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Indonesia’s Riau province and its lowland tropical forests is home to a wide variety of Sialang trees – tall trees where bees reside and produce honey, aptly named ‘Sialang honey’.

The honey is prized by locals who believe it has health benefits, and harvesting Sialang honey has long been a traditional practice by the communities who reside near these forests.

However, the existence of Sialang honey is rare these days, primarily due to major deforestation practices over previous decades but also because of continuous harvesting of the honey throughout the years by farmers who did not realize the need to allow time for the honey supply to regenerate.

With low, unreliable harvests and a resulting lack of regular customers for the product, Sialang honey farmers therefore face uncertain incomes and livelihoods.

Seeing this problem, Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) decided to step in and help the Sialang honey farmers, by establishing Rumah Madu Andalan in RAPP’s Integrated Training and Business Development Centre.

RAPP's sialang honey Foresbi

Established in 2000, Rumah Madu Andalan (which translates into ‘Andalan Honey House’) is meant to be a place for the Sialang honey farmers to sell their honey – at lucrative prices.

Gading Sahyoga, RAPP Coordinator of Community Development, said that Rumah Madu Andalan currently partners with Sialang honey farmers across five districts: Kuantan Singingi, Pelalawan, Siak and Kampar.

Gading noted that harvesting Sialang honey is not an easy job – to begin with, it’s a job that has to be carried out at night in order to not disturb the bees living in the Sialang trees.

“They also need to use smoke to distract the bees and prevent them from communicating and attacking the farmers who are taking honey from the Sialang trees,” he explained.

“At Rumah Madu Andalan, the farmers have it one step easier as they are able to sell their harvests to us directly, minus the need and confusion to find customers for their product,” Gading said.

After receiving honey from the farmers, Rumah Madu Andalan treats it by reducing its water content before packaging it attractively under the “Foresbi” product name.

support the local community with Foresbi

 

RAPP is then responsible for marketing and selling the Foresbi. The honey can currently be purchased at stores located within RAPP’s Integrated Training and Business Development Centre, Unigraha Hotel and the RAPP Employee Cooperative building.

RAPP additionally provides the farmers with education and training on responsible and sustainable honey harvesting practices at Rumah Madu Andalan.

In this way, not only does Rumah Madu Andalan contribute to preserving local culture, the Sialang honey farmers will also be better informed about how to sustain the honey supply, Gading said.

Gading emphasized that Rumah Madu Andalan “directly participates” every time the farmers harvest the Sialang honey.

“So we can guarantee that Rumah Madu Andalan’s products are original and authentic Sialang honey,” he said.

Currently, Rumah Madu Andalan is able to process 150 to 200kg of Sialang honey to gain a profit of around IDR 14 million per month.

However, ensuring a regular supply of the Sialang honey remains a main challenge, Gading said.

In a bid to combat the problem, Rumah Madu Andalan has devised a rotational supply schedule for the different honey-producing regencies, he shared.

“For example, if we receive a honey supply from Kampar regency this month, we will only get honey from other regencies the following month. This way, the Sialang honey nests in the Kampar regency will have time to regenerate and not run out of honey,” Gading said.

Looking forward, RAPP hopes that the Sialang honey farmers will eventually take over house production and honey processing directly, he added.

“That way, the farmers will be more independent in producing the Sialang honey, unlike now where production processes are still rather limited to them,” he said.

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