Reasons to Bee Cheerful: Raising Incomes, and Letting Bees Do the Work

October 17, 2018

Karima and her husband Khalil, 36 checking the beehives in Qala Safid village of Karokh district in Herat province. © UNDP Afghanistan / S. Omer Sadaat / 2018

For Karima, one of the happiest moments of her life was when she earned her first thousand Afghani (US$ 15), when she sold a kilo of honey made from her own bee-keeping business. It may seem like a small amount, but for Karima it was life changing!

Karima is a housewife and a mother of four. Her husband could barely feed the family from the work he was able to find, so Karima’s contribution to the household income was significant.

She has seen a lot in her life. She still remembers the agony and frustration when they had no money and their son was sick. As tears well in her eyes, she relates, “We were not able to buy him medicine. We couldn’t do anything but cry and wait for him to either die or recover by himself.” 

Her husband, Khalil, who was very fond of honey, tried his hand at beekeeping before, but because he didn’t know how to maintain his beehives, his bees all died. But, Karima and Khalil did not give up. They decided to seek help from the Directorate of Agriculture in Herat city.

Khalil, 36, Karima's husband in a beekeeping uniform. © UNDP / S. Omer Sadaat / 2018

As part of the livelihoods component, the project provided four beehives, beekeeping tools and jars for honey, and, crucially, a 12-day training that gave beneficiaries the necessary skills to maintain their beekeeping business. Karima, who lives in in Qala Safid village in Herat province, was one of the recipients.

“We learned many things about the bee keeping,” says Karima, “like feeding times, honey extraction and reproduction of honey bees - things I never knew before.” She adds, “I once used lemon to bring back unconscious bees back to normal.”

Now, equipped with the knowledge and materials, Karima and Khalil expanded their apiary from four to ten beehives, and they plan to increase the number to 13 in the next year. With the business growing, they are now making 80 to 90 thousand Afghanis each year by selling their honey.

“My bees are our breadwinners now!” Karima says, looking at her queen bee proudly.

"I feel like the queen is representing me and looking after the honey factory!”

UNDP’s Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP), implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, is committed to helping rural families increase their incomes. People living in rural Afghanistan are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as drought, flooding or extreme weather conditions. Providing rural people with a sustainable source of income not only helps them out of poverty, but means they are more resilient to these changes in the long term.

© UNDP / S. Omer Sadaat / 2018

© UNDP / S. Omer Sadaat / 2018

© UNDP / S. Omer Sadaat / 2018


Beekeeping requires less inputs for production compared to other agricultural activities and livelihoods. It requires less land, water and labor to generate high levels of income.

With low initial support, beekeepers can get an immediate high income. That’s why beekeeping has the potential to transform thousands of lives here in Herat province. 

“By the grace of God, we have a reliable income now and can buy what we need, including medicines or treatment,” says Karima.

Beekeeping in rural areas, where the communities have limited resources such as land and water, can help boost incomes for families like Karima’s. In addition, beekeeping helps boost food security, and assists crop production through pollination. Almonds, apples, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, sunflowers, watermelon and many other crops all rely on honey bees for pollination.  Diversified livelihoods such as bee increasingly improve the income of rural communities consequently people can adapt and manage climate change risks.

So, thanks to her new beekeeping skills, Karima and Khalil truly have a reason to ‘bee’ cheerful!

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