Honey and chocolate forest
The honey project (apiculture), also refered to as the ‘Honey Forest’ is located in the Pacific region of Nicaragua (west part of Nicaragua), which is the driest region of the country facing problems related to severe deforestation and decertification. Apiculture is becoming a widespread and expanding activity in the region as both national and international demand for high quality (bio-certified) honey is growing. The quality of the honey sourced in and around the region of Leon is considered to be one of the highest rated in the honey business.
The honey business case is particularly interesting for smallholder farmers, providing short term income combined with a low claim on their –already- limited land resource. Despite all these advantages, smallholder farmers have limited access to this activity, mainly due to limited financial resources and limited technical knowledge. ProClimate and its partner organizations want to change this. In 2014 ProClimate has developed a business case for honey production with smallholder farmers with the objective to introduce 900 hives at smallholder farms within a time frame of 4-7 years. Total honey production is expected to be around 20.000 kg.
The introduction of hives in smallholder systems are part of an integrated strategy where honey production on a farm is combined with the cultivation of criollo cocoa (see project ‘Chocolate Forest’) and high value timber species such as Mahogany, Pochote and Laurel (see project ‘Sustainable Forest Plantations, Leon). The combined approach make farms resilient to climate change and better protect farmers against strong fluctuating prices on the commodity market by offering more diversification in their products.
Around 50% of the financing is through donation from the Municipality of Utrecht, LBSNN and ProClimate; the remaining part is an investment with an interest rate of 8% and a grace period of 3 years.
The business case has proven that apiculture is economically viable and financial lucrative for the farmer. Farmer will receive an additional income of around USD 100,-/year from honey production. In the first year the project will start with the production of 100 hives. Capacity will be build in the first 1-3 year with local honey experts and gradually, the number of hives will be expanded to 900 in year 4 to 7. At year 7, the project generate around 20,000 kg of honey, enough production for the export market. At that time the project will have a available free cashflow of USD 14,000 (to be reinvested in the expansion of the project) and repaid its loan with 8% interest. Besides the financial revenues, bees will positively impact biodiversity and fruit production as they are the carriers of pollen.
The objective is to introduce 15,000 fine flavor criollo cocoa trees on small holder farms in Leon. The trees will be propagated from unique and old genetic material that has been found in surrounding regions. It is expected that the fine flavor cocoa originating from this fine flavor and will by highly valuated on the international cocoa market.
The project is part of an integrated approach where cocoa cultivation will be combined with quality timber trees (shade trees) and a honey production. , thus contributing to the farms’ product diversification. This again is beneficial for the farmers’ resilience against fluctuating market prices and the sustainability of the farming system.
The combined approach of cocoa trees, high value timber trees and honey production will have a positive impact on various aspects within smallholder systems. It will benefit the socioeconomic situation of women since the cocoa trees will be planted around the homesteads, which is the domain of women in Nicaragua. Hence, it will be mostly women managing the trees and receiving financial return. When we take into account that on average, a farm will receive 50 cocoa trees, expected annual revenues are around 75 kg of dried cocoa per farm, having a value at farm gate of around USD 225,-/year
Besides economic benefits for smallholders, the combined aproach with cocao and shade trees (see project Sustainable Forest Plantations, Leon’, will positively alter the on-farm shade and moisture regime and improve soil characteristics by increased biomass content and the use of organic manure from leaves and cocoa pods. The diversification in crops, biomass and microclimate will likely also have a positive impact on biodiversity, as shade and biomass are often large triggering factors for biodiversity. With the intended upscaling of the project the above mentioned benefits from this combined approach can be considerable.