July 15, 2019


Ethiopia – a unique and diverse country


Overview[1] [2]

Official name Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Capital Addis Ababa
Area 1.13 million km²
Regional States:[3]

further divided in eight hundred woredas and around 15,000 Kebeles

9 ethnically based regional states:   Afar, Amhara, Benshangul Gumuz, Gambella, Hareri, Oromia, Somali, Tigray, State of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP)

2 Chartered Cities: Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa

Population 105,35 Mio.
Demographic structure ) 0-14 years: 43.5% (= 45.827.250)

15-24 years: 20.1% (= 21.175.350)

25-54 years: 29.6% (= 31.183.600)

55-64 years: 3.9% (= 4.108.650)

65 years and over: 2.9%* (= 3.055.150)

Life expectancy Average: 65,9 years (men: 63 years, women: 67 years)
Currency (10.2018) Birr (1$ = 28 Birr, 1€ = 32 Birr)
Official national language Amharic (29,3%)
Additional Major languages Oromo (33.8%), Somali (6.2%), Tigrigna (5.9%), Sidamo (4%), Wolaytta (2.2%), Gurage (2%), Afar (1.7%), Hadiyya (1.7%), Gamo (1.5%), Gedeo (1.3%), Opuuo (1.2%), Kafa (1.1%), others (8.1%)
Ethnic groups Oromo (34.4%), Amhara (27%), Somali (6.2%), Tigray (6.1%), Sidama (4%), Gurage (2.5%), Welaita (2.3%), Hadiya (1.7%), Afar (1.7%), Gamo (1.5%), Gedeo (1.3%), Silte (1.3%), Kefficho (1.2%), other (8.8%)
Religion Ethiopian Orthodox (43.5%), Muslim (33.9%), Protestant (18.5%), traditional (2.7%), Catholic (0.7%), other (0.6%)

Ethiopia – a land of high civilizations, impressive and breathtaking landscapes, world heritage sites as well as myths and legends

The oldest African independent country, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa with a population of around 105 million people[4], of which more than 84 percent live in rural areas and it comprises at least 80 ethnic groups and as many languages. Compared to the EU, Ethiopia provides a home to 1/5 of the European population.[5]

History & Legends

Ethiopia is one of the world´s oldest countries, with a history, which goes back at least 2000 years. Based on the legend of the Queen of Sheba and Solomon, their son Menelik I founded the kingdom of Ethiopia, Aksum – the original center of Ethiopian civilization (today known as the region of Tigray).

Through the close link to the Red Sea Aksum established flourishing trade relations with Mediterranean countries, India and Arabia and it became Christian. Through the occupation of the coast of North Africa by Arabs in the 7th century, Ethiopia as a Christian country became isolated by the emergence of Islam. Various dynasties followed until the 13th century when Yekuno Amlak established a royal line, which survived until 20th century. Amhara became the home to the dynasty of Solomon and the central highlands of the kingdom of Shewa from which they ruled the entire region.[6]

Ethiopia became a sought-after destination and over the decades, it has had to protect itself against various intruders. In the 19th century, when Africa has been colonized and divided, and almost all African countries fell into European hands, Ethiopia successfully kept her freedom in the battle of Adwa.In 1930 Haile Selassie came to power as 225th Emperor of Ethiopia. He enforced the abolition of slavery and reformed his country, especially law and education. In 1936, Italian troops occupied the country. Liberation in 1941 by the Allied powers set the stage for Ethiopia to play a more prominent role in world affairs and was one of the first countries, which signed the Charter of the United Nations. In 1974 a domestic turmoil escalated into a military coup and the emperor of Ethiopia was deposed and murdered. This led to the abolition of the monarchy and the former empire became a socialist People’s Republic until 1991, when troops from Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRDF)) invaded Addis Ababa and brought down the communist regime. In 1993 Eritrea gained its independence; in 1994a new constitution was introduced in Ethiopia. Border issues between Eritrea and Ethiopia led to a war over the exact border between the countries. In 2002 the controversial area around Badme was awarded to Eritrea. Ethiopia refused to accept the Commission’s decision by 2018. On June 5, 2018, the newly elected Ethiopian government accepted the provisions of the border agreement of 2002. This included the transfer of Badme to Eritrea. On July 8, 2018, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed stated that Ethiopia and Eritrea are resuming diplomatic relations and at the same time, a peace agreement was signed between the two countries.[7]

Economics[8] and Development[9]

Ethiopia is characterized by agriculture. The agricultural sector is the largest sector and employs 68% of the population. It accounts for just under 36% of gross domestic product (GDP) and consists of predominantly small-scale subsistence farming. The main agriculture and livestock products are cereals, coffee, oilseed, cotton, sugarcane, vegetables, khat, cut flowers; hides, cattle, sheep, goats and fish.

As mentioned, Ethiopia has traditionally been a land of agriculture and livestock, but since it is haunted by several and frequent droughts the main goal of the country is the transformation from an agriculture-based economy into a manufacturing industry. To change and stabilize the economic structure the government developed a new strategy – Agricultural-Development-Led-Industrialization strategy. The strategy involves an export-led external sector, and internal emphasis on agriculture to supply commodities for exports, domestic food supply and industrial output, and expand markets for domestic manufacturing. Accordingly, although a number of reform steps have been undertaken (privatization, price liberalization, private sector registration also in the banking and insurance sectors). New reforms under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also includes plans to partially or fully privatize state-owned companies such as Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Telecom and other state-owned companies.

Even so, Ethiopia still depends highly on agriculture and livestock products the country became Africa’s fastest- growing economy with an average economic growth of more than 10 per cent since 2005/2006. Despite this fact, an estimated 23.50 % of Ethiopians still live below the poverty line (World Bank). Looking further into the UNDP´s Human Development Index (HDI 2018), Ethiopia ranks 173th in the list of 188 countries (category: low human development) it becomes clear that Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world which still has to fight against food insecurity and nutrition.

Link to the SAMS project

As an agricultural economy Ethiopia depends on improvements, a stronger focus on unused potential in the country and linkages between different markets and sectors is needed to improve livelihood and overcome food insecurity.

SAMS pursuits are to support small-hold beekeepers through open source technology and a user-friendly interface to improve the management of bee colonies and minimize the effort of the activities to concentrate on income sources around the bees, participate in economic activities and generate demand for products. Driven by the User Centered Design SAMS is an apiary management service based on three pillars:

  1. Development of modern modular monitoring hives adapted to the local context
  2. Development of a cloud-based decision support system (DSS) to implement a management advisory service for beekeepers
  3. Development of adapted bee management guidelines based on an ICT concept

UCD is the main concept to develop soft- and hardware components, which are easy to use and therefore a main success factor for technology implementations. The UCD process will ensure, that the ICT solutions and developed concepts and services within SAMS are based on specific user needs related to different contexts of use so that the target user groups really benefit of the system. To fulfill this goal, the system needs to be conceived, developed and continuously refined based on the actual requirements of the future users and their context of use. Based on the three pillars SAMS also aims to foster gender equality in employment and also the literacy and educational levels of the target communities will specially be addressed by SAMS.

Important facts for SAMS

Literacy rate, adult (% ages 15 and older) 39 (= 23.213.873)
Inequality in education (%) 43.5
Gender Inequality Index (GII)

achievement between women – men in three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment and labor market

Employment in agriculture (% of total employment) 68.2
Unemployment, youth (% ages 15–24) 7.4 (=1.566.976)
Youth not in school or employment (% ages 15-24) 10.5 (= 2.223.412)
Refugees by country of origin (thousands) 87.5
Internet users, total (% of population) 15.4 (= 16,17 Mio)
Broadband – fixed subscriptions: (2017) 580.120

 Honeybees and their connection to religion

The abundance of prehistoric, mythological, religious, cultural and historical traces of bees and their products is immeasurable. Humans always found the honeybee as the crown of creation. The wonders inspire many people and many religions. So it happens that Allah mentioned the bee in the Quran and Muslims appreciate the valuable food very much.[10]

{وَأَوْحَىٰ رَبُّكَ إِلَى النَّحْلِ أَنِ اتَّخِذِي مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتًا وَمِنَ الشَّجَرِ وَمِمَّا يَعْرِشُونَ ﴿٦٨﴾ ثُمَّ كُلِي مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ فَاسْلُكِي سُبُلَ رَبِّكِ ذُلُلًا ۚ يَخْرُجُ مِن

بُطُونِهَا شَرَابٌ مُّخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهُ فِيهِ شِفَاءٌ لِّلنَّاسِ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ}

(“And thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and in people’s habitations… there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for humankind. Verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought.”)

Also in the Christian church the bee as well as its products, honey and wax, are assigned particular significance. A legend says, “When Christ was crucified, his blood dripped to the ground; attracted by the sweetness of the red drops, bees flew by and collected the blood of Christ.” Thus, honey becomes the symbolic bearer of the blood of Christ and the Holy Scripture. The bee, on the other hand, who only feeds honey, which she gathers herself without damaging nature, embodies the believing Christian, who receives the word of God and gives it selfless.[11]

Beekeeping and Bee-Health in Ethiopia

Beekeeping has a long tradition and history in Ethiopia and it is Africa’s leading honey and beeswax producer. Known as the most populated landlocked country with its high population underlines the importance of the development of the apicultural sector. A developed apicultural sector not only increases the country’s natural food production, but also increases the incomes of not only professional beekeepers but also of farmers using bees to pollinate their agricultural plants.

Beekeeping in Ethiopia can be seen as additional income for families. There is no official data on the total number of beekeepers in Ethiopia, but Gupta (2014) estimated it to be more than 1 million[12]. The number of bee hives in the country (2016) is 6,189,329 (FAO 2018)[13], while the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (2007) estimated the total number of honey bee colonies (hived and feral honey bee colonies) to be ~10 million (2007).[14]

The situation of honey bee species and beekeeping differs from that in the European Union. Apis mellifera, the Western honey bee, is autochthonous in Ethiopia. So far, five sub-species were identified: A. m. bandasii, A. m. monticola, A. m. jemenitica, A. m. scutellate and A. m. woyi-gambella. In addition to that, stingless bees are also used in some parts of Ethiopia for beekeeping, but the focus lays on A. mellifera colonies.[15]

Despite the fact that Ethiopia is the 10th biggest honey producer in the world and that the honey production increased from 28,000 tons/ year in 2001 up to 53,000 tons/year until 2017, the Ethiopian apiculture sector is far behind its potential and cannot take advantage of its potential of 500,000 tons/ year. According to the data on honey import and export available from FAOSTAT, a provider of food and agricultural data, Ethiopia can be regarded as a net exporter of honey (mostly to Europe).[16]

The current performance is low due to e.g. a limited availability of bee forage (poisonous plants, seasonal availability, deforestation), water shortage (drought), a lack of beekeeping knowledge, a shortage of trained work forces and beekeeping equipment, as well as due to pests, predators and the usage of agricultural chemicals, which leads us to low quality of the products.[17]

The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA 2013) also has recognized the unused potential, which could boost Ethiopia to become one of the main honey producers in the world and lead to a better main income for farmers and beekeepers. Therefore, the MoA identified specific targets for the honey value chain they want to achieve by 2025[18]:

  • Increase of annual honey production from 50,000 t to 200,000 t (500,000 t potential)
  • Increase of annual beeswax production from 3,800 t to 12,000 t (50,000 t potential)
  • Increase of annual honey export from 400 t to 2,400 t and annual export revenues from 1.5 Mio US$ to 8 Mio US$
  • Increase of annual beeswax export from 400 t to 1,000 t and annual export revenues from 1.4 Mio US$ to 5 Mio US$

To fulfill the targets of the MoA and the objectives of SAMS, capacity building and training are major points to improve the management of bee colonies and to shift beekeeping from the traditional beekeeping to the modern box hive beekeeping. This is especially so important because 90% of the bee colonies in Ethiopia are kept in traditional hives which have an annual yield of 5-7 kg crude honey/year. At the same time, the transitional hive could produce between 15-25 kg /year and the modern box hive could come up with 30-45 kg/ year. The transitional hives are currently only used by 3% of the national beekeepers while the modern hive system is used by 7%.[19] So one of the biggest challenges for beekeeping in Ethiopia is currently the transition from traditional beekeeping to the more profitable keeping of bees in modern hives, mostly Dadant, Langstroth or Zander.

SAMS does not only address bee-management but also bee-health topics. In Ethiopia, bee health is not investigated as thoroughly as it is for example in the European Union or in North America. There are different pests and pathogens present in Ethiopia but mostly no treatment methods are applied. The most commonly applied control measures focus on ants and wax moths. Thus, field research on bee health and the occurrence of pests and parasites will support to fulfill the mentioned targets and to enhance the bee resilience to various external factors.

As it can be seen the apiculture sector has a huge unused potential which can be linked easily to other sectors and markets and improve livelihood through new income opportunities for rural and urban households. In addition, local and international SME businesses and start-ups can be strengthened and sustainable businesses and services around the honey value chain established. Furthermore, SAMS will also reinforce cooperation and strategic partnership between EU and Ethiopia on different levels.

For more details see SAMS report: D.5.1 Bee-Management and Bee-Health Indicators in Ethiopia and Indonesia



[0] Flag: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Flag_of_Ethiopia.svg
Map: https://allaboutethio.com/30-old-and-new-ethiopian-maps-you-have-to-see.html  

[1] http://hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/ETH

[2] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/et.html

[3] http://www.ethiopia.gov.et/regional-states1

[4]Worldbank (access: 05.10.2018) http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports/reportwidget.aspx?Report_Name=CountryProfile&Id=b450fd57&tbar=y&dd=y&inf=n&zm=n&country=ETH

[5] Statista (access: 05.10.2018)https://www.statista.com/topics/921/european-union/

[6] History World (access: 05.10.2018) http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?groupid=2112&HistoryID=ab92&gtrack=pthc

[7] Ethiopian Government Portal (access: 05.10.2018) http://www.ethiopia.gov.et/history?p_p_id=56_INSTANCE_eglYuFCcMdKJ&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_state=normal&p_p_mode=view&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_count=1&_56_INSTANCE_eglYuFCcMdKJ_page=6

[8] Ethiopian Government Portal (access: 05.10.2018) http://www.ethiopia.gov.et/economy

[9] Lipportal (access: 04.10.2018) https://www.liportal.de/aethiopien/wirtschaft-entwicklung

[10] The Religion of Islam (access: 08.10.2018) https://www.islamreligion.com/articles/10321/liquid-gold-benefits-of-honey/

[11] Imkerei Heiser (access: 08.10.2018) https://www.heiserimkerei.de/imkerei/geschichtliches/ueber-bienen.html

[12] Gupta, R. K., Reybroeck, W., van Veen, J. W., & Gupta, A. (2014). Beekeeping for Poverty Alleviation and Livelihood Security: Vol. 1: Technological Aspects of Beekeeping. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands

[13] FAO (access: 12.06.2018) http://faostat.fao.org  

[14] MoARD (2007). Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Livestock Development Master Plan Study. Phase I Report – Data Collection and Analysis, Volume N – Apiculture. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

[15] References:

  1. Pirk, C. W. W., Strauss, U., Yusuf, A. A., Démares, F., Human, H. (2015). Honeybee health in Africa—a review. Apidologie, 47, 276–300.
  2. Nuru, A., Amssalu, B., Hepburn, H. R., & Radloff, S. E. (2002). Swarming and migration in the honey bees (Apis mellifera) of Ethiopia. Journal of Apicultural Research, 41(1–2), 35–41.
  3. Radloff, S. E., & Hepburn, H. R. (1997). Multivariate analysis of honeybees, Apis mellifera Linnaeus (Hymenoptera: Apidae), of the Horn of Africa. African Entomology, 5, 57–64.
  4. Tesfu, F. & Abebe, H. (2016). Current Trends of Honey Bee Genetic Resources in Ethiopia – A Review. International Journal of Current Research, 8(5), 31737-31739.
  5. Gupta, R. K., Reybroeck, W., van Veen, J. W., & Gupta, A. (2014). Beekeeping for Poverty Alleviation and Livelihood Security: Vol. 1: Technological Aspects of Beekeeping. Dordrecht: Springer Net

[16] FAO (access: 23.04.2018) http://faostat.fao.org


  1. Gidey, Y., Bethelhem, K., Dawit, K., & Alem, M. (2012). Assessment of beekeeping practices in Asgede Tsimbla district, Northern Ethiopia: Absconding, bee forage and bee pests. African Journal of Agricultural Research, 7(1), 1-5.
  2. Gidey, Y., & Mekonen, T. (2010). Participatory Technology and Constraints Assessment to Improve the Livelihood of Beekeepers in Tigray Region, northern Ethiopia. CNCS, 2(1), 76-92.
  3. Legesse, G. Y. (2014). Review of progress in Ethiopian honey production and marketing. Livestock Research for Rural Development, 26(1), 1-6.

[18] Ministry of Agriculture 2013: Apiculture value chain vision and strategy for Ethiopia , International Livestock Research Institute, Addis Ababa, ISBN: 92–9146–410–4

[19] Holeta Bee research