A small honey making business is making it easier for women in Yakawlang, Afghanistan to make money of their own and gain a sense of pride. In the central province of Bamiyan, beekeeping has provided rural women with the opportunity to become entrepreneurs. So far, four beekeeping cooperatives have been set up in recent years and now employ at least 400 people and consist mostly of women, who produce around 14 tons of honey each year.
Backgrounds vary with each woman—for example, there’s Jamila, a grandmother with an empty nest who got her start in the honey business after her neighbor, Siamui, gave her her first colony. “It was in April, and I remember that day perfectly. I was so happy: when I was done with my housework, I could spend the whole day watching my bees and how they work!” Jamila said. “I can pay for the bus when I want to visit my daughter…and buy her chocolate.”
Siamui, Jamila’s neighbor, is a mother of eight as well as a pioneer of one of the cooperatives, which has collected around 900 lbs. of honey this year. There’s also Siddiqa, an orphan who takes care of her four brothers and sisters. Meanwhile, not too far away are Fatima and her daughters who have also taken up beekeeping in Qatakhan. Another participant within the cooperative is Marzia, a widow who is also from Qatakhan. After her husband was killed by the Taliban in early 2000, beekeeping became the key to her survival.
According to Sadia Fatimie, a consultant for international institutions, “When [women] get a revenue for the first time, it helps to establish their position better in the household.” Each of the women maintains 1-4 hives on average. Marzia explains, “Earlier, I started farming, sowing, reaping weeds in the mountains. My brother assisted me, but I was mostly on my own. Now, with the honey, I can support my family. I am my own boss.”
After the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan remains a harsh place for women today. In 2016, women continued to make 30 percent less than their male counterparts. “Only 34 percent of women in this country say they can spend the money which they earn,” Fatimie emphasizes. Fortunately, this could change with women working in beekeeping and the honey industry in general, expanding opportunities for all women. “It is widely accepted here by the society that women can be at the frontline to support the family,” said Abdul Wahab Mohammadi, a provincial agricultural official. “It’s increasing — people see it as a success story, and they are copying it.”