Sarika Saswade is one of the few women honey collectors in the city. After accruing about 10 years of experience in the field and making it to the Indian School of Business, the guide speaks to her about the challenges of the profession and why honeybees are a species one needs to pay heed to
Q. When did you become interested in becoming a honey collector?
A. After completing a Masters in Social Work, I started working with Sahyog Pariwar, which is founded by Prashant Savant. While working with the NGO that is dedicated to adopting environment-friendly agricultural practices, I realised that the tribal population was getting shortchanged by the agents, when selling honey. I started working for the tribals and encouraged women to get involved as well. So, since 2000, I have been working as a honey collector.
Q. How did working towards the environment enter the picture?
A. When we started working our purpose was to educate tribal people. We also started informing farmers on how to save the honeybee. Most people think that the bee only bites but in fact the species play a very important role in preserving the eco-balance. Our main motto is to teach them the best techniques of collecting honey and selling it at the right price.
One can see a beekeeper retrieving the bees during the honey making process
Q. How did your initiative gain a business dimension to it?
A. After we learned the modern techniques to collect honey, the production of honey also increased in huge quantities. The tribals also acknowledged the benefits and voluntarily asked for meeting the demand of the market. After this, the Sahyog Pariwar started exhibitions and opened many outlets to which there has been a good response.
Q. How many tonnes of honey do you collect?
A. We have 750 beehives through which we are getting 20 tonnes of honey.
Q. Are women more suitable for honey production?
A. Women are more suitable for this business because they do it softly and skillfully. Women generally follow all the instructions of cleanliness that are suitable to the bee.
Q. What type of training do you provide to those who are interested in starting their own honey farm?
A. To freshers, we give five days' training for 15 people in their village.
Q. What types of honey are you making?
A. We are making different types of honey — Purple Honey, hirada bhirada honey and Coriander honey. From the honey produced, the organisation is also making chocolates, modaks, and cakes. It is also used for coating
Q. What type of challenges do you face as a female honey collector?
A. Firstly, women are less in this field. As a woman, I am facing a number of problems like wandering in the night and finding/negotiating with agents while selling the product.
“Well-known scientist Thomas Alva Edison once said, 'If the honeybee is destroyed from the world, from that moment onwards all mankind would be wiped out from the world within four years.'
This is because the honeybee plays a significant role in pollination. The bee is not only helpful for increasing production of grain but quality also,” says Saswade.
At: Sahyog Pariwar, 605, Gurudatta society, Balaji Nagar.