NewsBeekeeping in Yemen

Beekeeping Yemen



Every year, Yemen’s 1.2 million native bee colonies produce more than 1,500 tons of honey, providing income to an estimated 100,000 beekeepers. Considered some of the best honey in the world, this rich, golden elixir is vital to local economic development and recovery for this war-torn nation.


The secret of the honey’s high quality is its pure, raw, and unprocessed form. There are several types of Yemeni honey – the flavor and richness determined by what trees and flowers upon which the bees feed. The most well-known of all comes from the sacred Sidr tree and is a rich amber honey with purported health properties. This prized honey provides beekeepers like Haitham, Nazra, and Ali with critical income.

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Meet the beekeepers of Yemen. 


Haitham is 18 years old and lives with his family. He loves bees but previously lacked the money to purchase hives but when he found a group of bees on a tree branch one fateful afternoon, everything changed. “One day, on my way home, I found a cluster of bees on a tree. I approached the colony and fortunately found the queen,” explains Haitham, a young, motivated beekeeper from Lahj in southern Yemen.  

When he started raising bees, he did not hesitate to seek advice from bee experts in his village to learn the tricks of the trade. Undoubtedly, passion and dedication were critical to Haitham’s success with the number of bees continuing to multiply – growing from one to five hives.

Haitham’s ambition did not stop here, he joined 659 other rural Yemenis to rehabilitate roads in his local area through cash-for-work, improving access to Alfiosh main market for residents. With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through CARE International, 448 of the participants went on to receive technical training and financial grants that allowed them to start and grow small businesses. In Lahj, 39 Yemenis launched beekeeping businesses.

“I expanded my project and replaced the old hives with modern ones,” Haitham exclaims. Now he has 16 hives in his yard. “Every morning I prepare sugar water to help my bees get enough energy until they produce their own honey.”

Haitham harvests honey one to four times a year – totalling 10 to 20 litres of honey. The quality of the honey varies according to the trees from which they feed. “Sidr and Sumor honeys have a wonderful taste and flavor, which make these two types more expensive than Saisaban honey,” says Haitham. “I sell one kilo of honey for 30,000 to 70,000 Yemeni Riyal (YER) (approximately US$ 39 – US$ 90), which I use to cover my family’s expenses,” he adds.

“Emotionally, I am satisfied with what I have achieved so far in my life,” elaborates Haitham. “On a professional level, I have become a productive person capable of generating income for me and my family.”

“I have learned many things from the beekeeping community, such as persistence. I have also learned how important it is for a person to be productive. […] Thanks to [UNDP] support my professional life changed and I am famous in my village since my project expanded,” says Haitham.




Nazra is a mother of five from Khanfar, Abyan. Opening a small workshop in her village, she became the first woman from her area to manufacture traditional beehive boxes.

Nazra works together with her husband Saleh to produce three traditional beehive boxes each day that they turn around and sell to beekeepers who had to previously go to local markets over a 30 minute drive away. She sells about 90 beehive boxes a month for 3,000 YER each (approximately US $5), bringing her total profits to 270,000 YER (approximately US$ 450) – a significant sum in rural Yemen.

In Abyan, there beekeeping is popular as an affordable source of income for individuals who previously could not finance small businesses.

"Great women with a pioneering spirit must be supported," says Saleh, Nazra’s husband. "We live in an agricultural area where a high number of beekeepers exist and there is a great and growing demand for the traditional beehive boxes we build,” he explains. “During the rainy season, beekeepers from Shabwa and other areas come to Abyan in search of suitable pasture for bees. We are likely to sell more beehive boxes during this time, increasing profits,” he beams. “I can say that my wife has succeeded in her small enterprise!”

Nowadays, Nazra lives a better quality of life. "Before we were not able to buy chicken for lunch even once a week. Financially, my situation has changed for the better." Looking ahead, she hopes to expand her workshop. "I plan to make more beehive boxes and sell them in neighboring areas. The demand is growing, and profits will increase.”





The technical training and financial grant of 350,000 YER (equivalent to US$ 600) helped Ali achieve success as a beekeeper too.

Ali, formerly a daily-wage laborer from Khanfar in Abyan, would transport stones, build houses, cultivate land, and raise livestock to secure a daily wage for his two young daughters, wife, and widower father. “I didn’t have a stable source of income – sometimes I would just stay home doing nothing but trying to find a way to generate income,” says Ali.

Luckily, Ali joined a UNDP cash-for-work initiative followed by “My First Business” training where he learned business management and financial literacy. He learned beekeeping from his grandfather, and today he runs a successful honey and hive business. “It all began with 10 beehives. Now I have 35,” he excitedly announces. Ali goes on his motorbike to the central markets to sell honey to people from Hodeidah, Shabwa, and Taiz. “Beekeeping is a successful income-generating project; we can either sell honey or beehives for an income.”

A growing industry, honey production and beekeeping support is gaining popularity among Yemenis across the country. Not only is Yemeni honey a tasty, healthy diet, UNDP considers this sweet nectar one of the keys to stronger economic resilience in Yemen – particularly in rural communities!


In partnership with the European Union (EU) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), UNDP and local partners have trained and financially supported 484 beekeepers as part of the Supporting Resilient Livelihoods and Food Security in Yemen Joint Programme (ERRYJP II). The project aims to enhance the resilience of crisis-affected rural communities in Abyan, Hajjah, Hodeidah, Lhaj, and Taiz.



Originally published @ UNDP Yemen