Something sticky was happening. On our Mercy Corps internal social platform, A hive of stories about honey and beekeeping kept emerging from different countries and continents. I confess, I had never really thought about the fact that honey is harvested almost globally. A little stinger of an idea stuck in my mind. For some reason, I just knew that a story about bees and honey would create a buzz-worthy email for our readers. And the results were stunning — a beeline of opens, clicks and revenue made this our most successful story-focused message in the last few years! It even attracted attention from a leader at Bumble — the dating app company! I love it when ideas cross-pollinate, and I can't wait to share even more stories about honey in the future.
It does more than sweeten your tea or toast: From Kenya to Georgia, Nepal to Puerto Rico, honey has the power to help create jobs, boost food security, protect the environment, and increase the inclusion of women and youth in economies.
Whether through the global export of award-winning honey products or as a sustainable livelihood source for small-scale farmers, beekeeping plays an important role in many Mercy Corps programs.
Honey provides a more secure future
In Nepal, Kamala harvests fresh honey from her hive. After attending a Mercy Corps training on modern beekeeping, she was able to increase her honey production and income, and can now afford to set aside savings for her future.
People like Kamala living in remote areas of Nepal can be more susceptible to food insecurity. Because the factors that cause families to experience hunger are complex, Mercy Corps uses holistic solutions to address underlying economic and ecological stresses. By helping people in Nepal access more diverse income sources like beekeeping, or training rural communities on agricultural practices that can mitigate severe flooding, we increase their resilience against future natural disasters and other shocks.
Bringing back the bees
In Nepal, farmers have historically relied on harmful chemical pesticides to manage insect infestations. Not only are these chemical pesticides expensive, they also have a significant negative impact on human health and the surrounding environment. Extensive chemical pesticide use over the years led to the large-scale disappearance of honey bees in Nepal, leading to lost livelihood opportunities in many communities.
In one year, Mercy Corps trained over 35,000 farmers to use natural methods to manage pests. These less harmful and more cost effective methods have not only helped lower production costs for farmers, they also reduced the human health risks and the negative impact on the environment. As a result, honey bees returned to the area. Farmers recognized the importance of maintaining their environment and are seeing their incomes increase from more efficient and sustainable agricultural practices, as well as from the additional income received from honey production.
A beekeeping revival benefits communities
Jara is the name of a traditional Georgian wild beekeeping practice — a centuries-old method of domesticating wild bees in hollowed wooden logs. This sustainable practice leaves a portion of honey for the bees instead of harvesting all of it for humans, helping to preserve bee populations.
Jara almost ceased to exist until 2014, when it began a slow revival with a program implemented by Mercy Corps and partners. By creating both a local and global export market, Mercy Corps is creating a positive ripple effect for Georgian communities’ income, including increased interest in local ecotourism. Today, this honey is not only winning international awards for its delicious taste and texture, cleaner apiary practices have significantly reduced the need for antibiotics compared to previous years, setting a higher bar for honey quality as well as bee health.
Resilient bees, resilient people
Rafael rescues wild hives of Puerto Rican bees. He inspects the hive boards, bees, and honey while his partner Sonia calms the bees with a smoker. Mercy Corps has assisted them with beekeeping supplies, access to local markets, and help with eco-friendly practices to support their long-term recovery from Hurricane Maria.
After Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Mercy Corps identified more than 500 farmers, fisherfolk, and beekeepers whose livelihoods were devastated by the storms. We developed solutions according to their unique needs, providing beekeepers with high quality beehives to replace those destroyed by the storm, as well as training and access to global apiary conferences and connections. Over 1,000 members of households will indirectly benefit from this program.
Like bees working together in a hive, our team, our local program participants, and global community members like you, we can create something that wouldn’t be possible without our combined efforts. Thank you.
— The Mercy Corps team