Jeevika’s Madhu Honey Network project celebrated its first birthday with a Honey Fair on 24th March this year in Bhubaneswar, Orissa. For the first time ever, 30 Tribal women beekeepers left their villages to travel to Bhubaneswar to represent their Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and to sell the honey their bees have produced over the last year.
Traditionally, these women collected wild honey from the forest and sold it however they could in whatever bottles they could gather for minimal profit. As members of the Madhu Honey Network – Madhu meaning honey in the Oriya language – they now produce honey in hives, then filter, pool, bottle, and label it. This has enabled them to sell their honey for competitive prices to their neighbours as well as in the local marketplace.
Indeed, at their first Honey Fair stall, they sold not only honey but other produce such as mustard and sunflower seeds, lentils and incense sticks and, through the process of fertilisation, their bees helped them.
One excellent outcome of the Honey Fair was that Jeevika’s partner organisation, Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP) – which is responsible for the beekeeping project and organisation of the Honey Fair – was that the State Ministers for Horticulture and Tribal People, and the Directors of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development and of the Khadi Village Investment Board, all agreed that they are keen to work collaboratively with JRP to expand the Madhu Honey Network into a viable beekeeping/honey production industry within Orissa.
When funding from the British Department for International Development (DfID) for the project ends in November 2013, JRP is ready to become a lead NGO for beekeeping in Orissa: it trains villagers to become beekeepers; it trains youths to make bee hives for the project as well as to sell to other beekeepers; it has published a Trainer’s Manual in the Oriya language; and in the coming months, it will form some beekeepers into a separate SHG to make protective clothing for beekeepers.
The honey that the Tribal women produce – like all honey – is highly valued for being nutritious as well as having medicinal properties; and by the time of its second birthday, the project will be providing a sustainable income for some 300 beekeepers while the bees will also help their farmer husbands by fertilising village crops.
Bees are to be celebrated as, indeed, are the Tribal women beekeepers of Orissa!
If you would like to help continue Jeevika’s work with the women beekeepers of Orissa, please consider making a secure donation through our JustGiving page. Thank you!