In Ethiopia, industries are developing at a rapid pace and entrepreneurs are taking the lead in pioneering new industries and innovating existing ones. Samuel Woldekidan saw a golden opportunity and chased after it. Living in the southwestern region of Ethiopia opened a new door for Samuel when he realized the country’s immense potential in the apiculture market, which at the moment wasn’t being fully engaged. Despite Ethiopia’s long existing culture of beekeeping, diverse agro-ecology, unique natural flora ideal for beekeeping, high number of beehives per smallholder and larger output potential, there are few value-added enterprises in the country’s apiculture industry. The majority of the output is sold to local honey wine shops (‘tej’ houses) and the relatively smaller volume of the output is collected and transported to the capital city by processors.
While contemplating the idea of entering into the honey and beeswax processing business, Samuel learned about a project that works with start-up businesses and provides technical assistance to agribusiness entrepreneurs. The Ethiopia Sustainable Agribusiness Incubator (ESAI) project under Precise Consult International PLC in partnership with USAID supports innovative private sector actors, facilitates the start-up process for entrepreneurs and connects smallholder farmers to global markets. As a new businessman to the apiculture industry, Samuel saw working with the ESAI project as a great way to gain the support he needed to tap into the untouched value-added honey market and to empower smallholder beekeepers in Ethiopia. He proposed to establish the very first honey and beeswax processing and exporting enterprise in the strategic city of Jimma (central town between Oromia and Southern regions of Ethiopia) and immediately his business concept was accepted into the agribusiness incubator project.
With the support of ESAI, the company name was registered as Yerkisho Honey and Beeswax Trading PLC and a business plan was underway. The next step was to rent a work space. Under the facilitation of ESAI, the company rented a former coffee storage warehouse in Jimma zone and ordered its processing machinery from a local technologist who works in assembly manufacturing. Yerkisho then signed a Memorandum of Understanding with 391 organized beekeepers in the Gera and Gomma (Agaro) woredas of Jimma zone and with 250 beekeepers in the Geisha woreda of Kaffa zone.
Next, Yerkisho had to raise funds to train all the beekeepers and employees of the processing factory. ESAI facilitated the raising of funds for Yerkisho by connecting the company to the Netherlands Development Organizations (SNV)’s Apiculture Scale-up Programme for Income and Rural Employment (ASPIRE) and successfully securing a capacity building grant of 300,000.00 ETB to train Yerkisho’s beekeepers on improved and modern ways of beekeeping. In addition to this, ESAI provided support on preparing bank loan applications for the company, resulting in 3.2 million ETB in loans for the provision of modern production equipment. With adequate finance, Yerkisho was then able to partner with existing beekeepers on credit in order to stimulate the local economy and create employment for the community. Furthermore, to purchase the raw products and to operate the business, Samuel was able to secure a working capital loan of 3 million ETB with the support of ESAI. Within a year of operations, Yerkisho sold 480 quintals in local sales and slowly begun to transform the Jimma economy and empower the local community.
With business picking up within Jimma, Samuel has started to seek opportunities outside Ethiopia and immediately started working on exporting his products to global markets. This February, Samuel will attend the Biofach Trade Fair in Germany for the second time since the conception of Yerkisho. Samuel’s participation in the trade fair will promote his company and Yerkisho’s products and could secure export contracts with global companies in the honey and beeswax distribution business. Not only is Yerkisho championed as the first honey and beeswax processing unit in Jimma within its first year of operations, but now the young company is getting ready to complete its first export shipment.