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Cesar Flores

Agribusiness Development Specialist

East-West Management Institute Phone: 212-843-7660
575 Madison Ave Fax: 212-843-1485
25th Floor E-mail:
New York, NY 10022


A Livelihood Development Strategy for Earthquake

Affected Pakistan

September 2006
Executive Summary
This report provides a concept for promoting beekeeping based enterprises to improve the
livelihoods of people living in the earthquake affected region of Northern Pakistan.

Earthquake affected beekeepers

Traditional beekeeping practitioners were severely affected by the massive earthquake of October
2005. Some of Pakistan’s richest honey producing areas are located within the earthquake affected
zone. Because beehives are structurally incorporated into the walls of houses, a large number of
these hives were destroyed along with the houses they were a part of. Additionally, there are claims
that many remaining bee colonies fled the surviving homes after the initial shocks.

Upgrade beekeepers from traditional beekeeping to micro or small enterprise honey production.
There are an estimated 10,000 people practicing traditional subsistence beekeeping in the Northwest
Frontier Provinces and Northern Areas in Pakistan. Many of these people can successfully enter the
market economy with commercially viable honey products on a micro or small scale, if they have
access to improved beekeeping inputs and markets. A family keeping 5 stationary beehives can earn
11,250 PKR (188 USD) or more per year if managed professionally.

Intermediate Outcomes:

1. Create enterprises specializing in the seasonal production of bee packages or nucleus

hives and queens for sale to honey producers

2. Create or support enterprises specializing in manufacture of equipment and sale of

supplies for micro-scale beekeepers.

3. Form honey processing and marketing associations

4. Provide technical and marketing extension to develop added-value products

Program Components Anticipated Results

Target Community: Landless households with traditional
beekeeping experience
Potential Beneficiaries: 5,000 Women in rural villages
Livelihood Outlook: Sustainable income from honey and bee
product sales within 18 months
Beekeeping as a livelihood activity
Livelihood constraints in the region include:

• Rural communities are already maximizing natural resource exploitation. Pressure on forests
for grazing, cropland, timber and fuel wood are approaching unsustainable levels.
Landholdings are small and land tenure complications are common.

• Most agriculture in the region is in low-value subsistence crops. There is relatively little
agricultural production of high-value or cash crops among the most vulnerable.

• Mountain villages are distant from markets and road transport is slow and unreliable.

• Women have limited socially acceptable work opportunities. Seasonal labor migration is
common among men.

Advantages of beekeeping include:

• A beekeeping tradition exists in the region. Establishing or upgrading beekeeping

enterprises is likely to be acceptable to beneficiaries.

• Beekeeping does not add pressure to natural forest resources, unlike grazing, field crops or
timber based enterprises. In fact, beekeeping contributes to local ecosystem health.

• Land ownership or rental is not required for honey production.

• Low costs. One box and one colony of bees is the minimum investment. Beekeeping is fully
scalable, from 1 to 200 hundred hives can be managed by one family.

• Low labor requirements. 5 beehives can be professionally managed with an average of 35

minutes per day in season. Beekeeping is appealing work for women. It is home-based, and
fits culturally sensitive clothing requirements.

• Honey is an easily storable and transportable product. This high value/per kilogram product
with an infinite shelf life overcomes the transport difficulties in the mountainous regions,
even remotely located households can participate.

• Honey has a good market both domestically and internationally. Added-value processing is
possible, even at the household level. The international market will absorb surpluses, and
essentially all honey can be sold.

Traditional beekeeping
The Northwest Frontier Provinces are home to an ancient system of beekeeping unique to the
Himalayas and practiced in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Traditional Himalayan beekeeping is distinguished from modern commercial beekeeping by two

unrelated characteristics, the “house hive” and the “Asian honeybee”.
Photo 1. Traditional “house hives”

Bees are traditionally kept in “house hives”. These are empty cavities installed into the East side of
homes (photo 1). The inner side of the hive opens into the house and is sealed with a wooden board
and mud plastering. On the outside, the hive has a small hole for a bee entrance. Management of
these hives is not possible, and in fact knowledge of bee biology or behaviour is not required in this
system. Wild bee colonies are installed or simply move into the hive on their own. Honey is
harvested from inside the home at appropriate intervals. The entire colony of bees eventually
abandons the hive or perishes when weakened by disease or starvation. Eventually, new wild stocks
are reinstalled and the cycle is repeated. “House hives” have fixed combs without frames. Movable
frames allow the modern hive beekeeper to inspect and manage hives by manipulating the frames of
comb (figure 1).

Advantages of the traditional House Hive Disadvantages of the traditional House Hive
Bee knowledge not required Uncontrolled disease causes colony death or hive
No inputs needed Starvation during floral dearths, causing colony death or
hive abandonment
Hives are secure from theft and predators Honey production limited from inability to manage bees
in traditional house hives
Good temperature control. Hives are warm in Winter
Figure 1.

Traditional beekeeping in the Northwest Frontier Provinces has historically relied on the Asian
honeybee (Apis Cerana), which is native to the region. The European honeybee, (Apis Mellifera)
has only recently been introduced. The two species have different disease susceptibility profiles and
the introduction has forever altered the local ecology of beekeeping, as both species have become
cross-infected with diseases (Figure 2). The greatest advantage of the European honeybee is its
lower swarming and absconding tendency.

Honey quality and yield from both species can be equivalent, when managed professionally.
Diseases and pests are controllable in both species when professionally managed, only different
diseases are prevalent.

Advantages of the Asian honeybee Disadvantages of the Asian honeybee

Co-evolved and well adapted to local flora Tendency to swarm and abscond from hives
Somewhat tolerant of major bee parasites, Varroa and Susceptible to Thai Sac Brood Virus, and Wax moth damage
Tropilaeps mites
Wild stocks available at no cost
Figure 2.

Commercial beekeeping
There are an estimated 125,000 commercial beehives in Pakistan, and the total production of honey
was 4,647 tons in 2002. Many operators are migratory and able to take advantage of the North-
South orientation of the country and its range of climatic zones. They move their bee yards at least
twice a year, but usually three times. Transportation is a significant input and ultimately limits the
total number of colonies that can be deployed. 50-200 hives in a single operation is typical.
Commercial beekeepers primarily use European honeybees and modern hives (photo 2).

Photo 2. Commercial migratory beekeeping operation

Honey Market
Export Market
The strategic crop for Pakistan producers is Sidder honey (Zizyphus spp.), driven by very high
demand in the Middle East. Buyers in Saudi Arabia, UAE and other destinations prefer to deal with
Muslim suppliers and have established strong links to Pakistani exporters. Sidder blooms in
September and October in the foothills, plains, and the sub-coastal area, bringing practically all
migratory beekeepers to this source in season. 2,000-4,000 tons of honey is exported annually. Most
is shipped bulk in 50 Kg. containers to be repacked by the importer.

Domestic Market
Honey is appreciated and consumed in Pakistan, primarily among the urban middle-class in
Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Two large honey packaging operations located in Rawalpindi
dominate the domestic supply for packaged honey. They produce professionally packed product
lines with quality and prices comparable to imports from Western Europe. A fair amount of honey is
imported. Shelf space in grocery stores are at least 50% given to US, Canadian and German
imports. Undifferentiated honey products make up the bulk of offerings in bazaars and small shops.
These products are unlabeled and primitively packed in unsealed containers.

An emerging market for local honey exists in some villages in the earthquake affected region,
particularly in the Swat Valley. There are shops that specialize in local honey and largely serve the
tourist trade (photo 3). These shops occasionally sell out of honey, during the summer tourist
season. This sector represents an outlet opportunity for new producers. Currently, product quality is
variable with little differentiation in packaging. Branded products here with regional identification
could develop a regular clientele and eventually capture the larger urban markets.
Photo 3. Local honey shop

Beekeeping Inputs
Professional Equipment
Commercial beekeepers in Pakistan rely on unimproved European honeybees and locally
manufactured modern beekeeping technology. They use standardized equipment, primarily the
Langstroth hive design. There are a few markets near Peshawar supplying commercial beekeepers
with a wide variety of beekeeping equipment.

Equipment Price
Bee Box 2000 PKR (33 USD)
Wax Foundation 120 PKR (2 USD_
Smoker 30 PKR (5 USD)
Extractor 3000 PKR (50 USD)

Figure 3.

Medications from China predominate. Some chemical applications banned by the EU and North
America are widely available and in use by Pakistan beekeepers, including Sulphur. Repercussions
from this form of contamination have not seriously affected the Pakistan honey industry, unlike in
China. This may be due to the low level of inspection and governance by participants in domestic
and Middle-East destination markets. The presence of these chemicals in Pakistani honey puts the
industry at risk of rejection in the international marketplace, and can have public health
consequences domestically.

Bees are replenished from the wild in the traditional system. Although at no cost, this technique is
unreliable and a limitation for a family trying to start a micro beekeeping operation. This traditional
practice will not transfer well to an organized micro-enterprise honey industry. No commercial
production nor organized trade of live bee stocks exists in Pakistan. Commercial beekeepers, are
forced to source bees from other beekeepers through their personal contacts when needed. Packages
of live bees have been imported from India and recently from as far away as Australia, at very high
cost. Unlike most honey producing and exporting countries, there are no specialized queen breeders
providing quality queens with improved genetics for the industry.
The lack of readily available replacement bee livestock and queens is a strong limitation because of
the increasing incidence of disease, risk of losses from over wintering, and particularly from the
high absconding tendency of native Asian honeybees.

Post Harvest Handling

The devastating practice of local honey adulteration is very common. This is the single most
limiting factor in the domestic honey market in Pakistan. Adulteration and falsification is
widespread and affects both commercially and traditionally produced honey. Honey quality is
virtually destroyed in the process. Much of the adulteration is visibly evident and many informed
consumers have such a high level of suspicion that they avoid honey purchases altogether. There is
more trust for imported honey, forcing consumers to pay higher prices and to reject the otherwise
preferred local product.

Traditional beekeepers suffer from a lack of equipment and knowledge in order to process high
quality bee products. Problems include:

• Inefficient extraction of honey from honeycomb

• Damaging honey quality from cooking at high temperature
• Excessive moisture content
• Discarding valuable beeswax
• Lack of standardized packaging

Value Chain Analysis

Constraints in the honey production value chain are:

1. Lack of commercially available bee colonies and well-bred queens.

There are no specialized producers offering bee colonies for sale in Pakistan. There are no
commercial queen breeders. Both commercial and micro scale beekeepers would benefit
from bees genetically bred to fit the local climatic conditions and specific needs of the
beekeepers. Sustainable beekeeping requires a source of live bees and queens to replace
losses as well as to expand operations quickly when conditions are favorable.

2. Limited availability of beekeeping supplies and equipment suitable for the micro-scale
beekeeper. Although there is manufactured beekeeping equipment available, it is directed to
the migratory commercial industry. The micro-enterprise honey sector has specific
equipment requirements and if the industry grows in the earthquake affected region, demand
for equipment and supplies will increase.

3. Inadequate post-harvest processing. Traditional honey processing techniques are not

transferable to commercially viable honey production, even on a small scale. There is no
substitute for proper handling of honey during the extraction, filtering and packaging
processes. Also, adulteration is a counterproductive process that ultimately reduces profits
and opens opportunities from more honest competitors.

4. Undeveloped market for locally produced honey and other bee products. An
opportunity exists for micro-scale beekeepers to produce high-quality local honey products,
professionally packed and labeled with geographic origin identification to appeal to the
tourist trade and eventually the urban markets. Consumers are currently underserved by
local producers, and often buy imports or inferior quality adulterated honey.
5. Training not a constraint. Local and international NGOs as well as government
agricultural institutions are currently involved with beekeeping in the earthquake affected
region. Most of these activities center around offering simple training in beekeeping at the
introductory level. Unfortunately, learning about beekeeping will not generate honey
without the required inputs, like livestock and equipment, and income will not be generated
without effective marketing of final products.

Fig. 1 Honey Value Chain

Recommendations to strengthen the supply chain and

stimulate micro-enterprise beekeeping
A key factor in creating a sustainable system for high-value beekeeping is the existence of a private
sector supply chain located in the local communities to deliver inputs to beekeepers at fair prices.

1. Create enterprises specializing in the seasonal production of bee packages or nucleus

hives for sale to honey producers. This private sector activity can be started by a few
micro or small scale beekeepers shifting their aim from producing honey to producing bees.
With a growing beekeeping industry, selling bees may be as or more profitable than selling

2. Create enterprises specializing in queen breeding of Apis Cerana and Apis Mellifera.
This is fairly technical and will require an investment of time and training from the people
who enter this occupation. Over time, improved bee genetics will enhance the productivity
of beekeepers through reduced bee losses and increased honey production.
3. Create or support enterprises specializing in manufacture of equipment and sale of
supplies for micro-scale beekeepers. This is a key component to upgrade beekeepers from
the traditional system to micro-enterprise honey production. Equipment appropriate to
micro scale beekeepers include smaller honey extractors, wax foundation processing, and
locally made boxes for both species of bees. Supplies include legal and sustainable pest and
disease controls, as well as jars and packaging supplies. This activity could be located close
to the beekeepers’ operations.

4. Form honey processing and marketing associations. Simple and informal groups
clustered at the village level can jointly own and share processing equipment or sell under a
unified brand. Collective processing can allow for improved and standardized techniques to
be controlled that preserve honey quality. Small local brands producing unadulterated honey
and adding value can eventually overcome resistance and distrust from consumers and gain
import substitution market share. Marketing added-value honey locally will return more
earnings to the beekeepers than selling in bulk at the urban markets.

5. Provide technical and marketing extension to develop added-value products. Niche

markets based on varietal honeys and other bee products can be developed:

• Medicinal “Baiker honey” (Justicia adhatoda) is produced from a common evergreen

shrub flowering in December – April in the sub-mountainous areas. Honey from this
flower is used by villagers as a powerful expectorant and antispasmodic.

• Honeycomb is a high-value honey product with many different packaging options. It has
the significant advantage of guaranteeing quality because it is impossible to adulterate or
falsify. This product may become instrumental in regaining customer confidence in local
honey if marketed properly.

• Beeswax is an under exploited resource in traditional beekeeping. Many beeswax based

added-value products are possible. Even beeswax in its bulk form has a higher price per
kilo than bulk honey.

• Bee pollen, bee propolis and royal jelly are currently completely unexploited in both the
commercial and traditional systems and have potential markets in Pakistan.

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