Babichi fills the gap in the apiculture industry with honey

Yewalashet Yigezu lives in Anfillo, a coffee growing and evergreen region in Western Ethiopia. By trade, she is a coffee grower and trades her products in the local market. But when the coffee season is over, she is forced to purchase honey from beekeepers who burn their beehives. In this traditional way of beekeeping, the honeycombs are cut and honey is extracted, while the home of the bees along with possible future harvests are destroyed in the burning hive. During one of her many coffee off seasons, Yewalashet went to the capital city of Addis Ababa as usual, but this particular trip changed her life. This time while she was in Addis Ababa, she heard about the Ethiopia Sustainable Agribusiness Incubator (ESAI) project implemented by Precise Consult International through a cooperative agreement with USAID. The ESAI project was looking for start-up businesses in beekeeping and bee products processing. Yewalashet immediately applied to be an apiculture agribusiness incubatee of the ESAI project.

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 little to no Value-Adding Enterprises in the country’s apiculture industry.  But with a high demand for organic and natural honey in a country with minimal chemical usage surely there must be numerous organic honey suppliers, right? That’s what Yewalashet thought. But she was wrong once she read the deep-dive apiculture value-chain study from the ESAI project. At the face of increasing demand for natural and organic honey in the world market, Yewalashet soon realized that her fellow beekeepers were destroying bee colonies, producing minimal output and supplying low quality products for low-end markets at trivial prices. She suddenly was inspired to fill this gap. “Coming across the deep-dive study at the ESAI program was a milestone in my business experience”, she said as she explains why she was inspired to get involved in the beekeeping processes of her fellow beekeepers and coffee growers.

This inspiration gave birth to “Babichi Agroforestry PLC”, a company established with a vision to enhance the beekeeping industry in Western Ethiopia, encourage beekeepers to get organized, collect crude honey in bulk from producer groups, purify honey and beeswax and sell to both export and local high-end markets. With the technical support of Precise Consult International through the ESAI program, Babichi was registered and legally established. The company signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work with 670 beekeepers in Lalo Asabe, 439 beekeepers in Anfillo and 130 beekeepers in Gidami woredas. In addition, Babichi also made agreements with livestock development agencies in the respective areas to assist with the training of beekeepers and with the crude honey purchase arrangements.

The company rented a processing and packaging facility in the city of Nekemte, Wollega Zone and signed a 10-year lease. On top of that, necessary renovations and constructions were made to meet international standard requirements for a bee products processing unit. Processing machinery has also been ordered from a local technologist who imports and assembles equipment.

Following the establishment and strategic linkage creation, Babichi secured a 447, 665.00ETB grant fund from SNV Ethiopia-ASPIRE project for the training of beekeepers on how to improve beekeeping. In addition, by using a loan guarantee facility for this project, Babichi also secured 3.35 million ETB input loan for the provision of modern production equipment for beekeepers on a credit basis. Currently, the company is also in the process of securing a working capital loan by providing assets from their sister coffee business as collateral.

Yewalashet’s Babichi started as a small idea but now has grown in become the very first honey processing enterprise in the Wollega zone of Western Ethiopia. The company is preparing to participate at two international market trade fairs; Gulf food in Dubai and Biofach in Germany. Babichi aims to secure export market contracts through their participation and hopes to sell to high-end local and global markets.