Beekeeping was identified as a strategy that had not been sufficiently supported due to a lack of resources. Because beekeeping generates income for coffee-farming families from honey sales, it fits well into the landscape of the farm. Beekeeping promotes environmental resiliency, contributes to food security and livelihoods, and requires a modest investment of time – coffee farmers usually work weekends as beekeepers. It can serve as an effective safety net for families affected by coffee rust, low coffee prices, and high food costs.
At the start of our partnership, which ran from 2014 – 2016, we worked with Maya Ixil to establish two community “apiary schools,” and trained 50 coffee farmers. The first honey harvest in 2015 increased income by 23% on average. Funding was provided by Root Capital, a leader in global social lending.
- We trained farmers in commercial beekeeping techniques, while training the co-op’s beekeeping promoter in best practices, hive management, and troubleshooting.
- We worked with each beekeeper to help them develop a business plan reflecting their individual economic situation and capacity.
- We’ve provided support and resources to help Maya Ixil become organic-certified for honey, which brings a higher price.
- As the beekeepers ramp up honey production, we helped them access local and international markets, and strengthen their brand.
In 2016, we brought in Ecosur, an ecological research college based in Chiapas, Mexico, to help Maya Ixil grow and professionalize their beekeeping venture. Maya Ixil is now a licensed exporter of honey, and has access to international markets. They’ve increased honey production by 200% since 2016, and honey is now the second highest source of income, after coffee.