Sweet cash out of insects

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday 25th November 2011

THE people in the Highlands earn their income mostly from harvesting and selling coffee and garden crops. But recently they have turned to a new product to generate income – honey.
The honey business is not new in PNG; it has been operating for over thirty years after honey bees were introduced into PNG, but farmers have not been consistent in honey production.
The Department of Primary Industry (DPI) went into honey production in the early 1980s and marketed it under the Highlands Honey banner. It stopped producing after a few years due to lack of government support.
But a new breed of serious minded honey producers are sprouting up. When these local enterprises are in full operation, they will contribute enormously to boost the country’s economy and the nations’ coffers.
One such company is Helping Hand, which produces, sells, and markets its product under the Mountain Honey label sold in local stores and supermarkets in Goroka.
Helping Hands managing director, Kelly Inae, is not new to honey. His interest in honey began in high school when he read a book about the fascinating way bees produce honey.
Inae is now a leader with the New Life League Mission church. Inae loves the Lord but has always felt that he is not called for the mission field. This he has told church leaders when they approach him to go into full time ministry.
Some years ago Inae was serving on board the missionary vessel MV Doulos. When the ship was bombed in the Philippines, he was one of the casualties. He was badly hurt, medical doctors thought he would die but by a miracle of God he lived. During his recovery period in hospital, Inae thought long and hard about going into fulltime honey business when he returned to PNG.
When he returned, he did not go into honey business as planned, but continued to serve God in the church. As the ministry he was running prospered, he was again approached by the church leaders to go into fulltime ministry. He told them his heart was still in bee farming and honey production.
He, however didn’t go into honey business immediately. He spent much time researching. His research revealed that for the honey business to prosper, sustainable measures must be taken to maintain continuity in production to meet consumer demands.
He started his business in 2006 with no initial capital, the only asset he had at that time were his intangible resources. As he was looking for a place to set up office, a friend from Germany donated a small honey-processing machine.
When the machine arrived from Germany, he installed it in a workshop along Fimito road, the present location of Helping Hand office, and home of Mountain Honey.
He soon began to harvest honey from his eighty beehives, processed, bottled, labelled and distributed to the shops in Goroka town.
Apart from honeybee farming and honey production of honey, he promoted and made awareness to local villagers and churches, teaching them to go into bee-farming as an alternative source of earning income, apart from their usual coffee and vegetable crops.
The churches saw this as an alternative means of earning income (apart from their tithes and offerings) to finance their operations, so they, and the villagers wholeheartedly took up bee farming. The local farmers would harvest honey and sell them direct to Helping Hand who would buy them at K9 per kilo. This is current buying rate although it fluctuates at times. They can harvest some for personal consumption too.
Inae and his staff conduct training for villagers on various aspects of bee farming, from beginners to advanced stage of bee farming. The beginners start at the introductory stage such as working with thousands of bees, identifying different type of bees and materials needed to farm bees before they do the advanced stage.
Farmers are taught how to construct beehives using basic tools with village materials. They are also taught how to carry out basic maintenance of the beehives.
Helping Hand constructs boxes and sells them at their workshop along Fimito road. They also sell queen bees specially bred by their expert staff with bee colonies.
Inae and his staff also train inmates at Bihute jail so that upon their release, they can go home and go into bee farming. He said his goal is to empower people to be economically viable through skills training (and logistic support), particularly in bee farming. At present he is working closely with the EHP’s provincial DAL office, and other government depts (DAL, Education Dept, Forestry), NGOs and CBOs towards achieving his goal.
If you are a group interested in bee farming and want to know more, contact Kelly Inae at Helping Hands, P. O. Box 1617, Goroka, EHP. Digicel: 71258799. Email: [email protected]