Sun, Apr 08, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Afghan girl joins booming honey market

Reuters, MARMUL DISTRICT, AFGHANISTAN

Beekeeper Frozan, 19, checks a beehive in Marmul District of Afghanistan’s Balkh Province on March 29.

Photo: Reuters

In Afghanistan, honey is regarded as a traditional cure-all, but for one schoolgirl, the sticky commodity has also created sweet opportunities to work and own a business in a country where few women do.

Three years ago, Frozan, now 19 years old, obtained a small loan, bought two beehives and learned about apiculture from Hand in Hand International, a non-governmental organization that focuses on poverty.

The bees collected nectar from flowers growing near her home in Marmul District, in northern Balkh Province. Their first harvest produced about 16kg of honey, which enabled Frozan to pay back her loan and still have money left over.

She now has 12 beehives and last year collected 110kg of honey, which earned her 100,000 Afghanis (US$1,439) in a country where GDP per capita is only about US$600.

“The village I live in is a traditional village and women are not allowed to work outside,” said Frozan, who goes by one name. “But when I started beekeeping I realized that it’s an easy task. I told the people about beekeeping and then they accepted it.”

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the lives and status of women in society have improved significantly, but traditions, insecurity and lately a decline in international donors, have slowed progress.

A Human Rights Watch report, quoting government officials, said that 85 percent of the 3.5 million children who do not attend school are girls.

Only 37 percent of adolescent girls are literate, compared with 66 percent of adolescent boys, the report said.

Frozan is now in her final year of school, and would like to study economics and grow her business, goals that might now be possible for her and her three siblings thanks to her income stream.

Looking after tens of thousands of bees can easily be done between studies and household chores, and her father, Ismail, who is a farmer, like much of Marmul’s population, supports his daughter’s enterprise, Frozan said.

“It has been my dream to have a daughter who could find a job like this and make a future for herself,” Ismail said.

Every few weeks, Ismail takes the fresh honey to Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital, more than 50km away, where it is sold to shops and consumed mainly by local customers.

While industry data is scant, local media have cited government officials as saying that Afghanistan’s honey production has risen in recent years, hitting 2,000 tonnes in 2015.

Several varieties, such as acacia, almond flower and basil honey are now available. However, infrastructure constraints mean most of the honey never leaves Afghanistan.

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