More than 4.5 million people who live on the fringes of the Indian Sundarbans depend on its unique ecosystem for non-timber forest products and fish. Traditional honey collectors or moulis have been collecting honey from mangrove forests for years. One of the main livelihoods of the communities here, traditional honey collection is a risky job. As the moulis travel through creeks and narrow channels searching for wild beehives, they often find themselves at risk of attacks from tigers. Nearly six honey collectors die each year in the Sundarbans due to human-tiger conflict.
An initiative by WWF India with the support of multiple partners across 16 villages of Sundarbans is enabling the moulis in the region to reduce such incidents with innovative apiary management practices.
Tarun Choudhury from Maipith village of Kultali in Sundarbans says -
“I joined a group of 20 honey collectors from Maipith village in 2019. WWF India and 24 Parganas (South) Division Forest Office supported us with bee boxes placed in the forest camps. The honey harvested from these boxes is double the amount collected from the wild. The risk involved during wild honey collection such as encounters with tiger, crocodile, and snake is also minimized as our apiary boxes are placed in the forest camps,” said Tarun.
From collecting wild honey inside mangrove forests, Tarun Choudhury and members of the cooperatives are now harvesting apiary honey from Sundarbans forest camps and packaging bottles of honey, which are sold under the brand name Bonphool Natural Mangrove Honey. He is elated that Sundarbans honey is now reaching across India. “There is a good demand for this honey, and our income has more than doubled. The Forest Department and WWF India are taking the initiative of including more traditional honey collectors in this group.”
At present, the cooperative is processing the honey manually. It is a time-consuming method and it is difficult to control the quality of the honey as per industry standard. In 2020, Discovery Communications India’s crucial support has allowed for scaling up efforts and supply Bonphool to a honey enthusiasts. Now, a honey processing unit will be set up to remove excess moisture and wax to yield better quality honey. This honey will be then bottled for marketing. The plant will ensure steady supply of Bonphool honey in the market maintaining industry standard.
Barely a year old, Bonphool has seen a boost in its sales on popular online shopping platforms and a dedicated webpage set up by the forest department. The cooperatives have sold more than 20,000 honey bottles since its launch. As demand for organic and sustainable honey soars, this project continues to help local communities make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead.
You can support this initiative and help local communities in the Sundarbans build resilient livelihoods. Buy a bottle of pure, natural mangrove honey from the Sundarbans forests here!
Piloted in 2014 by WWF India, this project would not be possible without the support of our partners such as Bose Institute, Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance, Discovery Communications India, Panchayat and Rural Development Department, Sundarban Biosphere Reserve, and the West Bengal Forest Directorate.