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Income generation and development of sustainable beekeeping enterprises - planning and decision making tools

Hello everyone, my name is Kata Wagner. I am working on community-based enterprise development (amongst other topics) in the Forestry Department of FAO. In this work-area we provide tools and facilitate support to local people and communities to improve livelihoods and forest conditions. We have seen that income-generating tree and forest product enterprises can serve as a strong economic incentive to sustainably manage and protect forest resources. For this reason, FAO has developed a training methodology called Market Analysis and Development (MA&D). It is a participatory, step-by-step approach that aims to assist people in developing income generating enterprises while conserving natural resources. MA&D encourages (potential) entrepreneurs and those supporting them to take all aspects of small enterprise development (social, environmental, technological, institutional and commercial/financial) into consideration. This methodology has been applied in numerous countries around the globe to enhance the establishment, market success and sustainability of small and medium enterprises, including also numerous beekeeping enterprises.

For beekeepers with commercial aspirations the subject of enterprise development and entrepreneurial capacity development for better market access opportunities and improved cash income is a critical one. This is why the TECA-team asked us to give an introduction to this tried and tested entrepreneurial capacity development toolkit. This discussion aims to reach extension workers and capacity building facilitators who work with beekeeping individuals or groups and to introduce them to a practical and facilitative planning and decision making tool for the development of sustainable beekeeping enterprises.

During the next five weeks I will present to you, step-by-step, the Market Analysis and Development approach and give examples of its practical application from some of our FAO field projects. Each week I will introduce one of the five modules of the MA&D toolkit.  These five MA&D modules correspond to the MA&D phases, which are:

·         Preliminary phase or Phase ‘0’: Opportunity to conduct background research and planning activities that should be conducted before any support is given

·         Phase 1: Exploratory phase aiming to assess the existing situation

·         Phase 2: Carrying out surveys in order to select products and identify enterprise ideas

·         Phase 3: Formulation of an enterprise development plan

·         Phase 4: Entrepreneurs start-up activities at a pilot level

Throughout the discussion I will attempt to answer your questions and encourage you to also share your experiences with the development of beekeeping enterprises and value-chains built on beekeeping.  The discussion will run between September 16 and October 31. At the end of the discussion we will bring the key points contributed and discussed together in a summary note.

On Monday 16 September, we will start with the preliminary planning phase of MA&D. We will look at the importance of conducting background research before starting up an enterprise development activity. We will also discuss how to conduct background research and how to plan activities for a successful process.

If you have specific issues you would like to discuss, feel free to post them already and we will address them during the discussion.


Dear Kata, my name is Ana Chassoul. I’m a beekeeper about to finish a MSc in Tropical Apiculture in Costa Rica. My background is in business admin and journalism. Costa Rica is a country in which beekeeping now is almost non existent even though we used to export great amounts of quality honey not that long ago. The African bees (defensiveness) plus an excess of government regulations to extract and bottle honey are making beekeeping almost impossible as a business. There are about 1400 families in rural areas that are currently into beekeeping and trying to make this a successful enterprise and my goal is to come up with a model and the training necessary to help them and the industry.

I think what you are developing - a practical and facilitative planning and decision making tool for the development of a sustainable beekeeping enterprise -is a must have for countries in different stages of development.  Yesterday I presented my last project-was a small guide for the beekeeping entrepreneur with all the legal process, requisites and docs they must have to be able to have bees and  extract/bottle and sell their honey legally.  The result  was heartbreaking to say the least. We either facilitate their extraction and bottling process or we will see the sector vanish over a short period of time and the fake honey will flourish.

Please let me know if I can help in any way or form. For example, if you need to test your toolkit, visit a developing country in which beekeeping has NO business tools or need anything else from this end, please let me know.

Precisely my intend is to become as you describe it -- a capacity building facilitator who works with groups of beekeepers and provides practical decision making tools for the development of  sustainable beekeeping enterprises. Its the only way to go. 

Again, let me know how can I help.

Ana M Chassoul

Dear Ana

Your cause to support beekeepers with capacity development in Costa Rica to promote the beekeeping value chain is great – MA&D is certainly a useful tool for potential entrepreneurs, but also for project teams to identify bottlenecks and gaps in the enabling (policy/regulatory) environment. We found it most useful in our projects to include representatives of the respective governments in information sessions about the MA&D approach in order to sensitize them to the kinds of barriers small entrepreneurs face and to start a dialogue process between producers and decisions makers. Lastly, I would echo Peter’s suggestion on talking with FAO project staff locally to find out more about FAO activities on beekeeping in Costa Rica.



Hello everyone,

Beekeeping is for everyone

Couple of points in support of Kata Wagner's initiative and feedback received from Ana Chassoul in Costa Rica.  Beekeeping is the just about the most benign of sustainable enterprises whatever the scale of production and wherever you are living. FAO (and many other agro-development agencies, NGOs, bi-laterals, commercial companies, etc.) has long been involved with apiculture - for pollination services in addition to the range of products that can be harvested. Kata Wagner is right to draw attention ot the value of livelihoods and, therein, to an understanding of the business skills and more required for commercial viability.

Diversification booklets

FAO has produced a popular series of 'Diversification' booklets that covers the range of agricultural and agro-industrial enterprises that suit most rural communities; and this includes 'Apiculture'. In fact, this is booket #1 in what is now a series of >20 booklets produced during the past 15 years or so. You can access copies to any of these booklets by downloading them as a PDF files from the FAO webpages. Go to www.fao.org, find 'publications' and then type the title of the booklet into the search engine: 'Beekeeping and sustainable livelihoods'. This is the second edition written by Dr Nicola Bradbear of the International NGO Bees for Development. 

You can also search for other booklets in the series with key words 'AGS Diversification Booklets'. They are available in the the three main international languagues, and individual booklets are available in Arabic, Portuguese and other languages - as finance and demand has required.

These are not 'A-Z How to do it' type booklets, but written to stimulate and to assist with making choices. They contain further information of where to seek technical, commercial and /or economic information that will assist with start-up and/or development.

Beekeeping in Costa Rica

Which leads into Costa Rica and comments by Ana Chassoul. FAO has a Representative in the country and shares an agro-development programme with the national government. Search the FAO country webpages - as I have just done - and you will find that the current programme includes a Telefood project in which honey production plays a small part.

Go to the FAO webpages www.fao.org. Click on 'Countries'. Enter Costa Rica. Find the Costa Rica webpage address and click on it. Find 'Projects' and click on it. Then click on 'Agriculture & Rural Development' (one of three categories of projects listed). Here you will find a list of projects including project: TFD-07/COS/001 - Vida Indígena: 'Cultivando caña y produciendo dulce y miel orgánica.' This project is described further under 'Telefood Projects' at the same website. Check it out. And, if you're in Costa Rica and would like to find out more - where the national programme may impact upon your area, enterprise, community, etc. make an appointment and go along and meet with the FAO Representative and his team. Again, you can find the names, addresses and phone contact numbers on the webpages.

It's 10.30 am and time for my coffee break and my favourite honey flavoured brioche.

Peter Steele Rome 16 August 2013


 http://coin.fao.org/cms/world/costarica/LaFAOEnCostaRica.html http://coin.fao.org/coin-static/cms/media/5/12792312607090/cp12-09.pdf http://coin.fao.org/coin-static/cms/media/5/12792312607090/cp12-09.pdf http://coin.fao.org/coin-static/cms/media/5/12792312607090/cp12-09.pdf  

Dear all,

The booklet "Beekeeping and sustainable livelihoods" that Peter mentions above is also available on TECA under the section "Resources":  http://teca.fao.org/resource/beekeeping-and-sustainable-livelihoods



Dear Peter,

the suggested booklet is indeed a great source of technical information on various beekeeping products – MA&D can be a useful addition on the ins and outs of enterprise development from a business perspective, i.e. how to make beekeeping enterprise viable and sustainable.




Peter- thank you for all the valuable info. I called FAO in CR. They asked me to send an email asking for an appointment. Ill keep you posted. Again, thanks.

Charlotte- thank you for the links.  Ill review them carefully.


michel perosanz's picture

Bonjour a vous je suis apiculteur professionnel en France , j'assure des formations diplomantes ,et j'interviens en Afrique de l'ouest (Togo) pour développer l'apiculture avec les mêmes races d'abeilles qu'au Costa-Rica. Je suis disponible pour de la cooperation technique a distance ou sur le terrain pour toute formation apicole.(je suis bilingue Espagnol) Au plaisir de vous lire . Michel Perosanz

Buensos dias Michel, le parece si nos escribimos via correo electronico y le explico el plan que tenemos? Mi correo electronico es anamchassoul@gmail.com   



Dear All,

To kick off our discussion on income generation and enterprise development, this week I would like explore what you as project planner or facilitator/extension worker need to know and do before embarking on a project to support beekeeping enterprise development. For this I would like to reflect with you on the following questions:

1.    What are the principles we should follow in our support to small business development?

2.    What are the minimal conditions necessary before initiating support for enterprise development?

3.    What kind of preliminary planning activities should be conducted?

In order to give you some time to reflect and comment on the questions, I will post one today and the other two during the rest of the week.

1. Core principles of enterprise development support

The FAO Forestry Department has been successfully supporting the development of small (community-based) enterprises, using the Market Analysis and Development (MA&D) approach, for more than a decade. MA&D represents a shift away from traditional direct intervention support, which has often shown limited reach and sustainability. I have attached a table to show the key differences between these two different approaches. MA&D follows some key principles, which we believe have value for all projects embarking on supporting small enterprise development:

·         Participation: The responsibilities of the potential entrepreneurs in the development of their enterprises and clear boundaries for the role of the facilitator are vitally important. It is critical that entrepreneurs acquire the skills to make their own decisions and to formulate their own enterprise plans, so that they have the capacity to react to changing markets and conditions.

·         Sustainability: MA&D encourages entrepreneurs to assess the sustainability of their whole business environment. The five areas of business development include: market/economy/finance, natural resource management/environment, social/cultural, institutional/legal and technology/product research/development.

·         Strategic alliances: MA&D emphasizes the importance of creating strategic alliances between entrepreneurs and service providers, and of developing market linkages. We also encourage the creation or strengthening of local entrepreneur groups, like cooperatives and other types of producer organizations to make market access easier for the individual entrepreneur.

·         Capacity development: Various types of expertise will be needed by different stakeholders in order to enable the development of viable enterprises. These can be related e.g. to the technology or to marketing or to policy issues – it is important to strengthen local and institutional capacity according to existing needs. The MA&D process is designed in such a way that in improves relationships, enhances trust and promotes collaboration between government staff and local communities.

Are there additional principles you would add to this list?

What are your experiences with traditional intervention vs. participatory approaches (i.e. working with ‘beneficiaries’ vs. working with ‘potential entrepreneurs’)?

Do you have any lessons learned you would like to share in supporting entrepreneur groups or producer organizations?

What are your experiences with beekeeping entrepreneurs and their relations to local governments, NGOs and service providers?



Dear Kata,

Thank you very much for this initiative.

As an economist with quite a long experience in development cooperation in the field, I agree that a change in the approach to income-generating activities - to start from the potential entrepreneurs groups’ requests and motivation - was badly needed.

To develop income generating activities with a producers’ group, a necessary condition is to launch the project with a solid structured and organized group, with members accepting to take on responsibilities, and a participatory approach.

Another condition is to identify from the start the organization’s capacity reinforcement needs, and to be able to offer the necessary practical reinforcement from the project initial phase and throughout its life.

To answer your questions, I would say that the main weakness I observed in the field was at the level of market analysis. Being able to produce is not enough. One needs to have buyers with the necessary purchase power.

Another weakness is the “European market dream”. I say “dream” because being able to meet the stringent European standards is so difficult and … expensive. And there is most of the time a more accessible market in the country or the region.

Another one still is at the level of the choice of technology or equipment. I have seen in the rural area an electrical flour mill that needed so much electricity that it was leaving the neighbourhood without electricity. In the end, the mill had to be converted with a petrol engine and became too expensive to run….

Training has to be practical and appropriate, not just theoretical. For a training course in apiculture, the trainees must stand in front of inhabited active hives. Because people who are not used to are afraid of bees!

Besides all training courses that can be provided, there is the need to convince that when you run a business, you need to anticipate, always to anticipate, be it your cash requirements or the spare parts for your equipment or whatever can interrupt your business.  Anticipating, establishing a calendar, and a “Plan B” for emergency cases…

Last but not least, since you are asking about preliminary activities and beekeeping entrepreneurs’ relations with local governments, etc, producers’ associations should bear in mind that they will be asked to provide figures, statistics at the project identification and formulation level. In order to be able for formulate concrete results and to assess later whether they were achieved, one needs a baseline, an overview of the initial situation.  Producers’ associations should get ready for this.

Looking forward to Phase 2 for further discussion. Kind regards.