Much like a bee colony cannot thrive without a queen, communities are healthier and more productive when women have an active role in shaping society and their own lives. Fittingly, hives and honey are at the center of Project Concern International’s latest effort to increase entrepreneurship and employment opportunities for low-income women in Africa.
As Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest honey producers, PCI identified beekeeping as a potential source of sustainable income for vulnerable households in the country. Through REVIVE, a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, 90 Women Empowered (WE) groups received training on modern beekeeping practices. PCI also supplied the groups with 1,200 beehives, 54 wax printers and 3,240 kilograms of wax to help get their operations off the ground.
To build on the training, PCI linked participants to another business development opportunity through its Wealth Generation Pathways (WGP) initiative. WGP aims to reduce poverty by connecting markets to a more skilled local workforce. When Abdalla Nabi—a honey trader in Dallo Mena, Ethiopia—learned about the local women’s foray into beekeeping, he offered to teach two WE groups about safely harvesting larger quantities of honey and marketing the product for a better price. A total of 52 women attended the training.
The workshop proved beneficial to both parties, as Nabi needed a greater supply of quality honey to buy and the women beekeepers needed a direct connection to the market. After their first honey harvest in January 2018, the WE groups sold all of the honey they produced—a total of 50 kilograms (110 pounds)—to Nabi.
“We saved our time in selling directly to [his] shop rather than waiting for buyers on market day,” said Tayiba Ibrahim, one of the local women beekeepers. “The WE group members can take honey to the shop on any non-market day and sell any volume they bring with fair price.”
Forging a New Livelihood and Fighting Poverty, One Goat at a Time
In addition to honey, PCI’s Wealth Generation Pathways (WGP) team has developed partnerships with businesses in the goat and incense industries as well. For example, in the town of Ginir, Ethiopia, Abdusalem Ahmed has a business that buys up to 4,000 fattened goats per week from rural farmers to send to large meat processers based near Addis Ababa. Often when he looks to buy goats, he finds them underweight or sick—both qualities which the processors will not accept. Because of his understanding of goat rearing, Ahmed has also opened up a small veterinary medicine shop in Ginir which carries many medicines that goat farmers may need.
After learning from PCI’s WGP team that many WE group members near Ginir are raising goats for sale, Ahmed offered to provide a two-day workshop to 52 women about goat raising and selling. To support this activity, PCI helped him develop a training that covered how to identify and treat basic animal illnesses, how the goat meat market works, how to sell the goats for maximum income and other helpful topics.
“The training was very beneficial, because it helped me learn the signs and symptoms of sick goats,” said Safu Hassan, one of the WE group members in attendance. “[It] also helped me know how to select the best breed of goats for trading.”
Since the workshop, Ahmed has bought a total of 42 goats from the local WE groups, and several members and non-members have become new customers at his medicine shop as a result of the training he provided.
As the WGP initiative continues to grow in Ethiopia, Malawi and Tanzania, PCI is cultivating opportunities to expand to Latin America and India. In addition to forging WE group linkages with local markets, other activities include business skills training programs, mentorship programs and business accelerator programs.
By looking at entrepreneurship and employment as the tools through which income and economic growth is created, the WGP approach takes advantage of the market systems that already exist both locally and globally and either helps WGP participants develop their own businesses or develop skills that make them competitive for more jobs. Ultimately, the goal is to sustainably raise families out of poverty and empower them to lead prosperous and fulfilling lives.
** Matt Marzolo, Daniel Shiferaw, Anwar Sadik and other members of PCI’s Wealth Generation Pathways team contributed to this story. Lead photo by Steven Wade Adams.