In the past, beekeeping in Eritrea was practiced by traditional method. Starting from 2001, however, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), in collaboration with experts from overseas, has been giving courses in modern beekeeping practices. This has resulted improvements in the production of honey.
Mr. Michael Tekle, a disabled veteran fighter, is an expert in beekeeping who has been in the business for twenty years. He is one of the beneficiaries of the seminars on modern bee keeping that have been given by the MoA.
Mr. Michael said that the seminars given by the ministry had deepened his knowledge of beekeeping, which helped improve the harvest of honey. He added that beekeeping is not an easy task, it requires patience and hard work.
\Honey has unique composition and chemical properties. It is suitable for long-term storage and has many uses. Contents immersed in honey can be preserved for centuries. So, unlike other products honey has this advantage to the farmer. A farmer won’t waste any honey in vein or unused under any circumstances.
Mr. Michael said that with modern methods of beekeeping, the government had continued its support by providing a space for a shop and license to disabled veteran fighters farmers to sell their honey. The shop, Msgana Honey Shop, also serves as an office for honey producers.
The shop was founded in 2002. It started its operations by producing four kinds of honey. Traditionally the types of honey are identified by their color: yellow, white, red and dark brown. In Eritrea, the demand for honey differs by the kinds of flowers nectars are collected from. For example, a yellow daisy flower, which grows in summer produces white honey which is common. And honey produced from Zistcus Spinal Crist, called ‘gaba’ in a local language, is rare, red in color, and expensive. In the words of Mr. Michael, to be a licensed producer is actually important as it helps the farmer to relocate their bee farms by traveling from place to place, in every corner of the country, depending on seasons. He further said that the shop is owned by three stakeholders, and three of them produce honey by traveling to expand beehives in different parts of the country. The places should be convenient for bee farming and to produce honey for the entire period of the year. For example, the northern Red sea region specifically the region, extending from Flifl Solomuna to Mai Atal, is convenient for honey production in winter. During summer Maekel region and, generally, the highlands are more suitable. In this order production goes on throughout the whole year. It doesn’t stop the whole year, thanks to the farmers’ hard work in constantly moving the bee hives to suitable places.
In general, Eritrea has convenient weather and topography for bee farming. As a result, huge amount of honey can be produced nationwide if efforts are made. This has made it possible for farmers to work relentlessly and travel all over the regions in the country to collect honey in the four seasons of the year.
Msgana Honey Shop has 20 employees in addition to the three shareholders. Most of them are family members, and work together to develop their production. Furthermore, all of them participate in training courses given out by the Ministry of Agriculture that help them deepen their knowledge of bee farming and upgrade their capacity to produce quality honey for the market. Every one of them is equipped with sufficient knowledge in using and modern tools for bee keeping. They are also familiar with the behavior of the bees and have good knowledge of environmental and floral ambiance suitable for the bees and the farm. Msgana Honey Shop buys honey from other farmers and filters to sell it in the market.
Msgana Honey Shop produces 13 tons of honey per year. However, its ultimate goal is to increase its work force and production, while extending its honey shops in other regions of the country.
Eritrea has become a member of the African Bee Farming Association, and this initiative will open a great opportunity for the export of honey products. At the same time, the Ministry of Agriculture has a plan to export honey products, and Msgana Honey Shop is ready to take part in the government’s plan to enhance this strategies.
Mr. Michael said that the honey produced in his farm is different from the honey harvested traditionally in the way the honey is kept. According to Mr. Michael, in fact, the new method and manufacturing instruments help produce more hygienic, safe, contemporary and quality honey for local, regional and international markets.
Mr. Michael said that Eritrea’s honey is organic and rich in content. Therefore, our society should be the beneficiary of this opulent gift. Besides, honey has huge health benefits that have been known for centuries. It helps people have strong immunity system. Any family can prepare its own beehives and produce its own honey for domestic use and also for the market. Mr. Michael says it is not hard to start bee farming in Eritrea considering the suitability of the local environment and the benefits that can be found from harvesting honey.