Strengthening the Apicultural Value Chain, a project implemented by Heifer International Honduras with funding from USDA-SAG, is supporting over 100 small-scale honey producers in Southern Honduras through technical assistance, apicultural trainings, the development of a Carpentry Workshop, and the construction of a honey-processing plant.
Working through the Cooperative of Beekeepers in Choluteca (COAPICH), Heifer and USDA-SAG suppor- ted the construction of the region’s first honey-processing plant, which was inaugurated in 2014. The processing plant, which includes a laboratory to test honey quality, has begun to serve the 112 members of the cooperative and is planned to reach full operating capacity this year, with the goal of providing honey-processing services to the approximately 400 beekeepers in the region. The processing plant is also home to a Carpentry Workshop through which the cooperative is fabricating basic beekeeping structures such as hive boxes, frames, and top and bottom boards. Prior to the development of the Carpentry Workshop, beekeepers had to travel to La Esperanza (a five hour drive from Choluteca) in order to purchase their equipment.
The Heifer/USDA-SAG-supported project has also provided technical assistance to the cooperative to help train members in organizational management of the processing plant, business and marketing strategies, and in acquiring a label and health permits to sell COAPICH honey to the national market and, in the future, for export to international markets. Heifer has also helped COAPICH along with COAPIHL, an apicultural cooperative located in Siguatepeque, to establish a revolving fund that will support the two cooperatives in working together to commercialize their products for exportation.
COAPICH works with small-scale beekeepers owning an average of 7 to 15 beehives, which can provide a family with a supplementary income of approximately L1,200 (US$60) per month. Apiculture is allowing families in one of Honduras’ poorest regions the opportunity to diversify their sources of income while also improving the food security of their families through sales to buy food products missing from their diets.
Rafael Leonardo Lagos, a 26-year-old project beneficiary, shared his perspective on the project: “I started beekeeping with my father eight years ago. We started with just five beehives. In that time we didn’t have experience or knowledge of beekeeping and we didn’t know how to manage the hives. Later on, Heifer arrived and they started to provide us with technical assistance and equipment. With that help, we began to grow our beekeeping little by little, and two years later we had 15 beehives. Our production was still small, but we had the desire to grow. Heifer technicians gave us trainings, and five years later we reached having 40 beehives and were producing a strong quantity of honey, with 40 bottles of honey produced per beehive. We also received trainings on how to breed queen honeybees. Today, I am a queen honeybee breeder of excellent quality and I am selling my queen honeybees to other producers. With this help we are moving forward in life.”