Through World Vision’s beekeeping programme, 220 women from 28 vulnerable villages of Badghis province in Afghanistan have received training on beekeeping as a vocation. They are now better able to support their families through the sale of the honey produced by bees.
Badghis province, with its lofty mountains, is one of the areas where World Vision operates in Afghanistan. Each year, in this part of the country, spring brings new life; not just for nature, but also to the people of this province. The mountains turn green in this season as if they have been covered by a green velvet full of red flowers. Not only do these mountains provide beauty, they also bring life, creating a space where residents can cultivate food for sale and consumption.
Despite all the natural beauty and the hard work invested by local residents, life is difficult in this place, particularly for women who are trying to produce an income.
Due cultural practices, women have traditionally held a weak role in Afghan society. These practices have caused their lack of formal education and access to vocational skills, both of which makes it difficult for women to generate income. This, in turn, leaves them vulnerable, especially if they are the head of their household.
To address and improve the poverty and economic status of households and empower women in the society, World Vision has started beekeeping project in Badghis as an effective and easy income-generation tool for women, as honey is a product with a high profit margin.
To begin the project, World Vision’s team identified suitable areas for beekeeping as well as the most vulnerable beneficiaries: those from or leading female-headed households, disabled people and people living in poverty who have access to both water and flowers. Sadgul, 25, is only of the 220 families who participated in beekeeping vocations.
She joined this programme three years ago with no knowledge about or experience with beekeeping or honey production. This outgoing mother of four children lives in a small village located about 15 km from the centre of Badghis city.
“When beekeeping [as a] vocation was introduced in our village by World Vision staff, no one could believe in this programme”
“When beekeeping [as a] vocation was introduced in our village by World Vision staff, no one could believe in this programme,” remembers Sadgul. “We hadn’t seen honey in our life and thought bees just sting and that their poison is dangerous for humans,” she adds, explaining the erroneous information that existed about bees in her village.
With the hope of supporting her husband to provide for their family’s daily expenses, Sadgul decided to join the programme. “I told myself, ‘let join this strange programme, maybe I can help my children and husband and have income, something is better that nothing,’” she added.
Sadgul and the other selected beneficiaries received training on proper bee care, honey production and beekeeping box making. This training covered many topics, including:
o Hive establishment and management
o Health and disease of bees
o Honey extraction
o Movement of hives
o How to select a queen bee
o Proper management of bee’s wax
o How to use beekeeping equipment (protective clothing, smokers etc.)
The beneficiaries who demonstrated a commitment to beekeeping and passed the final training exam each received two beekeeping boxes. Following the initial training and despite the security concerns, World Vision’s project staff conducted monthly follow-up training sessions and discussions with the new beekeepers.
“During the first year, as it was my first experience, I produced only 5 kilos of honey from the two boxes,” explains Sadgul. “Honey was a new food for my family. I had never tested it before. In the training, we learned a lot about the benefit of honey for a family’s health, especially for children. As a result, my husband and I decided to keep the first production for our family’s consumption.”
The outcome of the first year’s effort motivated Sadgul to be even more committed to this new vocation. This past year she was able to produce 116 kilos honey from 16 bee boxes.
“Now my husband and I are professionals in beekeeping”
“Now my husband and I are professionals in beekeeping,” says Sadgul, with a smile. “Last week, I added four more boxes,” she laughs and continuous. “I started with two boxes and currently I have 20 boxes with between 15,000 and 17,000 bees in each. Even my husband goes to other village and gives advice to those who newly has started this vocation,” she says, proudly.
To encourage and motivate the beneficiaries, World Vision’s project team arranged an exposure visit for 20 beekeepers to visit a private beekeeping farm in Herat province, Sadgul was one of those selected.
“I thought as Herat is a large city that has a lot of facilities compared to here,” she says. “Their honey production is high in amount and quality, but now I can say with honour that our honey and bees are the best,” she adds.
Not only can beekeeping improve income-generation, it can also help address poor nutrition and a low variety of dietary problems for children. Parallel to that, families can use the income generated to support their children by providing school materials and sending them to school.
“My children love eating honey,” said Sadgul, with a smile. “If I allowed them, they would eat honey 10 times a day,” she added. “With the money I earn from selling of the honey, I can buy notebooks, pens and school bags for my children,” explains Sadgul.
Honey is a highly valued commodity in Badghis and Herat. Each beehive is capable of producing between 20 and 25 kilos of honey, which can be sold for 1,200 to 1,500 AFS (about $25 [USD]) per kilo, at the local bazaar.
“My monthly income is even more than my husband’s,” says Sadgul, proudly. “I even receive orders from Herat province for honey,” she adds.
To sustain the project, beekeeping team works closely with Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livelihoods as well as the Department of Education. As a result, an apiary department was established by WV in this province where agriculture university’s students will be taught how to care for sick bees and how to improve the yields of honey.
“Now, I have believe on ability myself. Through the beekeeping project I have an income that can support my family, especially my children. And, now I have income that I can use to buy anything I need for myself or my children. There is no need to hide myself from society anymore,” added Sadgul, grateful, while looking at the honey jams in front of her.