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A community abuzz

Guatemala, April 3, 2008

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Raising honeybees is all the buzz in this bucolic Guatemalan village, where a dozen women harvested $700 worth of honey in their first year.

Nimlajacoc, Guatemala — It's nearly three hours from this bucolic mountainside village, home to just 40 families, to the bustling department capital of Cobán. But today a rutted road isn't the only thing connecting the two.

Thanks to the CHAI Project, funded by Oregon-based Tazo Tea, Mercy Corps began teaching a dozen women here how to become beekeepers last June, supplying them with materials for 20 hives. The result: about 5,000 Quetzales (about US $700) worth of honey harvested in the first year.

The village consumed about 15 percent of the honey themselves, then bottled and sold the rest to restaurants and hotels in Cobán. With the profits they purchased supplies for another 18 hives and stocked away money in the community's savings-and-loan cooperative, which helps community members buy livestock and increase their production of cardamom and corn.

"The training includes learning what is a beehive, how to breed and take care of bees, and how harvest the product and commercialize it," explains Carlos Aquino, manager of Mercy Corps' economic development programs in Guatemala. "It's been successful because it has improved their technological knowledge and they've been able to generate income from it. It's an activity that's easy to direct, it's friendly to the environment, and it's one in which women can participate in addition to men."