The dampness in the air, and the changing weather conditions in the city doesn’t seem to affect Aleyamma Siby. Instead, she has high hopes for the coming days of the ongoing National Honey and Mango Fest at Kanakakkunnu. The proprietor of ‘Matha Honey and Bee Farm Industries’, Aleyamma has set up a honey stall at the fest.
With twelve ‘harvests’ a year, employing 20 workers on daily wages and 5,000 colonies, Aleyamma says that the heavy rain has only a little effect on the sale of honey at the fest. “Honey won’t rot as mangos; then why should I worry?’’ she asks, adding that honey has a guarantee of a minimum six months, and more if preserved.
Aleyamma also runs an approved training centre and is an active bee breeder with the Horticulture Mission, Kerala. With a little pride and a quizzical smile, she claims to be the first female ‘bee breeder’ ever, among ten other members of the ‘Bee Breeders’ Association’.
Aleyamma, hailing from Kasargod, was awarded the ‘Best Entrepreneur’ honour by the State Industries Department for her contribution to the small-scale industry which she received from the then minister Elamaram Kareem during 2007-08. She had also been nominated for the ‘National Small-Scale Industry Award’ for her passion and skilful approaches to the industry.
Aleyamma gathers around 40 tonnes of honey per annum from 5,000 beehives situated in 300 sites on the 3 acres of land in her native place, Panathady.
Byproducts in her list are never-ending, ranging from jam out of cash crops to face-packs. The need for self-sustenance and the scope of the industry prompts Aleyamma to pursue her dream of a ‘Large-scale industry’ with ‘Agmark’ qualification.
Despite getting plentiful harvest every year, her spirit never ceases to learn more about bees and their cultivation, inspiring her to study different varieties of honey - from Coorg Honey to Italian Honey.
“We also depend on Ranipuram forest, Suryakanthi gardens, Gundlupet and rubber estates for the rearing of bees. The industry has not only provided us with a living, but much more than that,” she says. An entrepreneur earning a profit of minimum Rs 15 lakh a year, Aleyamma wonders why there are only 10 bee breeders in all of Kerala, despite it being so promising a vocation.