It was an Ethiopian beekeeper who first had the idea to make hives here from mud, combining the basket beekeeping practised nearby or inside houses in Tigray and Eritrea with the movable-comb idea of frame hives.
Ethiopia is losing 20 000 hectares of forest every year and timber is therefore a precious and expensive resource There is long tradition of using mud blocks to build houses, and this idea has been adapted in making the chika hives.
The hives are constructed in way similar to a wooden top-bar hive. Each wall is formed separately, and is made from dried mixture of straw and mud, formed into shape using wooden moulds.
The 26 top-bars are made from bamboo.
This hive is very cheap and easy to construct, and can be achieved by anyone who has access to the wooden moulds.
Chika is made using mud from riverbanks or the type of soil used traditionally for plastering houses. Wheat straw or teff straw are mixed with the soil, together with water. For the next four or five days further water is added and mixed in. When the mixture is at the right stage of plasticity it is formed into the separate walls of the hive using wooden moulds.
The price per hive including the wood top-bars, chika blocks and materials is 45 Birr (£12).
* Please see the original journal article to see some diagrams of the chika hive.