Beekeeping Makes Life Sweeter

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Family beekeeping business
Aga Khan Foundation

Firuz Khudoberdiev, a 37-year-old resident of the Chagev village in Tajikistan’s Badakhshon region, says that his entire family has been involved in the beekeeping business, in one way or another. 

“My father and I are mostly responsible for caring for the bees, feeding them, and collecting the honey,” he says. “Packaging and selling the honey is mostly my mother’s business.” 

In early September 2021, Firuz’s mother, Surayo Bekdavlatova, took their product to a big fair organized by the Aga Khan Development Network in Khorugh, the capital of Badakhshon. There, she sold 40 kg of honey in just a few hours. She and another member of their group, Gulazor Oshurbekova, presented their honey in an exhibition organized for the visit of President of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmon on September 27. 

There was a lot at stake. Firuz, a father of three girls, says the honey sales make up half of their household income. This year, that has amounted to 35,000 Somoi ($3). 

“This money is crucial for improving the quality of life of our family. All our hopes and plans for the future are tightly intertwined with beekeeping,” says Firuz. 

Tajikistan’s Badakhshon region has enormous potential for honey production, yet beekeeping remains one of the region’s less-developed sectors. The region doesn’t produce enough honey to meet local demand. To grow livelihoods and expand the supply of locally-produced honey, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), with funding from USAID and other donors, has launched initiatives like the Thrive Tajikistan program to support beekeepers and beekeeping groups with their businesses. One such group is the Madad Common Interest Group. Established in 2010, the Madad Common Interest Group brings together 10 beekeepers, primarily from Roshtqala district. 

The Thrive Tajikistan: Partnership for Socio-Economic Development program is a partnership between AKF and USAID to improve the quality of life for people living in the Khatlon and Badakhshon regions. Support from the Thrive Tajikistan program has helped the honey producers in Roshtqala double their number of bee colonies since they started. 

Firuz and Surayo’s honey is highly-prized across Tajikistan and beyond. Sharifa Nurova’s family in Dushanbe has been buying it for more than five years. She used to buy honey from other producers, but, once they tried honey from Firuz, her family was struck by its purity and delicious sweetness. This year, Sharifa bought more than 100 kg of Firuz’s product. 

“Since I buy honey mostly for medical/therapeutic purposes during the cold season, I have found Firuz’s product pure and suitable, which is a rare occasion these days,” Sharifa says.

Over the past decade, the Madad Common Interest Group has improved and multiplied the region’s honey production, despite facing big hurdles. Due to bad weather conditions in 2020, the group’s honey production dropped by more than 15 percent from the previous year. 

In 2021, the group members harvested nearly twice as much honey as in 2020: 1,905 kg compared to 1,000 kg. The group has even expanded its activities beyond Roshtqala district to include a beekeeper farmer from Shugnan district, located 50 km from Roshtqala. 

Gulazor Oshurbekova from the Khidorjev village also belongs to the Madad Common Interest Group. She and her family got into the beekeeping business in the early 1990s, but their interest really soared after they joined the Madad group. With the support from AKF and USAID, they increased their honey production and started making a profit.

“The beekeeping business contributes a lot to our family budget. My husband and I both work in public institutions, so our salaries are barely enough to make ends meet,” says Gulazor.

Gulazor’s younger daughter has shown an interest in beekeeping, and even chose it as a topic of her studies in Khorugh. 

“When she was admitted to the Medical University of Tajikistan earlier this year, it was thanks to our beekeeping business that we were able to cover her travel and lodging costs in Dushanbe,” says Gulazor.

The income from beekeeping has improved the family’s quality of life. They plan to increase their number of bee colonies. 

Firuz, besides running his own farm, also manages accounting for the Madad Common Interest Group. When the group started, he says the members established a common fund and deposited a percentage of the financial support received from AKF and USAID to this fund to make the group sustainable. The Common Interest Group members use the fund to improve their beekeeping business, for example, taking out low-interest loans to buy new equipment and supplies. Currently, the common fund is TJS 15,000 ($1,327). In 2020, under the Thrive Tajikistan program, the group contributed part of this fund for the procurement of bee families, beehives, honey extractors, and wax.  

The group members have ambitious plans. They intend to establish a dedicated sale’s point, which would resolve the problem of limited access to beekeeping supplies. With practical solutions like that, the group will continue to grow the beekeeping sector and improve people’s access to the sweet fruits of their labor: locally-produced honey. This is a golden time for honey producers in Tajikistan.

 

Last updated: May 20, 2022

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