Honey from home

  • Produced purely using nectar of wild tree at Makwanpur, Naagiko Honey is a luscious gift from Chepang farmers
- Bibhu Luitel, Kathmandu

Feb 4, 2019-

At the mountain hilltop of Silinge, Makwanpur, Chepang farmers produce honey from the nectar of wild tree—Chuiri. The delectable honey that swiftly melts in one’s mouth, initially was extracted from over 5,000 hives. This attracted many buyers and middlemen, who promised the farmers with huge profit but failed to deliver—until Naagiko Honey came forward to collaborate with the farmers.

Naagiko translates to ‘our’ in Chepang language. Naagiko Honey, established in September 2018 by Bibhuti Neupane and Dibesh Karmacharya, have tried to bring the Chepang farmers to forefront through their social enterprise. Unlike other intermediaries, the farmers are directly involved in the team and are shareholders too.

“Initially, the farmers were skeptical of us as they have had many middlemen who came with big promises but would seldom return,” shares Neupane, 26, who had decided to establish the social enterprise after tasting the honey for the first time. She was encouraged when Karmacharya, 45, who was then working with the Chepang community for a research project for University of California as a DNA specialist, decided to join the team.

But both the founders were well aware that they had to work together with the farmers—they not only wanted the farmers to place their trust in their enterprise but also wanted them to take the responsibility and ownership of the venture.

Naagiko Honey currently works with 60 households with an average of six members in each family from seven Village Development Committees. With this, the enterprise is working directly with at least 360 Chepang farmers. During the seasonal period, when there are abundant flowers, the farmers are able to produce over ten quintals of honey. 

Bibhuti Neupane and Dibesh Karmacharya, co-founders of Naagiko Honey. POST PHOTO: KESHAV THAPA

Before collaborating with Naagiko Honey, the farmers had no specific plan, either for its sale and marketing, or for the segregation of honey according to its quality.

“We have been helping the farmers to filter the honey before it is sent to the market. We refrain from adding any additive,” Neupane says.

Apart from ensuring the consistency in the quality of the honey they sell, Naagiko Honey also has been focusing on the presentation and market value of the product.

According to Neupane, many agro-based products have very low quality packaging and fail to appeal to the wider consumers. Naagiko Honey, on the other hand, is packaged in glass bottles—serving two purposes—to attract more consumers through its clean and attractive packaging and to reduce the use of plastics.

The idea, however, comes with a cost. With the inclusion of production, packaging and marketing costs, one kilo of Naagiko Honey is priced at Rs 1,200. Neupane agrees that their products come with higher price tag compared to the commercially available honey in supermarkets. But the social venture has sketched a very environment friendly plan to reduce the cost of their honey. 

“If a customer takes their empty bottle at any designated retail stores or restaurants we have partnered with for selling honey, they can get the same quantity for Rs 300 less,” Neupane says.

Karmacharcharya adds that many of their customers come for refill and are happy to be part of their environment-friendly initiative.

The founders accept that it is very difficult to penetrate the Nepali market, competing with large companies such as Dabur and Patanjali, who have been in the market for a long time and are still the first choice to a comparatively larger group of people.

But even as they take their baby steps, Naagiko Honey has been growing in popularity. “Many people have reached out to us to inquire about our products. Many have known through their friends or family and are eager to taste our honey,” says Karmacharya.

Apart from marketing the local product, the founders say that they draw their motivation from farmer’s dedication, hardwork and their empowerment through their budding venture. They have plans to extend further and reach more farmer families around Makwanpur, produce larger quantities and apply sustainable approach to marketing.

“Our next target is to go international,” says Karmacharya.

Published: 04-02-2019 10:25

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