ILOILO – A group of students from University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand is determined to create a positive change among the lives of poor Haiyan survivors by establishing a bee farm in Barangay Tarong, Carles town.
Their development project for the typhoon-ravaged village is part of the university’s 21 Day International Challenge, an innovative initiative where students of different academic disciplines developed a plan envisioned to “change the world one community at a time”.
The business proposal of The Bee Team composed of Claire Musson, Kilali Gibson, Victoria Ning, Jessie Weber-Sparrow and Callum Clark for the rehabilitation and recovery of 2,280 residents of Barangay Tarong won during this competition.
The aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 left the fishing village in dire poverty with worryingly high rates of malnutrition and limited access to adequate healthcare and quality education.
The group’s solution to this problem is to create a beekeeping cooperative for honey and byproduct (i.e. beeswax, propolis and cosmetic ingredients) using 23 hives of stingless native honeybee species known as Tetragonula biroi.
The cooperative will be organized in partnership with the University of the Philippines Los Baños Bee Programme. UPLB will likewise assist in the sourcing of bees and the initial setup of apiaries, as well as, in providing training, monitoring and maintenance of hives.
The honey, pollen and propolis produced in the bee farm will be sold to UPLB or to Bethany Management Inc., a multinational buyer based in Manila. Other marketing option is for the cooperative to procure a stand at the farmer’s market in Iloilo City, the province’s capital.
The group is also set to put up an ornamental feature garden designed to promote eco-friendly activities like recycling plus workshop with school children of Tarong Elementary School for them to understand their roles in the protection of ecosystem.
The 21 Day International Challenge allows the winning team to use NZ$5,000 or P150,758.67 (if NZ$1 = Php 30.15) as start-up capital for their project. The use of additional funds, from any source and for any purpose, is prohibited.
According to the group’s projection, the initial harvest of honey, pollen and propolis can bring in approximately Php17,400 or NZ$534 per hive.
The 23 hives can also be split annually, enabling the business to expand or for the output to double in subsequent year.
Using this model and assuming optimal conditions, the group expects that the operating profit can reach P435,000 in the fifth year or up to P1.5-million in seventh year.
Once the hives of stingless bees are established and the members of the cooperative have become more experienced in maintaining healthy colonies and in maximizing honey yield, the group proposes that they venture in producing high-value honeybee products like shampoos and cream.
They also mentioned propolis extract health sprays and capsules in their business plan but the decision on how the cooperative will progress in the future will be up to the members.
While the locals are gaining profit from the bees, the insects are also expected to increase the yield of existing agricultural crops in the village like coconut and rice by up to 40% through cross-pollination.
They can also help reestablish declining plant species, such as mangroves, which act as a natural buffer from storm surge, and provide shelter to many fish species, algae and invertebrates.
Moreover, the group believed that producing honey in the village has the potential to help improve the local’s health given the medicinal properties of the product.
Honey has antibacterial properties and research established that it is an effective remedy to treating abrasions, amputations, abscesses, bedsores, burns and many form of ulcers.