Coffee and honey, a winning combination

On a summer morning, 50 year old Luis Bobadilla Solorzano, starts with a familiar ritual. On his coffee farm in Tabaconas, Cajamarca, Peru he ignites sawdust, which billows up to form clouds of smoke. This is the shield he needs to enter the apiary, which shelters four beehives.

"It is very important to have a smoker to work with the bees. The smoke controls them and calms them down." says Luis Bobadilla.

His protective suit, hat and gloves, make him look like a tropical astronaut. His tools are his hands and a small lever that he uses to uncover the hives to a soundtrack of constant buzzing.

But why does this coffee-farmer, in a region where the temperature exceeds 26°C make this part of his daily routine?

For some time, he and other coffee growers in the region have been trained to diversify their incomes. Coffee cultivation only allows two crops a year, and now thanks to Practical Action's technical training program,  they have been able to obtain benefits which ensure a new source of income.

With financing from the European Union, this program is working in three regions of Peru: Cajamarca, Junin and Puno to benefit over three thousand rural coffee farmers and workers and 18 coffee organisations and cooperatives.

One of these is the Association of Organic Producers of the Valley of Tabaconas (Abrovat).  Luis Bobadilla has been growing coffee on his estate for twenty-five years and is now the president of the Beekeepers Coffee Committee and a partner of Aprovat, a cooperative made up of fifteen small communities. In total, there are 174 farmers working to promote the sustainable management of natural resources and to implement sustainable practices in coffee production.

Beekeeping not only offers additional produce and income but during the coffee flowering season it aids the pollination of the plants. Luis Bobadilla’s plot also has a large variety of timber trees, such as shaina and ballina, part of an integral reforestation project, which as well as preserving the biodiversity and of the cloud forest, produces additional fruit and other forest produce such as nuts.

Coffee farming is one of the most important agricultural activities in Peru, involving more than 1.5 million small and medium producers. In 2015 alone, almost 500 million kilos of of green coffee were exported, with a value of $888 million US dollars.

However, many coffee farmers live in poverty, with half unable to access health insurance and only half with access to a government pension. The cooperative and this programme are challenging these conditions to improve the quality of their lives.

Luis Bobadilla encourages beekeeping within his cooperative. He has even helped other members of the association buy their first beehives. José Santos Mendoza (pictured above with Luis Bobadilla) is one of them.

The investment in beekeeping includes buying two chambers (one for breeding and one for honey) and a set of grids and frames (known as racks). This can cost as much as 2000 Peruvian soles (about £450), but this investment is soon recouped as this can be made back within six months and a hive can produce 40-50 kilos of honey a year.

Helped by Luis Bobadilla and the cooperative Jose Santos Mendoza has joined the apiary committee and already has more than ten hives on his farm. Since the start of the programme 30 people have taken up beekeeping as a new sustainable economic activity, along with their coffee crops.

Learning about sustainable livelihoods and agro-forestry techniques has encouraged farmers to explore other business initiatives and seek more training. They are also learning about potential markets for their new skills.  So, as well as selling honey, they are looking at selling pollen, royal jelly and propolis.

Luis Bobadilla and the other coffee growers of the Aprovat cooperative feel they have more security, improved livelihoods and the confidence to support their families and have sustainable profitable farms.


no comments