Honey is the main product of beekeeping.
Previously beekeeping in Somaliland faced many problems. Due to lack of capacity and proper training the traditional beekeepers or honey hunters did not have necessary equipment used in modern beekeeping, i.e. protective clothes or other hive tools. Therefore, smoke had to be used when harvesting the honey from the hives, often resulting to bee loss, poor quality of honey and smoke-tainted taste of honey which was very difficult to sell in the international markets.
Mostly the honey that had been produced was kept in traditional bark hives or log hives. These hives have several inferior properties compared to more modern hives. For example, traditional hives have low production capacity compared to modern ones.
Traditionally, beekeeping has been a predominantly male occupation. Honey hunting requires physical strength and since climbing is often required for the collection of honey, traditional beekeeping is not considered suitable for women.
For eight years Berri-Somal Development has concentrated on developing beekeeping in Somaliland. By the end of 2011, the final year of the beekeeping project, it had implemented 9 basic and advanced beekeeping projects in six regions of Somaliland.
Through the projects Berri-Somal Development has created a new knowledge base and introduced modern beekeeping technologies and equipment to solve the existing setback in production and quality. One of the innovations has been a Langstroth hive which is the most productive system in modern beekeeping and requires less physical strength. Therefore, it can be handled even by women.
The organization’s main mission was based on the four objectives. The first one is to improve the livelihoods of the agro-pastoral community in Somaliland. Second is to provide production and marketing information to beekeepers and honey traders about modern and alternative production practices, market information, buyers’ preferences, market standards and regulations, and quality controls.
Third objective is to market Somaliland bee products to new regional and international market and the last one is to collect, store and analyze key data about Somaliland’s honey sector for improved sector policy and decision-making.
As a result of the project activities, basic beekeeping material has been supplied and new locations and training facilities have been created. Sustainable means of livelihoods for beekeeping and farming communities have been achieved and employment opportunities in the honey sector have been created. Also availability of honey within the country has been increased, women’s roll in beekeeping has been advanced, honey based business sector has been expanded and the quality of honey has been improved.
The Somaliland economy is heavily dominated by the export of livestock. The fact that more than 90 per cent of Somaliland’s export revenues come from livestock, makes Somaliland extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts. The alarming state of global climate change and recent devastating droughts in the Horn of Africa are strong reminders of this vulnerability as the decrease in livestock severely reduced export earnings.
The beekeeping project has aimed to reduce heavy dependence on the livestock export by promoting export of bee-products. This diversification strategy focuses on a wide array of products: honey and byproducts such as wax which can be used to produce natural cosmetics, royal jelly, pollen, candle, shampoo, soaps, shoe polish, floor polish etc.
Apart from increasing export earnings and helping to diversify the national economy, promoting beekeeping may pull a large number of poor households out of poverty. Projects run by Berri-Somal Development have also impacted the local economy by attracting more honey traders and by creating more jobs. Today, many poor households will be able to feed and send their children to school. Beekeeping has also environmental benefits as it enhances biodiversity. Furthermore, it plays a crucial role in agriculture and forestry, since the pollination by bees is necessary for the development and survival of both agricultural crops and trees.
In the future, Berri-Somal Development aims to branch to other development sectors such as water, environment, agriculture and vocational training. The focus will not only be in Somalia, but also in other countries of the Horn of Africa.
The author is Chairman of Berri-Somal Development.
Photos: Ahmed Jama and Keise Ahmed