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Forestry student has helped make Ethiopian honey project sustainable

A University of Copenhagen student's social business initiative in southern Ethiopia is making a real difference to the lives of beekeepers. And this where many other development projects have failed

Carlo Murer has a passion for socially sustainable business. And he has put it to good use helping an Ethiopian beekeeper’s co-operative transform their local honey into a high-value product that has increased incomes for beekeepers.

For the past four years, Carlo, who is a University of Copenhagen Master’s student in Sustainable Tropical Forestry, has worked with the cooperative in Gassa Chare on improving beekeeping techniques, with an eye on appealing to urban markets.

The new techniques eliminate smokiness, increase the length of storage and are less destructive to the honeycombs during harvesting. Big cities in Ethiopia, like Addis Ababa, already have a market for high quality organic honey, says Carlo.

Owning the entire process

The increased profit from selling high quality honey goes back to the cooperative and provides good income for the beekeepers.

The cooperative has ownership of the entire process, says Carlo.

“A guy from Addis Ababa goes between the village and the city every week to market the honey. To strengthen the cooperative, the cooperative has to contribute to the commercialization of their products,” he says.

Leading from within

Basing the cooperative’s activities on local proposals has contributed to the business’ sustainability, according to Carlo: “I see tons of beekeeping projects in Ethiopia that fail because there was no real participation from the people,” he says.

His dream is to make them completely independent from him, which he plans will happen in two years when the cooperative produces enough honey and markets it profitably to cover all their expenses, Carlo explains.

“I’m not the leader of the project – I’m just an external support. They are the leaders themselves.”

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