Honey farmers branch out in Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan



Posted on 06 January 2011  | 
Bee farmers in the area surrounding Danau Sentarum National Park in the Heart of Borneo have been experimenting with a traditional means of honey collection using artificial branches, called ‘tikung’ to attract bees to build hives in flowering trees.

Knowledge of honey farming is contained within stories and lessons of the local culture and the people of Leboyan and Semangit in West Kalimantan have developed niche harvesting practices to suit the unique landscape surrounding their village.

Basriwadin, who has lived in Semangit village his whole life, explained, “A long time ago, when floods hit our village, there was a tree trunk washed away. When the water level went down, the trunk was seen stuck high in another tree and a colony of bees quickly came and built their hive in the driftwood. When a villager combed the beehive he harvested lots of honey. ”

This simple observation inspired other villagers to manufacture similar ‘tikung’ branches using dead wood from the Tembesu tree, a large evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia.

“This tikung-board design aims at providing more space for the bees to build bigger nest,” Basriwadin added. Tembesu logs are cut into small, curved boards around 1.5 m long and 25 cm wide, which resemble a kite  and strategically placed as an attractive nest for bees thriving in trees in bloom.

Profits from the organic honey are a valuable alterative source of income for these communities, who until recently have relied almost entirely on revenue from fishing for their livelihoods. Honey is harvested during the wet season, which is incidentally when fishing provides the lowest yields, and sold to distribution partners, Forest Honey Indonesian Network and a West Kalimantan-based NGO, Riak Bumi.

According to the Forest Honey Bee Collectors’ Association in Lake Sentarum (APDS), demand for their unique brand of honey increased 300% in the last three years, producing 16.5 tonnes in the 2008/2009 season and injecting around 462 million (Rp) into the local economy.

The environmentally sustainable processes of honey farming are also well suited to this remote part of Borneo which is also a valuable conservation area. The creation and harvest of beehives requires no irrigation, pesticides or fuels for management and the refinement process is undertaken in accordance with the Internal Control System (ICS) which was previously agreed amongst the farmers to maintain the hygienic integrity of their products.

The APDS currently boasts membership of 217 groups of collectors, known as ‘Periau’, from within the Danau Sentarum area. There is potential to expand this group attracting membership from another 21 Periau and with this increase, the cooperative revenue could exceed Rp 4 billion per season. As the offered prices and markets for this honey increase, so may the incomes of the people in and around the Danau Sentarum conservation area within the Heart of Borneo.

The HoB Initiative has a keen interest in supporting the people and communities within West Kalimantan and in 2009 contributed revolving funds of Rp100 million per annum for three years to assist the establishment of the APDS.

WWF-Indonesia’s West Kalimantan Program also engages with the Indonesian Traditional Wisdom Network to support this community enterprise. The WWF team assists in training of the ICS, supports product marketing activities through exhibitions and works to build the self-regulation capacity of APDS members.
Farmers using traditional methods to collect honey in Lake Sentarum National Park, West Kalimantan
© WWF-Indonesia / Jimmy Enlarge

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