Sweet Rewards

Speeches Shim

Sunday, March 7, 2021
USAID helps beekeepers in Yemen increase their income from honey production through better colony management, modern beehives, and postharvest best practices.
Photo: ERLP

For Honey Producers and Traders in Yemen

“The market linkage support from USAID/ERLP has come when we most urgently needed it.” — Fawz Saleh Ba Muheifouz, Beekeeper/Honey Trader, Hadramawt

The buzz of a single honeybee may seem like an insignificant detail in a country facing the scale of economic and humanitarian challenges seen in Yemen. However, for the 100,000 or so beekeepers and businesses along the country’s honey value chain, it is a sound that resonates with the promise of improved livelihoods. Yemeni honey is among the most prized on the planet, and the country’s production has an essential role to play in rebuilding its economy and international exports. Even in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, USAID is revitalizing the Yemeni honey sector and spreading benefits to farmers and traders along the value chain through better technologies and new sales agreements. Since September 2020, USAID has helped honey farmers and buyers sign more than 50 sales agreements worth $1.5 million, with new fair price contracts being signed every week.

Before the conflict began in 2015, Yemen exported 50,000 tons of honey each year. Prized for its exceptional quality, amber color, and rich consistency, Yemeni honey commanded top prices – three to five times that of other countries. Still today, the demand for Yemen’s “liquid gold” remains high, with premium Sidr honey selling at prices reaching $1,000 per kilogram or more in high-end foreign markets such as Dubai.

For most Yemeni honey farmers, however, the potential high value of their production has remained unmet. They lack the technical know-how to reliably produce the quantities of high-value product needed to meet market demand. Moreover, living in remote areas, Yemeni beekeepers are far removed from the sales relationships needed to access lucrative markets, either within Yemen or abroad. As a result, they sell their product to local buyers at low prices that represent just a fraction of its potential worth.

The USAID Economic Recovery and Livelihoods Program (ERLP)  is changing this dynamic, working along the honey value chain to better realize the crop’s potential and bring greater benefits back to honey producers.

ERLP works closely with beekeepers in the honey-producing regions of Shabwah and Hadramawt to provide hands-on training in bee nutrition, disease prevention, queen and colony management, and drought response. They are introducing modern beehives that yield more than twice the amount of honey as traditional hives, and they are helping beekeepers to adopt postharvest best practices that maximize both the quality and quantity of their production. ERLP also works with beekeepers to upgrade packaging, enhance safety standards, and reduce transaction costs. Based on pilot work completed through a previous USAID-funded project, these improvements have the potential to double, even triple, the amount farmers receive for their honey production – lifting them to be on par with the country’s median income.

Beyond improving the lives of individual honey farmers, USAID strengthens the production and marketing capacities of beekeeper and trader associations. Sales agreements between farmers and buyers are designed to build fair and sustainable relationships. ERLP helps farmers, who like to get paid quickly for their product, understand that there is greater benefit in signing a longer-term sales agreement. ERLP encourages traders and processors to buy from local beekeepers and dissuades them from mixing precious local honey with cheaper, imported varieties that compromise both quality and sales.

ERLP tests the honey samples and presents them to key buyers in Yemen and abroad, implementing a niche-based market penetration strategy that is reaping successes even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. ERLP is negotiating sales agreements with Saudi Arabian buyers in Riyals, sealing the deal for the honey farmers and traders in a stronger, more stable foreign currency.

Honey holds a special status in Yemen. It is referenced in the Quran and other sacred texts, and is often reserved for important events, such as weddings. Once used as a peace offering between warring tribes, Yemen’s honey still has a central role to play in rebuilding the country’s self-reliance, and in sweetening the livelihoods of its people.

“As beekeepers and honey traders, we believe USAID is helping to solve the honey market obstacles and challenges not only for our generation, but for the next generations to come, so that our children and family members can maintain this honorable honey beekeeping profession and ensure a continuous financial return,” concludes honey farmer Fawz Saleh Ba Maheifouz.

USAID’s Economic Recovery and Livelihoods Program (ERLP), addresses critical economic stabilization challenges in Yemen. At the macroeconomic level, it restores economic stability, enhances fiscal management, and increases international trade flows. At the microeconomic level, ERLP helps small producers create their own businesses, strengthens private sector performance and competitiveness, and creates jobs and new market linkages for sustainable livelihoods.

Last updated: November 19, 2021

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