On a chilled winter morning, wrapped in blankets, a group of 18 women from the Mormi village in Kapilvastu district in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal gathered to discuss about bee farming and honey production. The group was formed on… as part of the World Bank’s support to women entrepreneurs in the Greater Lumbini Area under the Buddhist Circuit Development Program in South Asia.
Despite their different trajectories, they have a common goal: to change their lives and the future of their families and village by mastering bee farming and honey production. “You empower one woman, you empower an entire generation”, they all agree. The discussion starts with them telling their hardships and struggles – the endless constraints and abuses they face since very young. Yet, despite all deprivations, they have managed to keep up their hopes, and for this reason are here.
The conversation then shifts to those who are already in the business sharing their experience. Despite promising, without scale and market linkages, the beekeepers have to sell their honey for half of the price to wholesalers. To address it, the Bank is supporting not only the group formation, but also providing it with the knowledge and tools for then to have direct access to consumers, starting with linkages to local buyers in the area.
Leading the group is Shanta Bhandari Pokharel, an experienced beekeeper and honey producer from the village. A role model, Shanta started bee farming with her husband in 2007. They are migratory beekeepers, considered a highly skilled profession. They harvest honey for eight months a year with a short break in the rainy season, when Shanta feeds her bees and cares for her beehives to maintain their temperature and survival during the hot and humid monsoon months. Their vision and hard work have paid off with seven tons of honey sold not only across Nepal, but also to Europe and the USA in 2019. Shanta’s husband is the Chairman of the Bee Farming Association of Nepal.
Inspired by Shanta and with a real case and motivation in hand, the new migratory beekeepers forget the cold and buzz about how caring for bees will allow them to take charge of their lives in the sweetest possible way.