Mohammed Abdule, 47 and father of 6 children, is a farmer in rural Ethiopia. Most in his region live with the constant threat of droughts and climate shocks. Approximately 85 percent of people there rely on small-scale agriculture to make a living. Most of that agriculture depends on - increasingly sporadic - rain.
Until recently, Mohammed faced this threat with very little to cushion the blow when the rains failed. To cope with the dry rainy seasons in 2006 to 2008 he was forced to sell his oxen, cows and goats at a reduced price. He also had to take loans to buy enough food for his family.
He and his family survived, but Mohammed was faced with another drought in 2009. Once again, he had to sell his only assets – his oxen, donkeys and goats – in order to provide for his family.
After doing well in an earlier CARE training project, Mohammed was given the opportunity to take part in another in July 2011. This one was aimed at poor rural people in Ethiopia, allowing them to learn about microfinance and markets and how they can build resilience to threats. He learned about savings management, animal fattening, and cultivating improved seeds. He also took part in a month-long comprehensive training course on bee keeping and beehive making.
On completion he received from CARE what he needed to grow the tiny bee keeping sideline he had already started. This included 6 transitional beehives, 50 small beehives for multiplying bees and 14 bee colonies.
Prior to the bee keeping training, Mohammed had only two bee colonies, which did not produce nearly enough to be his sole source of income. Mohammed explains that “After the training, I was able to multiply the 14 bee colonies into 42 and sell the 14 to farmers in the village at 500 birr (£18) each.” He sold the colonies at a reduced price. He knew that farmers in that area could not pay more. He then deposited the 7,000 birr (£255) he earned in the local bank as part of his new savings plan.
Today, Mohammed keeps 14 active beehives. “I have harvested 24 kilograms of honey last November, sold it and got a total of 2,400 birr (£87).” He spent 1,400 birr (£51) purchasing sugar for the bees so that they have sustenance during the dry season when flowers are scarce and saved the rest.
Mohammed also now gives technical support to 73 honey producers in his locality and beyond. The knowledge he gained from the training has benefited the whole community as well as his family.
Mohammed says that his life is improving because he is less dependent on rain-fed farming. By engaging in bee farming, savings management, animal fattening, cultivating improved seeds and even carpentry he has his assets spread out.
And the proof is clear. The devastating drought that hit the region in the past year has not affected him in the same way as previously. He has not sold any of his assets and has not taken out any loans. Mohammed’s family finally has the security it needs to be resilient in the face of drought.
His plans for the future are equally inspiring. “As there is demand in the market, I plan to buy 40 bee colonies this year, multiply them to 200 colonies and sell 180 in the market.”