Living and working in the Sundarban involves risking precious lives as it requires both men and women to work within extreme conditions and share many of the similar threats. One of the most hazardous professions in Sundarban is honey collecting and the honey collectors of Sundarban, known as the Mawalis, put their lives at risk to go deep into the forest in search of rock bees, to collect honey during the months of April to June. However, collecting honey comes at a cost for the Mawali community as their lives are most vulnerable to tiger attacks. According to the forestry department, there are an estimated 60-80 people killed every year by tiger attacks.
While working with the people of Sundarbans, we visited a village known as ‘Village of Tiger Widows’, where most of the women’s partners were victims of tiger attacks. Women who have lost their men on tiger attacks have been abandoned by society for bringing bad luck and they end up living a miserable life of poverty having no skills outside the home, as most women were married at a very early age. Yet, while the survival of the men has been documented, the tale of the Sundarbans women remains hidden like the mist of a goddess that sometimes emerges in the dreams of men.
Therefore, to provide a sustainable and fruitful livelihood for the honey collector community of Sundarban and for the tiger widows who live at its edge, ‘Sundarbans Busy Bee: The Sweetest Gift on Earth in a Bottle’ a social entrepreneurship project was established to address crisis associated with honey collecting, alleviate the poverty of the Mawali community and to link a fair trade between the honey collectors and the consumers. This social project of ‘Sundarbans Busy Bee’ also donates BDT 100 from every 1kg bottle of honey sold, to ensure the sustainable living of Tiger Widows.
Here’s a video highlighting how Busy Bee works with the Mawali community of Sundarban;