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Nepal: More honey, more money

NEPAL (Trust.Org) – Until recently, Shover Singh Praja often went to bed without dinner and had to work on an empty stomach, barely able to feed his family. Born to a poor family in Makwanpur district, central Nepal, Shover now earns way above the national average and has become a role model among his fellow Chepang, an indigenous ethnic group who depend on wild yams. The secret of Shover’s success? Bees.

For the last 2 years, Shover has looked after 55 hives and last year he netted US$1,000 selling honey, as well as hives to other keen beekeepers. Right away, the money was put to good use.

“I didn’t get the opportunity to get an education when I was a child, but I send all my children to school now,” he said.

This has all been much to the delight of Shover’s wife and their four children.

“Whenever we need a notebook or school materials, we don’t have to wait long. Our father buys what we need,” said Shover’s 10-year-old daughter, Anisha.

Shover has been so successful with his bees that he has become a model entrepreneur among the Chepang, who number only about 52,000.

The Chepang often miss out on education and healthcare and parents struggle under the burden of taking care of their children, few of whom make it to school. Of those who do get to class, the drop-out rate is alarmingly high as most families just can’t afford it. Further adding to the misery, most Chepang have no legal documentation of their land ownership and live in isolation from the rest of the country.

Projects like this can be part of the solution. The potential for beekeeping in Makwanpur is huge: the flora is very supportive of natural honey production and many key species grow in abundance.

The project Shover is part of launched in 2009, when Plan Nepal, with funding from Plan Germany, took steps to increase food security and income among 330 Chepang families by training them up on the ways of the bee and giving them 550 beehives. The novice entrepreneurs learnt all about how to connect with the local markets and a small industry was born.

For the Chepang, bees are nothing new. Many families raise bees in traditional hives made of mud or logs, but the poor quality honey this produces is difficult to sell, even at rock-bottom prices. Today, however, a new honeybee processing centre buys the raw honey from the villagers for a tidy sum and whips it into to shape to sell locally.

Man Sing Ghalan, a technician at the centre, is proud of the success.

“Since our establishment we have produced 5,000 kg of honey worth US$14,471 and we are operating at a profit,” he added

Having a brand name also helps. Nilejam, a well-known organisation comprising four local Chepang honey cooperatives, has given its name to be used on the labels.

The increase in income means more students are in school armed with all the right stationery, said local teacher Sameer Praja.

The honey production also encourages youths to stay within the community instead of jetting off to another country to work as labourers.

Ramesh Praja, 28, cancelled his plans to go overseas.

“At home, living with my family, I can earn around US$120-300 during the honey production season and US$60-180 in the off season. When I realised this, I wondered why I should go abroad to earn a wage no more than the amount of money I can earn in my very own community,” he said.

Other stakeholders also see a positive future. Hem Poudyal, livelihood coordinator from Plan Nepal, says it’s likely the programme will be extended to other areas.

Meanwhile, Beekeeper Hira Praja has even bigger ideas.

“With more technical skills and support, Chepang honey producers could market their honey abroad.”

Published Date: Thursday, May 10th, 2012 | 02:52 AM

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