are in the MOST Phase I website (1994-2003).
The MOST Phase II website is available at: www.unesco.org/shs/most.
|Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge||MOST/NUFFIC (IK-Unit)|
Traditional harvesting and marketing of honey and wax in the upper Kapuas Lake region, West Kalimantan, Indonesia
Apiculture, forest products, honey, income generation, natural resources, wax
Introducing the practice
Traditional activities surrounding the
harvest of honey and beeswax are being improved under the Danau Sentarum
Conservation Project’s (1992-1997) Conservation Products Enterprise programme.
While the traditional harvesting system is being maintained, certain harvest and
post-harvest practices are being adapted in order to increase yields and improve
the quality of honey and beeswax derived from giant Asian honeybees, or Apis
The programme is taking place in various
villages within Indonesia’s Danau Sentarum National Park, formerly known as
the Danau Sentarum Wildlife Reserve (DSWR). This is in West Kalimantan (Indonesian
Borneo). The villages include Semalah, Bukit Tekenang, Semangit, and Nanga
The traditional systems of tikung
(or honey board) and lalau (tall tree) were first described by Dutch
explorers in the 1850s. These are both seasonal systems which depend on the
weather and other factors that influence the arrival and swarming of the giant
The research and subsequent improvements
described here began in late 1994 and ended with the conclusion of the Danau
Sentarum Wildlife Conservation Project in July 1997. This was Project 5:
Conservation–Indonesia–UK Tropical Forest Management Programme (DSWR
Prior to the conclusion of the DSWR
project, funding was secured from the British Embassy in Jakarta for a
three-year extension to the Conservation Products Enterprise programme, of which
the honey and beeswax project was a part. With the help of former local staff of
the DSWR, a local NGO called Yayasan Dian Tama carried on this work until July
2000 with communities in the wildlife reserve. The same local individuals are
still administering and supporting these activities, although the reserve is now
a national park and the NGO is a new one called Yayasan Riak Bumi (Ripples of
The tikung or honey-board harvest
system is named after the carved hardwood plank (approximately 0.8 - 2.5 m long
by 25 - 40 cm wide), which is convex on one side. Properly carving and shaping a
tikung is a time-consuming process, often taking a full day to complete
just one board. Tikung boards are attached to tree branches in the
stunted flooded forests using notches and wooden pegs. They are positioned at a
30° slope with the upper part oriented towards the sky and the concave side
facing downward to facilitate rainwater runoff. The planks are made of durable
tembesu wood that can last over two generations and still be used after enduring
a forest fire.
Ownership of a tikung is
indicated by an individual owner’s mark (tikap), usually a series of
indentations at the side of the plank, recognized as the family mark. Each new
generation (son) adds a new indentation (taka). This mark system
is complicated, but well understood by all the tikung holders in a given
In one day five or six tikung
planks can be placed in the submerged forest, usually two meters above the
highest water level reached during the rainy season. Bee swarms arrive in tikung
areas between December and February, although their arrival also depends on the
timing of the preceding dry season. Prior to the arrival of the swarms,
undergrowth is sometimes cleared and a small boat channel to the tikung
might be dug. The last blossom from the tahun (Carallia bracteata)
is the signal that honey is ready for harvest.
A five-step process took place during the DSWR Conservation Project to determine how the honey-collection system could be improved:
Research on systems of bee management and honey collection was conducted in the wildlife reserve in late 1994 (Rouquette 1995).
In early 1995, DSWR honey harvesters took part in planning activities to improve honey marketing and sales (Wickham 1995). DSWR was visited in early 1996 by technical staff representing a similar Apis dorsata honey-management system practised in Vietnam. DSWR honey harvesters paid a return visit to Vietnam in late 1996 (Wickham 1997a).
Various meetings, training workshops and
field trials took place as improvements to the honey collection techniques were
adopted (Wickham 1997b and YDT 2000).
Through the project, a traditional honey
collection system and post-harvesting methods that have been practised for
generations were described. The project also identified a number of common
techniques that were harmful to the bees, produced an inferior product, or were
wasteful of the resource.
Below is a table describing the adaptations that the DSWR project field staff initiated with the honey harvesters of Danau Sentarum in order to improve upon traditional practices and thus to produce larger quantities of better-quality honey and beeswax. The revised practice has the potential to generate more income for the communities, while also supporting and reinforcing principles of sustainability.
for improved tikung beekeeping and better honey and beeswax yields
This project was one of a number of
‘conservation enterprise’ projects which DSWR project staff (including local
staff) initiated together with some 30-40 honey harvesters living on the
It also involved taking three tikung
honey harvesters to southern Vietnam, where they visited honey collectors who
use a similar system and had adopted similar improvements. These individuals
became local ‘champions’ because of the improvements made to the tikung
Local people become involved because
they see the economic benefits of adopting improved harvest techniques,
especially if these techniques prove to increase the overall yields and market
value of these products.
As honey and wax generated more income,
appreciation for the need to protect local forests from both fire and
Men are the main collectors of honey and
wax, but women and teenagers also take part in the post-harvest processing of
honey and wax. How the financial benefits are shared among these beneficiaries
has not been tracked, but could be the subject of further research.
Based on research undertaken within the DSWR project, approximately 25% of the people living in the reserve (up to 250 families) are engaged in the tikung honey collection system. This would be approximately 1500 to 2000 people in total.
The role of indigenous knowledge
The project worked with the indigenous
knowledge and belief systems that were present in the community and that the
people were familiar with. It did not try to introduce an entirely new activity,
or worse, to introduce another bee species or import a foreign bee-keeping
system with expensive materials and technologies. Instead the project was
grounded in the belief that the unique and traditional honey-board tikung
system is a valuable asset (in particular for marketing purposes). A training
programme was built around the existing indigenous knowledge system and how it
could be improved using simple and inexpensive, locally available materials.
Some of the suggested changes (outlined in table 2) were met with scepticism, but rather than insisting that these be adopted without question, project staff took local honey collectors on a fieldtrip to southern Vietnam to see how their Vietnamese counterparts had introduced these changes in similar surroundings. Following this exchange, these collectors became the greatest advocates of the changes.
Achievements and results
The improved quality of honey and wax
has increased their value by a factor of 5 in the case of honey, and a factor of
10 in the case of beeswax. Improved harvest and post-harvest practices have
increased yields of honey by up to 75% and of beeswax by 50%.
The local population is more aware of
the value of their non-timber forest products, and of the need to protect them
from unsustainable use and forest fires. Improved honey harvesting techniques
which employ hand-held ‘smokers’ are also reducing bee mortality.
While it is more difficult to measure,
another result of the project is the sense of pride that has developed among the
people who took part it. Their products are now bottled, labelled and marketed
to retailers in Pontianak, Jakarta, Singapore and the UK. They are even
available via the Internet (see: www.tropicalforest.com).
The people are proud not only of the products, but also of the knowledge they
possess to make these products.
It is important to note that the NGO
that has emerged from this project was created by, and is comprised entirely of,
local people—those with the greatest stake in ensuring the success of the
and weaknesses of the practice
The project worked with and built upon
local indigenous knowledge and local resources. It did not try to replace them
or expect people to invest in something costly or new. The Best Practice is a
hybrid of the best of the original indigenous practices combined with proven
Any time the people did not understand
or believe in the suggested improvements, the revised practices were
demonstrated to them by local people who had visited other communities and had
seen the benefits for themselves. It was a ‘farmer-to-farmer’ approach.
But the economic benefits of bigger and
better yields of honey and wax can be realized only if local NGOs continue to
provide transportation and marketing support.
Why this is a Best Practice:
· It makes use of an existing practice (i.e. honey harvesting).
· It employs traditional skills, techniques and available resources (i.e. honey boards placed in trees, and local bee species).
· Local people are hired and trained to act as ‘champions’ on behalf of the project.
· Suggestions are made as to how indigenous practices could be changed to improve the quality and the quantity of the harvest.
· Local people were taken to demonstration sites to see similar activities being undertaken by honey harvesters elsewhere.
· With help, the product was marketed regionally and internationally.
Producers earned maximum profits.
During the two-year period from 1995 to 1997, ten villages collected over 3200 kg of honey, which was marketed to retailers in Pontianak, Jakarta, Riau, Singapore and the UK. Honey brought in ten times more income than it did before 1995.
Source of inspiration
The adaptations of the traditional
harvesting system described here are often done insimilar situations elsewhere.
But to our knowledge, certainly within the West Kalimantan region, this is a
rare undertaking. This example has the potential to demonstrate to local,
regional, provincial and national government officials, NGO staff and academics
the broad range of possibilities which exist for supporting and improving upon
indigenous practices in Indonesia.
This particular practice would be
difficult to replicate in other communities, however, as it relies upon a number
of climatic, biological and ecological factors. But technical replication is not
the only thing that matters. Of perhaps even greater importance are the attitude
and behaviour of project staff that work with local people. They need to be
willing to respect and work with indigenous knowledge and to add extra value to
it through the addition of other types of knowledge. This is particularly
challenging, not only for expatriate staff (who often continue to discount the
value of indigenous knowledge) but also for local staff and/or the rural people
themselves, whose formal, western-oriented education has often denigrated their
own local knowledge and practices.
The arrival of the bees and thus the season for harvesting honey is strongly influenced by two factors: the level of water in the lakes, which influences when the trees flower, and–in recent years–the forest fires that have plagued Borneo.
Very much depends on the accessibility
of sites where A. dorsata can build their combs. In this respect the
situations in the lake region of Danau Sentarum and in U Minh in Vietnam are
unique. If accessible trees are not available, the bees will nest in tall trees.
Areas where these practices could be
replicated include the marshy coastal region of the Sundarbas in India and
Bangladesh and the Irriwaddy plains in Burma.
If you think that this case could be useful in a different context than the one described here, please get in touch first with the contact person listed below (Administrative data). Intellectual property rights could be an issue.
Additional remarks and information
A great deal of the knowledge required for this project came from the experiences of Mr Vincent Mulder (see address and contact numbers below), who worked with a similar honey-harvesting system in the U Minh Forest, in Minh Hai Province, Vietnam. He visited DSWR in January 1996 and sponsored a return visit to Vietnam in October of that same year.
Recent articles that have been published which describe this project in more detail include:
Vincent Mulder, Valentinus Heri and Trevor Wickham (2000) ‘Traditional
Honey and Wax Collection with Apis Dorsata in the Upper Kapuas Lake Region, West
Kalimantan’. In: ‘Borneo Research Bulletin’, Special Issue on Danau
Sentarum National Park.
Vincent Mulder, Valentinus Heri and Trevor Wickham (2001) ‘Traditional
Honey and Wax Collection from Apis Dorsata in West Kalimantan’. In:
‘Beekeeping and Development’, Number 59, 4-7.
Vincent Mulder, Valentinus Heri and Trevor Wickham (forthcoming)
‘Honey and Beeswax Marketing: Techniques to Improve Traditional Tikung
Beekeeping from Apis Dorsata in West Kalimantan’. In: ‘Beekeeping and
Development’, Number 60.
Other project reports are also available. Please contact Trevor Wickham directly.
Readers are invited to send us any additional information about your project, work or organization which you think might be useful.
Committee Science and Technology for Vietnam (Mr Vincent Mulder)
P.O. Box 43
6700 AA Wageningen
Fax: +31 317 4250670
Trevor Wickham or Valentinus Heri (see below)
P.O. Box 158, Tofino, British Columbia V0R 2Z0, Canada
Tel.: +1 250 7254413
Fax: +1 250 7254413 (call first)
partner(s) involved in this practice
The following two non-governmental organizations have provided technical and administrative support, have facilitated activities, and have helped with marketing.
Yayasan Riak Bumi (Ripples of the Earth)
Yayasan Dian Tama
Because this project was one of a number of initiatives undertaken by the DSWR Conservation Project over a five-year period (1992-1997), it is difficult to estimate the total amount that was allocated exclusively to this one project. From 1997 to 2000, the project also received support from the British Partnership Scheme (ODA) administered by the British Embassy in Jakarta. A very rough estimate of the funds allocated to this project over the eight years would be USD 150,000 to USD 175,000.
who have described this Best Practice
Eco-Planning and Associates, Canada
Tel.: +1 250 7252346
Fax: +1 250 7252346
To MOST Clearing House Best Practices on Poverty and Social Exclusion
To MOST/CIRAN Database of Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge
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