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Sweet success for Phnong honey

Sweet success for Phnong honey


Hoping to improve the living standards of Mondulkiri’s Phnong minority, a conservation group has set up a project to boost quality of the province’s wild honey and sell it overseas

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Flowers like these on a hillside in Mondulkiri on Friday attract the province's wild bees.

APRIL is peak season for honey production in Mondulkiri, and a wildlife NGO hopes that the sweet nectar could provide a new, sustainable livelihood for the province's Phnong minority.

Honey from wild bees in the protected areas of Mondulkiri has the potential to attract both national and international customers, and with rising prices Mondulkiri's Phnong minority - given a little training and marketing - are well situated to take advantage, the conservation group WWF said..

"This year, the price of wild honey in the local market doubled compared to last year," said Seng Teak, country director for WWF, adding that it now sells for upwards of 20,000 riels (US$4.88) per litre at local markets.

Even though the Phnong in Mondulkiri's Krang Teh and Pou Chrey communes already collect more than 1,000 litres of wild honey a year, Seng Teak says it still does not come close to meeting demand.

"Now, the Phnong will set up bee farms in their community forests to increase the amount of wild honey produced to meet market demand," he said.

But in order for Mondulkiri honey to succeed internationally, it needs to maintain a consistent standard that differentiates itself from other honey products in the region.

Femy Pinto, the country facilitator for the Non-Timber Forest Product-Exchange Program (NTFP-EP), said that Mondulkiri honey "can achieve a competitive advantage if it is a sustainably harvested, quality product".

NTFP-EP, with financial support from WWF, have been training Phnong in two communes to raise wild bees and collect honey products hygienically as well as help package the product to international standards.

"We have been motivating the communities to process wild honey and to maintain the intimate relationship between people, forests and the non-timber forest products," Amy Maling, a WWF  technical adviser, said.

Tep Asnarith, the senior communications officer at WWF in Cambodia, said this pilot project's efforts have strengthened the relationships between supporting organisations, Phnong communities and government partners, hopefully setting the foundation for a long-term, successful project.

The project has already seen many Phnong taste the sweet success of a commercial hit.

"Many hundreds of litres of wild honey products have been packaged up to standard for export to regional markets," he said.