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More honey, more money

It's all about the honey.

May 2012: Until recently, Shover Singh Praja often went to bed without dinner and had to work on an empty stomach, barely able to feed his family. Born to a poor family in Makwanpur district, central Nepal, Shover now earns way above the national average and has become a role model among his fellow Chepang, an indigenous ethnic group who depend on wild yams. The secret of Shover’s success? Bees.

For the last 2 years, Shover has looked after 55 hives and last year he netted US$1,000 selling honey, as well as hives to other keen beekeepers. Right away, the money was put to good use.

"I didn't get the opportunity to get an education when I was a child, but I send all my children to school now," he said.

This has all been much to the delight of Shover’s wife and their four children.

"Whenever we need a notebook or school materials, we don't have to wait long. Our father buys what we need,” said Shover’s 10-year-old daughter, Anisha.

Shover has been so successful with his bees that he has become a model entrepreneur among the Chepang, who number only about 52,000.

Neglected

The Chepang often miss out on education and healthcare and parents struggle under the burden of taking care of their children, few of whom make it to school.

Of those who do get to class, the drop-out rate is alarmingly high as most families just can’t afford it. Further adding to the misery, most Chepang have no legal documentation of their land ownership and live in isolation from the rest of the country.

The project Shover is part of launched in 2009, when Plan Nepal, with funding from Plan Germany, took steps to increase food security and income among 330 Chepang families by training them up on the ways of the bee and giving them 550 beehives. The novice entrepreneurs learnt all about how to connect with the local markets and a small industry was born.

The increase in income means more students are in school and they’re all armed with all the right stationery, said local teacher Sameer Praja.

The honey production also encourages youths to stay within the community instead of jetting off to another country to work as labourers.

Meanwhile, beekeeper Hira Praja has some big ideas.

“With more technical skills and support, Chepang honey producers could market their honey abroad.”