September 10, 2021 | View All Stories

Honey Production Cooperative Sustains Christian Ministry in Ethiopia

What’s the Buzz?

When Yonas walked out of his house, he found a big surprise awaiting him. Bees had created a hive in a cinder block lying in his yard. The bees were already producing honey in the cinder block.

“Why don’t we use the bees? They are doing all the work,” Yonas thought. Yonas, a native missionary in Ethiopia, struggled to support his family and train underground pastors and equip them with Bibles and teaching materials. He had tried raising goats, cows, and chickens, but he thought the bees might be the way to support his family and his ministry. He said, “It looks like God sent the queen bee to my house.” He had a vision of beehives all over the country of Ethiopia producing honey to sustain ministries.

Help with the Bees

Yonas shared his vision with some Christian friends, Tilahun and Meseret. They gave him money to get a proper hive for the bees and the equipment to start an apiary (beekeeping) business.

Today, five years later, Yonas has 77 hives. He has given bees and hives to others to start their own businesses. At first, he received funds from Tilahun and Meseret to run the business and do his ministry work. Now, he no longer needs that support. He is so successful with his bees that he needs no salary from others; he is self-sustaining.

Ethiopia is one of the top ten producers of honey worldwide and the leading producer in Africa. The honey from Ethiopia is unique because of the types of flowers from which bees harvest nectar and pollen. One flower, a local blossom of the mint family (Lamiaceae), causes the bees to produce opaque white honey, a delicacy in Ethiopia. Another honey the Ethiopian bees produce is Gojjam’s black honey from the Eucalyptus camaldulensis (red gum) flower, used for medicinal purposes.

Spreading the Honey

If one hive can make such a difference for a missionary family, what could happen if they had five hives? This was the question Tilahun and Meseret had. Excited about Yonas’s success, they started Mihret Honey as a branch of their ministry, Mihret Medical Supply. Their goal is to equip and support Ethiopian missionaries by providing their families with capital to start modern honey production. Mihret aims to help missionary families become self-sufficient with low risk, eventually fulfilling Yonas’s vision of hives all over the country. The vision is to have a specialty market for the unique, organic kinds of honey that the ministry is producing.

They plan to raise seed capital of $100,000 to supply 40 families with five beehives each, plus foundation wax, suits, smokers, extractors, and other necessary equipment. The first 40 families will establish their businesses and start paying back their loans after two years. Then the funds will be reinvested to equip and train another cycle of families.

Tilahun and Meseret hope to have a cooperative of 40 families in 10 regions of Ethiopia. There would be four families, called a union, in each of the ten regions. The ten unions would form a Honey Collective. Mihret Honey has established two Central Honey Collectives to track and distribute funds. The objective is to place the hives with ministry families with limited resources to support their ministry. The Collectives have hired a professor with a doctorate in beekeeping to train the families. They have already begun building better hives that will increase the production of honey threefold. Mihret Honey will build honey processing plants and find marketplaces for the beekeepers.

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Sue Morris is a writer with ANM's Marketing team.

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