Sweet Taste of Development

Hundreds of families in Bajo Cauca take on beekeeping to improve their living conditions and contribute to the licit economic development of the region.

The Bajo Cauca Priority

Bajo Cauca region is an example of all the negative things that are read in the news about Colombia: violence, illicit crops, illegal mining, and criminal groups feeding off these activities and disputing control over the territory. The Government of Colombia (GOC) has prioritized the region —which is located in the northeast corner of Antioquia— to implement a package of comprehensive development activities known as PDET (Development Program with a Territorial Approach). PDET interventions seek to build and promote peace and ‘stabilization’ by implementing the Comprehensive Rural Reform established in the Peace Agreement with the FARC.

In Bajo Cauca, USAID is working in line with the government’s PDET strategy to increase opportunities for economic development through private sector investment and the presence of government services and actors, such as land administration entities, which are fundamental to strengthening the basis of trust of the citizenry in state leaders.

The Community is Abuzz

Through its Land for Prosperity Activity, USAID brokered a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in the honey value chain that seeks to promote beekeeping as a sustainable and legal economic activity with the potential to benefit rural inhabitants in seven municipalities in Bajo Cauca. The PPP, which is valued at an estimated $5 billion pesos (USD$1.3mn) links 26 producer associations with training to improve honey production and processing. Under the partnership, the producer associations —which represent 631 families—have the opportunity to market their honey with local conglomeration of honey producers, Campo Dulce.

A Forest of Opportunity

Bajo Cauca’s climatic conditions are ideal for the production of honey and other products derived from bees. Beekeeping gives producers the chance to achieve economic potential in less time than crops like cacao, which can take an average of five years to reach harvest levels that generate returns. After setting up beehives, it will take just a couple of months for the first honey harvest, and beekeeping requires a relatively low level of effort in terms of maintenance. In addition, bees play a key role in pollination, thus contributing to the preservation of ecosystems.

Campo Dulce made a commitment to work with all 29 producer associations and purchase 100 percent of their honey.

“USAID arrived just when Bajo Cauca needed it most. Now, it is important to recognize their roles and work hand-in-hand with these communities, the companies, and producer associations who are already involved in beekeeping.”-Sandra Márquez, manager of Campo Dulce.

Bee in the Forum

USAID’s principle role is facilitator. Bajo Cauca’s security complexities make coordination and teamwork even more critical in promoting a successful strategy that can provide licit economic alternatives to rural families, improve their livelihoods, and contribute to the region’s economic development. USAID is the catalyst that brings local, regional, and national government actors, the private sector, producer associations, and communities together. To make these new relationships sustainable, the PPP actors have created a Beekeeping Roundtable that meets quarterly to follow up on commitments and the needs of producers.

“The coordination process has been easy because all the participants are interested in the same thing.” – Henry Hernández, Beekeeping Roundtable coordinator and representative from the regional Government of Antioquia.

Women Stepping

Lilia Castro, a single mother in the municipality of Cáceres, sees beekeeping as an activity that can help her create more income requiring just a part of her time so she can attend to other household tasks. Through the honey PPP, Lilia and other women in the region are receiving training on how to create and maintain their hives to offer higher quality honey to Colombia’s market.

“My son used to be afraid of bees, but now he goes with me to feed them. He also wants to learn from this job, so that is why he is going to be part of the training,” Lilia assured.


This story was originally published on USAID exposure.