With a long history of beekeeping dating back between 3500 and 3000 B.C. and a new growth in silk production, Ethiopia looks to expand both industries for increased economic opportunity for youth.

Earlier this year, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, which specializes in beekeeping and silk farming enterprises, and The MasterCard Foundation announced a $10.35-million, five-year Young Entrepreneurs in Honey and Silk farming initiative, to create employment opportunities for young people through beekeeping and silkworm farming.

“We must create an environment in which youth are a thriving part of the economy,” said Reeta Roy, president and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation, in a statement. “By creating opportunities in beekeeping and silkworm farming, thousands of young Ethiopian women and men will take the first steps towards becoming successful entrepreneurs and contribute to their country’s continued economic growth.”

Project leaders will focus on employment for underserved boys and girls, enabling them to establish and grow their own businesses in the fields of textiles and honey products, including beeswax, royal jelly, pollen, propolis (“bee glue”), bee colonies, and bee venom and take traditional practices of producing honey and turn them into more advanced, marketable ventures.


The Ministry of Women, Youth and Children Affairs and other government departments will select unemployed, out-of-school youths between 18 and 24 years old who have completed a 10th-grade education from the East and West Gojjam of Ethiopia’s Amhara region and Gamo Gofa in the Southern Nations. The young entrepreneurs will receive starter kits and equipment that will include modern beehives, honey processors, silkworm rearing trays and silk yarn spinning wheels to get their businesses started.

The five-year project is expected to directly benefit 12,500 low-income youth, provide opportunities to an additional 25,000 people involved in the value chain from harvesting, to processing, packaging and marketing honey and raw silk.

“With relevant and adequate support, honey and silk production and engagement across their respective value chain could be key sectors of opportunity for young people,” Alemayehu Konde Koira, senior manager with The MasterCard Foundation’s Youth Livelihoods Program, told Inter Press Service.