Success is sweet for Yemeni Beekeepers

May 20, 2024

Beekeeping has been a tradition in Yemen for generations. The golden honey produced by these industrious insects is not just a delicious treat, but a source of livelihood for an estimated 100,000 Yemeni beekeepers. Yemen's honey is particularly prized for its unique flavors and potential health benefits, with varieties like Sidr honey, known for its amber color and medicinal properties. 

In the past, Yemen exported over 2,000 tons of honey annually, a testament to the high quality and global demand for this Yemeni treasure. However, recent times have seen this tradition threatened by conflict and a changing climate. Yet, a growing movement is buzzing with hope. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Yemen’s ERRY III Joint Programme – co-funded by EU and Sweden, supports beekeepers technically and financially, aiming to revitalize beekeeping and unlock its potential to strengthen the Yemeni economy and empower communities.

Meet the resilient beekeepers of Yemen.

From Day Labour to Stable Income

Yemeni beekeeper Yahya Al-Harasi, harvests honey in Al Gharbi subdistrict, Al Mahwit Governorate.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

Life for Yahya Al-Harasi, a 39-year-old father, was a constant struggle. Working in construction in Yemen's Al Mahwit Governorate provided a low income, never enough to fully support his wife and six young children. Days without work meant empty plates at home.

Five years ago, Yahya wanted a better life for his family. He turned to beekeeping, drawn to its potential for a steady income. With a friend, he learned the secrets of the hives, and the sweet reward of honey harvests in spring. Yahya felt hopeful - he could already picture himself owning numerous beehives, full of honey, and ready to be sold.

He borrowed money and bought two hives. He cared for them well, and over time, the number of his bees multiplied – growing from two to fifteen hives. 

Unfortunately, drought gripped the land, sucking the life out of local flowers, and leaving Yahya's beehives barren. The income he desperately needed vanished, forcing him back to the uncertainty of construction work, a tough job with no guarantee of finding income each day.

When all seemed lost, a flicker of hope emerged. Yahya joined a UNDP livelihoods initiative including “My First Business” training where he learned business management and financial literacy. Equipped with knowledge and a financial grant, he began beekeeping again. He purchased four new hives, which he plans to move to other locations looking for a good pasture.

Yahya says, "Honey is harvested twice a year. Each hive produces two and a half kilos, and thanks to the ERRY III Programme, I can double my production!"

Looking ahead to the harvest in five months, Yahya expects to sell 10 kilos of white honey, the most prized variety in the region, for 450,000 Yemeni Riyal (YER) – a significant sum that will bring much-needed stability to his family. "Now," Yahya says with relief, "there's always food on the table for my children."

Conflict, Displacement, and the Power of Bees

Yemeni beekeeper Khaldoun, taking care of his bees, in Taiz

UNDP Yemen / 2024

War ripped Khaldoun's life apart in 2015. He and his wife and four children were forced to flee their home in Aden, Yemen, leaving everything behind. They ended up in a poorly equipped house in rural Taiz, a far cry from their previous life.

Jobs were scarce. To put food on the table, Khaldoun took on grueling labor, digging and hauling rocks. It was during this time he met Nazir Salam, a beekeeper who became his close friend. Khaldoun learned beekeeping from Nazir, his passion for bees growing with each lesson.

Owning beehives became Khaldoun's biggest dream, a way to build a steady income for his family. But money was tight, and the dream seemed just out of reach.

The ERRY III Joint Programme empowered Khaldoun and other young people in Al Ma’afer district, fostering their resilience and self-reliance. With support from UNDP and local partner Tamdeen Youth Foundation (TYF), 250 livelihoods programme participants went on to receive technical training and financial grants that allowed them to start and grow small businesses. 

"Being chosen for the project was the happiest moment of my life," Khaldoun says.

"They gave me training and helped me create a business proposal. Thanks to their support, I finally have hives!"

With the project's grant, Khaldoun now owns over 20 beehives and works full-time as a beekeeper. It's a complete change from his days of backbreaking labor. 

Now, Khaldoun has a thriving business, a reliable income, and a renewed sense of hope.

From Hobby to Sustainable Success

Hassan, a bright young beekeeper, stands beside his apiary in Tuban district, Lahj.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

In Yemen's Lahj Governorate, where harsh conditions challenge daily life, Hassan Al-Yemeni, a 23-year-old university student, has turned his hobby of beekeeping into a source of income to make ends meet for his family of eight. He began his journey with limited resources, relying on his own efforts and little savings. He bought 18 beehives but had to sell some to afford his studies. Over time, he faced financial challenges that hindered the progress of his project.

Fortunately, technical training and financial grant of US$ 900 helped Hassan achieve success as a beekeeper. 

"The training opened my eyes," Hassan says. "I learned how to turn my small project into a real business."

Hassan's beekeeping journey started small. His dedication and passion were critical to his business success. He began with just 12 hives, and through hard work, his business grew to 23 hives.  

Hassan plans to make a big move next Sidr season, relocating his hives to the governorates of Shabwa and Hadramaut. There, he hopes to harvest the famous Sidr honey, a golden liquid prized for its unique flavor, bringing in a significant income that could truly transform Hassan's life and the lives of his family members.

Reflecting on his entrepreneurial beekeeping journey, he says, “I have learned many things from the beekeeping community, such as perseverance and hard work. I have also learned how important it is for a person to be productive. Just like the bees in their hives, we all have a role to play, and together we can achieve so much.”


In partnership with the European Union (EU) and Government of Sweden, UNDP and local partners, For All Foundation (FAF), Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF), Life Makers Meeting Place Organization (LMMPO), and Tamdeen Youth Foundation (TYF) have trained and financially supported 397 beekeepers (80 women) as part of the Supporting Resilient Livelihoods, Food Security and Climate Adaptation in Yemen Joint Programme (ERRY JP III). The project aims to enhance the resilience of crisis-affected rural communities in Yemen.