of Sheba and Solomon, their son Menelik I founded the kingdom of Ethiopia, Aksum – the original center of Ethiopian civilization (today known as the region of Tigray).

Through the close link to the Red Sea Aksum established flourishing trade relations with Mediterranean countries, India and Arabia and it became Christian. Through the occupation of the coast of North Africa by Arabs in the 7th century, Ethiopia as a Christian country became isolated by the emergence of Islam. Various dynasties followed until the 13th century when Yekuno Amlak established a royal line, which survived until 20th century. Amhara became the home to the dynasty of Solomon and the central highlands of the kingdom of Shewa from which they ruled the entire region. [10]

Ethiopia became a sought-after destination and over the decades, it has had to protect itself against various intruders. In the 19th century, when Africa has been colonized and divided, and almost all African countries fell into European hands, Ethiopia successfully kept her freedom in the battle of Adwa.In 1930 Haile Selassie came to power as 225th Emperor of Ethiopia. He enforced the abolition of slavery and reformed his country, especially law and education. In 1936, Italian troops occupied the country. Liberation in 1941 by the Allied powers set the stage for Ethiopia to play a more prominent role in world affairs and was one of the first countries, which signed the Charter of the United Nations. In 1974 a domestic turmoil escalated into a military coup and the emperor of Ethiopia was deposed and murdered. This led to the abolition of the monarchy and the former empire became a socialist People’s Republic until 1991, when troops from Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRDF)) invaded Addis Ababa and brought down the communist regime. In 1993 Eritrea gained its independence; in 1994a new constitution was introduced in Ethiopia. Border issues between Eritrea and Ethiopia led to a war over the exact border between the countries. In 2002 the controversial area around Badme was awarded to Eritrea. Ethiopia refused to accept the Commission’s decision by 2018. On June 5, 2018, the newly elected Ethiopian government accepted the provisions of the border agreement of 2002. This included the transfer of Badme to Eritrea. On July 8, 2018, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed stated that Ethiopia and Eritrea are resuming diplomatic relations and at the same time, a peace agreement was signed between the two countries. [11]

Economics and Development

[12] [13]

Ethiopia is characterized by agriculture. The agricultural sector is the largest sector and employs 68% of the population. It accounts for just under 36% of gross domestic product (GDP) and consists of predominantly small-scale subsistence farming. The main agriculture and livestock products are cereals, coffee, oilseed, cotton, sugarcane, vegetables, khat, cut flowers; hides, cattle, sheep, goats and fish.

As mentioned, Ethiopia has traditionally been a land of agriculture and livestock, but since it is haunted by several and frequent droughts the main goal of the country is the transformation from an agriculture-based economy into a manufacturing industry. To change and stabilize the economic structure the government developed a new strategy – Agricultural-Development-Led-Industrialization strategy. The strategy involves an export-led external sector, and internal emphasis on agriculture to supply commodities for exports, domestic food supply and industrial output, and expand markets for domestic manufacturing. Accordingly, although a number of reform steps have been undertaken (privatization, price liberalization, private sector registration also in the banking and insurance sectors). New reforms under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also includes plans to partially or fully privatize state-owned companies such as Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Telecom and other state-owned companies.

Even so, Ethiopia still depends highly on agriculture and livestock products the country became Africa’s fastest- growing economy with an average economic growth of more than 10 per cent since 2005/2006. Despite this fact, an estimated 23.50 % of Ethiopians still live below the poverty line (World Bank). Looking further into the UNDP´s Human Development Index (HDI 2018), Ethiopia ranks 173th in the list of 188 countries (category: low human development) it becomes clear that Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world which still has to fight against food insecurity and nutrition.

Honeybees in Ethiopia and their connection to Ethiopian religion

[14] “And thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and in people’s habitations… there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for humankind. Verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought.”

Also in the Christian church the bee as well as its products, honey and wax, are assigned particular significance. A legend says, “When Christ was crucified, his blood dripped to the ground; attracted by the sweetness of the red drops, bees flew by and collected the blood of Christ.” Thus, honey becomes the symbolic bearer of the blood of Christ and the Holy Scripture. The bee, on the other hand, who only feeds honey, which she gathers herself without damaging nature, embodies the believing Christian, who receives the word of God and gives it selfless.[15]

Beekeeping and Bee-Health in Ethiopia (an excerpt)

[16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27] The abundance of prehistoric, mythological, religious, cultural and historical traces of bees and their products is immeasurable. Humans always found the honeybee as the crown of creation. The wonders inspire many people and many religions. So it happens that Allah mentioned the bee in the Quran and Muslims appreciate the valuable food very much.[28] Ethiopia has a long tradition of beekeeping and belongs to the largest honey producers in Africa and is among the top ten worldwide. The country is known to be the most populated landlocked country and the high population numbers underline the importance of the development of the apicultural sector. A developed apicultural sector not only increases the country’s natural food production, but also increases the incomes of not only professional beekeepers but also of farmers, using bees to pollinate their agricultural plants. According to the data on honey import and export available from FAOSTAT, a provider of food and agricultural data, Ethiopia can be regarded as a net exporter of honey (mostly to Europe). In some regions of Ethiopia, the traditional alcoholic beverage tej is widely spread and high amounts of crude honey flow into the production of it. The honey and wax processors and exporters are important buyers of honey. Hence, the honey market is partially developed in Ethiopia. The situation of honey bee species and beekeeping differs from that in the European Union. Apis mellifera, the Western honey bee, is autochthonous in Ethiopia. So far, 5 sub-species were identified: A. m. bandasii, A. m. monticola, A. m. jemenitica, A. m. scutellate and A. m. woyi-gambella. In addition to that, stingless bees are also used for beekeeping, but the main focus lays on A. mellifera colonies. One of the biggest challenges in Ethiopian beekeeping currently is the transition from traditional beekeeping in different traditional beehives such as clay, straw, bamboo, log, etc. to the more profitable keeping of bees in modern hives, mostly Dadant, Langstroth or Zander. Another method to obtain honey in Ethiopia, is the traditional procedure of honey hunting from the numerous amounts of feral A. mellifera colonies, which are also used as a reservoir for managed colonies. Honey bee health is not investigated as thoroughly as for example in the European Union or in North America. Ethiopian A. mellifera subspecies seem to cope with the introduced parasitic varroa mite better than the subspecies in Europe, and as a result, beekeepers do not apply regular colony treatments against the mite. There are also other pests and pathogens present in Ethiopia, including viruses, bacteria, protozoa, fungi or insects, such as the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida). Similarly, no treatment methods are applied against most of these pests, the most commonly applied control measures in Ethiopia focus on ants and wax moths. So far, in some regions beekeepers report honey bee health issues to the local district livestock offices and have the chance to send a sample of their observations to the Oromia Agricultural Research Institute Holeta Bee Research Center, but little information is available on pest control and no national honey bee health programs exist. Thus, field research on honey bee health and the occurrence of pests and parasites, for example honey bee viruses, as well as training of beekeepers or extension workers in disease recognition and dissemination of control methods can be recommended. Due to several factors like poor management of honey bee colonies and traditional production systems, the productivity and quality of bee products in Ethiopia is considered low. The main problems are limited availability of bee forage (poisonous plants, seasonal availability, deforestation), water shortage (drought), the swarming behavior and absconding of honey bees, colony mortality, reduction of honey bee colonies, pests and predators (ants, honey badger, wax moths, Varroa...), absence or poor quality of beekeeping equipment/materials, indiscriminate use of pesticides and herbicides, the lack of storage and marketing facilities and, in general, a lack of know how. Scientific literature on beekeeping in Ethiopia is limited and thus, several knowledge gaps were identified. These knowledge gaps could stimulate further research, for example on the occurrence and mitigation of several honey bee pests or on proper management practices of beehives.


  1. Image Source:
  2. Map:
  7. FAO. (2018). FAOSTAT database collections. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome. URL (access date: 12.06.2018):
  8. Worldbank (access: 05.10.2018)
  9. Statista (access: 05.10.2018)
  10. History World (access: 05.10.2018)
  11. Ethiopian Government Portal (access: 05.10.2018)
  12. Ethiopian Government Portal (access: 05.10.2018)
  13. Lipportal (access: 04.10.2018)
  14. The Religion of Islam (access: 08.10.2018)
  15. Imkerei Heiser (access: 08.10.2018)
  16. Gupta, R. K., Reybroeck, W., van Veen, J. W., & Gupta, A. (2014). Beekeeping for Poverty Alleviation and Livelihood Security: Vol. 1: Technological Aspects of Beekeeping. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands
  17. FAO (access: 12.06.2018)
  18. MoARD (2007). Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Livestock Development Master Plan Study. Phase I Report – Data Collection and Analysis, Volume N – Apiculture. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  19. Nuru, A., Amssalu, B., Hepburn, H. R., & Radloff, S. E. (2002). Swarming and migration in the honey bees (Apis mellifera) of Ethiopia. Journal of Apicultural Research, 41(1–2), 35–41.
  20. Pirk, C. W. W., Strauss, U., Yusuf, A. A., Démares, F., Human, H. (2015). Honeybee health in Africa—a review. Apidologie, 47, 276–300.
  21. Radloff, S. E., & Hepburn, H. R. (1997). Multivariate analysis of honeybees, Apis mellifera Linnaeus (Hymenoptera: Apidae), of the Horn of Africa. African Entomology, 5, 57–64.
  22. Tesfu, F. & Abebe, H. (2016). Current Trends of Honey Bee Genetic Resources in Ethiopia – A Review. International Journal of Current Research, 8(5), 31737-31739.
  23. Gidey, Y., Bethelhem, K., Dawit, K., & Alem, M. (2012). Assessment of beekeeping practices in Asgede Tsimbla district, Northern Ethiopia: Absconding, bee forage and bee pests. African Journal of Agricultural Research, 7(1), 1-5.
  24. Gidey, Y., & Mekonen, T. (2010). Participatory Technology and Constraints Assessment to Improve the Livelihood of Beekeepers in Tigray Region, northern Ethiopia. CNCS, 2(1), 76-92.
  25. Legesse, G. Y. (2014). Review of progress in Ethiopian honey production and marketing. Livestock Research for Rural Development, 26(1), 1-6.
  26. Ministry of Agriculture 2013: Apiculture value chain vision and strategy for Ethiopia , International Livestock Research Institute, Addis Ababa, ISBN: 92–9146–410–4
  27. Holeta Bee research
  28. The Religion of Islam (access: 08.10.2018)