When we first visited Khermanuk Village in 2010, what shocked us the most was their economic situation. Because the village is so remote, they have no internal economy to make money for their families. Instead, they send 1-2 young men from each household as recruits in the Afghan National Army (ANA) to fight on the front lines against Taliban insurgents. These men then send their paychecks back to Khermanuk to feed their families and friends. This is their sole means of livelihood!
We saw something deathly wrong with this picture. Not only is it an injustice for a community’s sole survival to be based on their young men dying on the front lines. It also puts their village on a path towards economic collapse if more diversified income sources aren’t created. Noshaq set about to change that. First, we built a road to connect Khermanuk to economic opportunities outside their community. Then we began exploring industry opportunities that would set their village on a path towards economic sustainability.
That’s when honey came into the picture. Although many livelihoods are simply impossible due to Khermanuk’s mountainous location, honey bees can thrive off of the wildflowers and grasses growing in the area. So we did a little research and found some exciting news. Not only does honey provide a valuable nutrition source for impoverished diets. It also furnishes a valuable export item that can be sold in local markets. One quart of honey can be sold for a substantial $6 - 8 in nearby bazaars--a significant return on investment!
Noshaq’s staff then traveled to other regions of Afghanistan where honey operations are already running successfully. We met with locals who were knowledgeable about operating honey farms within the Afghan context. Then we made 10 beehives out of locally sourced materials, populated them with busy honeybees, and sent them to Khermanuk. We also hired a local expert to train villagers on the proper maintenance of their new hives.
These hives arrived in Khermanuk on July 17, 2011. But getting them there was a project in itself! The road between the hive’s location and Khermanuk is incredibly rough, filled with potholes, steep drop-offs, and a narrow dirt track clinging to the side of the mountain. Furthermore, the weather in July is hot and dusty. Our fear was that, between the rough roads and hot weather, the bees wouldn’t survive the trip.
We took extra precautions to increase their chances of survival. First, we drove very slowly in an attempt to make the trip as smooth as possible. Second, we agreed to travel only at night when the weather was the coolest. With these precautions, a trip that normally would have taken one day took three! We all breathed a sigh of relief, though, when the bees made it safely to their destination.
A close-up view of the hives reveals a group of worker bees ready for action. Notice the “KH” for Khermanuk written on the front.
We have confidence that this initial delivery of 10 beehives will be the beginning of a thriving industry for this community. Now that villagers are trained in the year-round maintenance of their hives, they can begin harvesting honey and selling it in local bazaars. Bee populations will continue to grow, enabling new hives to be created out of the initial bee population. These new hives can either be sold to nearby villages or added to the existing honey farm. And any excess honey will provide a valuable nutrition source to their impoverished diets.
This project is a first for Khermanuk Village and for Raghistan District as a whole. Now that the honey industry has been introduced to this district, we expect industry knowledge to gradually spread in the region, bringing economic opportunity to even more villages that desperately need it.