Honey processing brings sweet success for indigenous tribes
Honeybees have existed in accord with indigenous Mangyan tribes in the Philippines for centuries and form an integral part of their livelihood in the highlands. They are cared for as much as they are vanquished for the unique blend of golden honey they produce.
However, for days of painstaking efforts in the forest and risks to their lives, Mangyan earn next to nothing when they sell their honey to middlemen from the lowlands. The best price they can hope to achieve is 150 pesos – just under $4 – for 5 liters of raw honey. The same is then sold by traders in local markets for eight times as much.
This exploitative trade practice has existed for generations and Mangyan have had little recourse. Scattered in small communities over a vast geographical area, the seven tribes of Mangyan are not only physically and socially isolated from rest of the Filipino population but are among the poorest and most marginalized.
Tides of change
But things are beginning to change with the help of a Plan livelihood project that is assisting in reducing hunger and poverty among Mangyan communities and improving the health and nutrition of 17,000 people, including more than 3,000 children.
As part of the livelihood project, Plan established a honey processing center where community members are trained to process honey using modern methods and sell it directly to the local markets. "We want Mangyan communities to engage in sustainable livelihood activities," said Rachelle Nuestro, a Plan official in charge of the project. "Our goal is to enable the communities to take over the enterprise and run it themselves."
The Mangyan have seen immediate gains. "Now, we process our own honey, sell it direct in the market and earn 70 pesos for 300-gram jars," said 32-year-old Roberto, a father of three.
"Not just processing, we are also training them harvesting honey in a sustainable way and preserving it using better techniques to avoid contamination," said Manuel, another Plan staff member.
With the great success of the honey processing center, the Mangyan are looking to process local fruits. "Mangoes grow in such abundance here that Mangyan do not know what to do with them. Training Mangyan to pickle the fruit is our next goal."
Learn more about Plan’s work in the Philippines.