Honey farms in West Kalimantan enjoy increased demand during COVID-19

Indonesian villagers who took up honey farming in 2018 as part of an IDH community-based forest management initiative are reaping dividends from their new sustainable businesses

The demand for honey produced by Padang Tikar village forest in Kubu Raya district, West Kalimantan (Indonesia) has increased by 500% during the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents of populous West Java and East Java have increased their consumption of honey, vitamin C and D3 as they believe this will boost their immune system.

During the pandemic, the honey farms have become these farmers’ primary livelihoods. The farmers have seen their monthly honey income increase from an average of €93 before the pandemic to €372.

Village forest honey farmer extracts honey from a hive© IDH

Giok Sumantri, Head of Kelulut (Stingless Bee) Honey Farmer’ Cooperative at Teluk Nibung, Padang Tikar:

“Since January 2020 we received a high demand of our kelulut honey. I was swamped in coordinating our cooperative members who have tried to meet this demand. Up to April 2020, we managed to sell 500 kilograms of honey, while normally (before COVID-19) we sold around 100 kilograms per month.”

Mud crab farmers in the village forest have been less fortunate. Business has slowed among seafood restaurants in Java and Kalimantan. This has left the 102 mud crab farmers, who own around 202 traditional crab cages in the mangrove forest, at a loss for customers.

The mud crab farmers have found that they have a useful skill: finding beehives in the mangrove forest. The honey farmers’ group are paying the mud crab farmers’ group €0.31 per kilogram of beehive. The crab farmers have also begun to use the excess mud crab meat to make crab crackers, to use the shells as ingredients for fertilizer and to purify peatland water.

Producing crackers from crab meat

Sampan Kalimantan, a local NGO and implementing partner of IDH’s ‘Production, Protection & Inclusion’ compact in West Kalimantan, have provided the village forest farmers with COVID-19 hygiene guidelines for their honey and mud crab processing areas.

The village forest scheme, known locally as hutan desa, was introduced by the Indonesian government in 2017 as part of the Indonesian president’s program to encourage community-based forest management. The scheme grants licenses to selected villages to manage and protect nearby forests, peatlands and mangrove, amounting to a total €6m loan over the course of the scheme.

Farmers agreed to protect 70,000 ha of mangrove, peat and forest in Kubu Raya, which has the biggest Village Forest in Indonesia© IDH

The scheme was designed so that farmers could increase their incomes without cutting down the surrounding forest. They were incentivized to take up beekeeping, crab farming, and production of charcoal from coconuts as alternative income sources to charcoal production, which required harvesting mangrove wood.

IDH has been working with Sampan Kalimantan to request a loan payment relaxation for mud crab farmers from the government of Indonesia during the COVID-19 crisis.

Coronavirus restrictions have left crab farmers with excess mud crabs

Aliansyah, Head of Mud Crabs Farmers’ Cooperative at Batu Ampar, Padang Tikar:

“Since COVID-19 hit Indonesia, the market price of mud crabs has been falling down to the lowest level. This pandemic had affected our mud crabs productivity and sales. However, we are still operating normally, we keep seeding our pond and building new cages. We are optimistic that this shall pass too and mud crabs market price will return to normal.”

Find out more about IDH’s work in the West Kalimantan Landscape.