First Published - October 5, 2018 (By Pascale - Coffee Lover, Traveller and Mother)
When we started our Bee Project in Guatemala in 2015, we were looking to help diversify income and nutrition for the families growing our Liberacion coffee. What we didn’t know was that in addition to that, the project had a significant impact on empowering the women in the area.
"Not only are we improving ourselves as individuals and as professionals, we are also educating our community about the importance of gender equality. With the introduction of this project, our community has been remined that woman can achieve just as much as men can, and that we can be successful business women if we choose to be."
Floridalma: "Although we are just starting out, this beekeeping project has already changed my life in a big way. Not only has it brought new job opportunities and extra income, it has also brought a social change that effects everybody in the community. There are still people who believe that woman can not work in agriculture or apiculture as it is believed this work is only suitable for men. But what they don’t know is that woman are capable of doing just about anything, including work that in the past only men were allowed to perform. With this project, not only are we improving ourselves as individuals and as professionals, we are also educating our community about the importance of gender equality."
In 2015, Guatemala was recovering from the Leaf Rust Crisis which devastated coffee crops in the area. Coffee production is one of the few options farmers have in the area. Besides coffee many families depend on remittances. There are also many female-headed households, in some cases the men who left in search for work to the USA never returned. Esquipulas Cooperative is a long-standing partner of Union, located in the remote highlands of Guatemala where smallholder farmers grow the coffee for Union’s single origin Liberacion Coffee. We wanted to look for a project that supported the women in the cooperative.
With women having little land available, and the land available divided between coffee and home vegetable gardens, we needed an activity that required little land, but also relatively little time. Honey production could deliver supplemental income and nutritional benefits to the community. Honey bees help pollinate the coffee plants and increase yields. More importantly, by working together in a group women could tend to the communal bee-hives, saving time.
When we started the project, the women were reluctant. Bees – aren’t they dangerous? Can we, as women alone, run a project? What will the people say?
By the time we visited the project in 2016, the women confidently would lift the honey supers, while another group member would calm the bees with smoke (created by burning corn cobs).
In the past three years these women have been trained in beekeeping by an NGO called Pueblo a Pueblo. Unions support for the project ended last June, and the women now continue their beekeeping activities with the assistance of Esquipulas Cooperative, who are now also looking to expand the project.
Here are the results from the project so far:
- A nearly 44% increase in reported income of the involved beekeepers from a baseline of 50 USD per month
Livelihood Adaptation, Vulnerability and Resilience
- The program successfully diversified the women’s source of income, adding to their resilience in the face of uncertain economic and environmental conditions for coffee income
Natural Resource Base Sustainability
- The implementation of the project involves synergistic relationships; bees use coffee tree flowers to produce honey, pollinating the trees and increasing coffee production
- The women reported restoration of self-worth, improved business acumen and improved gender relations
We are pleased to share that this project has met its goals:
In 2018 the women harvested 407 lb of honey (estimated gross sale of 2700 USD)
|PROJECT GOALS||PROJECT ACCOMPLISHMENTS|
|Increase the quantity of honey produced by 35% each year||
765% from 2016 to 2017
135% from 2017 to 2018
|Increases income share generated from honey activities by 30% over three years||44% Increase over three years|
|Change beneficiary’s group’s confidence level on beekeeping by 30% over three years||61% Increase over three years|
The impact of this project goes beyond numbers, in the words of the women it has impacted the whole community:
Ema Castillo: "The significant change this project has made in my life is the restoration of my own worth not only as a hardworking woman, but as a human being.. For me, not only has this project brought a welcomed new source of income, it has actually expanded my consciousness so that I now view life in a new way. Now I know that if we as woman believe in ourselves, we can achieve anything we set out to do."
At first, we were criticized by our male counterparts as they believed we would fail in this project, but after we all worked hard together and we had good results during the testing phase, they, a long with the rest of our community members, began to trust that we can be successful. This project has also helped us all work in collaboration with one another, something which was new for many of us. In this way, we have learned how to develop a wonderfull support group and we continue to recruit new members and disperse this knowledge. For me, it is a delight to be able to work alongside my family and this project has allowed for that. Furthermore, working in apiculture has taught me about honey bees and how to work with them. Many people are afraid of honey bees, but I have learned that these little creatures know when they are being appreciated and taken care of and in return they are also extremely appreciative too.
Union Hand-Roasted would like to thank Pueblo a Pueblo & Cooperativa Esquipulas for their support and effort.
Congratulations Las Diez Rosas: