Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

Ethiopia accounts for twenty-four percent of African honey production. One of its most unique and flavorful honeys is produced only in the very northern part of the country, in the Mountains of Tigray, at an elevation of 2,300 meters above sea level.

Wukro White Honey, EthiopiaOnce a year, during the main rainy season, the rocky and arid mountains produce a short and diverse flowering period. A variety of blossoming indigenous plants found nowhere else in the world contribute to the honey’s distinct and sweet flavor. And the isolated region has, until recently, been relatively protected from land degradation and urban sprawl that has damaged bee populations in other parts of the country.

The honey is a traditional delicacy, served steamed with white bread as a festival meal and used to make tej, a honey-wine recognized as the national drink of Ethiopia. It is also a critical source of income for the region and producers sell the honey in both local and national markets.

Recently, though, uncontrolled deforestation—mostly as a result of land clearing for agricultural use—has lead to a decrease in rainfall, which has in turn lead to a decrease in honey production. Without the rain, there is no abundance of indigenous blossoms.

A project funded Slow Food International is helping bee keepers in the town of Wukro in central Tigray to preserve their livelihoods—and local biodiversity—by creating an incentive to protect local forests and plant habitat. Working with 17 bee keepers in the area, the Wukro White Honey Presidium is helping to streamline production, improve farmer access to markets, and increase awareness about the importance of preserving Tigray’s indigenous plants.

Slow Food has helped the farmers to establish a shared hygienic processing plant and a shop where they can sell honey directly to consumers. This gave the producers the collective power to establish fair prices and ensure the integrity of their final product. Enough glass jars to bottle an entire year’s worth of honey production were donated by Saint-Gobain Vetri, an Italian glass company. These jars were labeled by Slow Food to promote a distinct product that can be associated with the cooperative.

And bee keepers are pleased with the results. Each year, a successively larger training seminar is held with the Wukro beekeepers and neighboring communities to exchange information about processing, marketing, and preserving the region’s one of a kind honey.

To read more about crops indigenous to Africa see: Black Plum: Fruit, Timber, and Agroforestry, Safou: the “Butterfruit” , Traditional Food Crops Provide Community Resilience in Face of Climate Change, and Monkey Oranges: Mouthwatering Potential.

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