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PILOTING A COMMUNITY APIARY BEEKEEPING IN PERE

The Act Together for Pere Social Cooperative was founded in 2014 in order to tackle societal problems affecting the local community. The cooperative’s principal place of business is in Pere, a small village in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, one of the more neglected areas in Hungary. The settlement has 365 inhabitants, with approximately one third of them belonging to the Roma minority.

Pere’s most critical issue is the high unemployment rate. Since roughly 95% of the active population work as public employees outside of the primary labour market and earning very little money, the majority of the population lives in deep poverty. The low level of income leads to several further problems, such as limited access to health care, low mobility, poor education, a lack of vocational training and experience, and a lack of local services. Housing conditions are rather poor: multigenerational co-habitation and deterioration of buildings is common, and in some homes there is a lack of proper heating, water supplies, sewage disposal or even electricity.

In 2017, the members of the cooperative developed a social enterprise idea to establish a community apiary in order to provide independent and sustainable solutions to unemployment, social exclusion and other related social issues in the village. The bee colonies will be hosted by and taken care of by individuals participating in the programme (cooperative members or other participants), while the property rights of the bee colonies, the equipment and machinery, will continue to belong to the cooperative. The extracted honey will be also sold by the cooperative, but after deducting the cooperative’s commissions, the profit will be distributed among the participants and their families as additional income.

To test the business idea, a pilot project was developed in consultation with and supported by Badur Foundation. The pilot began in July 2018 and will run up to November 2019. Included in the framework of the pilot is the purchase of the necessary equipment to establish and operate the first apiary of six bee colonies. In the first phase of the pilot, three individuals will have the opportunity to participate in a supervised training programme and be mentored by a beekeeping expert, Mr. Gergely Molnár (mezesgergo.hu). Together they will start working in the community apiary in order to build on the knowledge and skills gained in practice. After selling the first of the produce, the profit will be distributed among the participants. All in all, the pilot will improve the livelihoods of three disadvantaged local families.

If the pilot project is a success and the business model proves to be profitable and sustainable in the long term, there is a plan to develop a community apiary of up to 200 bee colonies, which could provide regular part-time employment for at least four people or a substantial additional income for 10-12 families. As well as the positive impact of generating employment and income, and the community building that beekeeping provides, the cooperative would like to create further social impact in the local community in the long term. This would be created through the support of other charitable organisations and the provision of their own training opportunities, as well as scholarship programmes for the local youth.

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