September 05, 2016
As pollinators, honeybees already provide essential services, and it is why people around the world have come to their aid to ensure they live, survive, and thrive as a species. However, it always helps to be reminded that bees do more than just offer an easier time pollinating plants—they also offer a source of income and an undeniably resourceful skillset for those who seek to improve their circumstances and provide more for their family. For a woman named Josephine Selvaraj, who resides in her native Muthupatti Village in India, she’s not only created something for herself and her family through beekeeping—she’s created a source of empowerment for many more women in rural India.
Josephine, with her vision of empowerment through employment and goal of spreading the “sweet nectar of life” that is honey, is the founder of the Vibis Natural Bee Farm based in the Vadipatti Taluk of Madurai. At 33, Josephine and her husband struggled to make ends meet on the husband’s partial income. Deciding to find some way to turn things around for her family, Josephine began learning about beekeeping, and the extra income eventually provided her the means to help support her family and ensure a quality education for her children. All she had learned inspired her to start her own apiary of ten hives in 2006, bringing Josephine an income of $120 a month (8,000 Indian rupees).
Josephine’s bee farm grew significantly after just one year of business when India’s National Honey Mission ordered 62 boxes of honey—her first major order that proved an incredible step-up and chance for expansion. With the farm’s growth came the beginning of Josephine’s journey into rural development, and ever since she has used employment to ensure economic empowerment and financial independence for the women of rural India. Not only has Josephine employed more than 50 women from the villages of Oddanchathram, Malaiyur, Ellapara, and Sirumalain, but she has also helped more than 300 start their own apiaries.
As of now, more than 20,000 people have benefited from the free beekeeping training Josephine introduced under the National Honey Mission. Her efforts in beekeeping are said to have changed the lives of many by improving their standard of living and ensuring their children have access to the best education. Josephine also vigorously promotes beekeeping at various colleges to encourage student entrepreneurship—as well, she offers free honey to underprivileged cancer patients at her local Aravind Hospital with the belief it boosts their immune systems.
Having been called a ‘Florence Nightingale’ to the sick, poor, and needy, Josephine’s complete dedication to developing the rural economy has been wholly admirable, with her being especially applauded by the people of the Vadipatti Taluk of Madurai. She’s also been called an angel who “enriches lives with a touch of honey.”
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