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The Story of the Mountain Honey Climbers

Is it possible to sustainably harvest honey and beeswax by finding a balance in harvesting honey and wax while leaving enough behind for the bees to thrive? In the mountains of southern India, honey harvesting has been done for centuries. By combining traditional methods of responsibly harvesting with modern methods of monitoring and evaluation, these communities have worked out a balance for sustainable harvesting.

However, in 2010 it became clear that the honey harvesters, alongside other parts of the Nilgiris tribal community in southern India, were struggling for their livelihoods. In order to preserve their culture and ancestral skills, a project was launched to produce and market products made from the honey they harvest. The idea was to protect the communities heritage and ensure sustainable livelihoods. The project has since expanded from only honey products to beeswax products and other products produced from local raw materials. It's now providing growth opportunities to the indigenous mountain communities in the Nilgiris Reserve and to the surrounding villages and communities, all starting with the traditional honey mountain climbers.

Raw Materials

Honey and beeswax are harvested by the indigenous communities during and near the bee's seasonal migration from the mountains to the plain lands. This means that the honey is naturally left behind by the bees, thus harvesting it should not cause any adverse effects on the bees. Yet, to assure sustainable harvesting, harvest amounts and bee colony sizes are carefully monitored and registered. The bee's nests are found high in cliffs and large trees in the Nilgiris Reserve and harvested by climbers who craft ladders of vines and roots in order to reach the hives and harvest the honey and beeswax. If the bees are still present, smoke is used to calm the bees and encourage them to leave their nests while honey and wax are harvested. Some honey is left for the bees to feed on before their journey down from the mountains.

Additives such as botanical oils are sourced from the surrounding area as well; many, are also grown in the Nilgiris Reserve and others can be sourced from around India.

100% natural | Anti-bacterial | Anti-inflammatory | Compostable | Plastic free | Rich in anti-oxidants


Following the extraction of honey, beeswax, formerly a waste product, is used to craft value-added products such as lip balms, soaps and food wraps. In this way, production benefits both the harvesting communities and surrounding communities where production units have been set up. The company is made up of tribal Nilgiri people and focuses on making the products in a natural, handmade, and zero-waste manner.


This producer specifically focuses on working with and valuing native bee populations. This promotes and protects the biodiversity in the Nilgiris reserve as the bees are a keystone species. Low-energy, handmaking techniques are used and waste is systematically reduced in both production and product packaging.

UN Sustainable Development Goal

By supporting the sustainable commercialization of native populations and working to conserve the forest resources this producer is addressing target 15.2 "promote the sustainable management of all types of forests."


By focusing on the communities and historical traditions this producer has launched a sustainable business model which impacts over 150 villages. By focusing their support on the indigenous communities, and providing training and access to finance this producer has enabled a successful business model that benefits indigenous and rural communities.

UN Sustainable Development Goal

By working to ensure a sustainable business model with appropriate access to financial capital, without predatory lending practices this producer is addressing target 1.4 "ensuring that all men and women have equal rights to economic resources..and control over land...natural resources and appropriate new technology and financial services."

Livelihoods Impacted: 6,500 indigenous persons across 150 villages


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