Changes in any society are always viewed in different perspectives and attitudes. One of stories of sustainable change happened in southern-border provinces at Koh Lae Nang Village, Thepha District, Songkhla Province, before expanded to 4 southern-border provinces. It started from a man that looked “crazy” among many people, and no one ever thought that his action would bring success to the community. From raising stingless bees that were annoying, today, these insects could make people to create products, add values and distribute in the nation or even export to neighboring countries. This can increase economic value for the community to be sustainably self-reliant.
“Stingless bees” or called as “Aung” among villagers are bees without sting. Stingless bee honey is highly nutritional and has medicinal properties because it contains antioxidant, bioflavonoid, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and it is highly needed in medical markets. These features come from eating behavior of stingless bees that is different from other types of bees as they do not limit type of plants and flowers to collect nectar. It is also the origin of sour and sweet taste to freshen up as you are drinking honey and lime.
The story of above amazing change comes from Khun Somsak Nilong or Bang Nick, the president of Stingless Bee Community Enterprise in Koh Kae Nang Village, Thepha District, Songkhla Province. Bang Nick was born and raised in Koh Lae Nang Village until he turned 20 years old. He went to work outside like other new-generation people. At that time, he was interested in agarwood perfume and thus moved to work in this field in Malaysia and Indonesia for many years. In 2012, he had a chance to meet his Malaysian friend who ran a stingless bee farm. So, he was interested and thought that it was a challenging work because in Thailand, not many people were interested in producing stingless bee honey. Bang Nick remembered that when he was a child, he saw a number of stingless bees around the houses, making their hives on porches and hollows on posts of the houses, which annoyed people around here.
When Bang Nick decided to return to his hometown to run a stingless bee farm when nobody was operating this business, he had no examples or places to take a fieldtrip. So, he started from looking for stingless bees in the forest, collecting them for breeding, and studying to obtain more information about species, raising, product harvesting as well as research studies about benefits of stingless bee honey. This ensured him that it could be a stable job and he realized several good points of doing a stingless bee farm such as a one-time agriculture business from building hives, and finding species of the stingless bees and then harvesting products for long time with no need to feed food or water or any nourishments. In morning, the stingless bees will fly out to collect nectars for us and we just take care of safety of the bees by preventing natural enemies like frogs and house lizards from hurting them by building a housing with 50-cm height from the ground. Bang Nick spent time to initiated this business and trialed it himself. Then, he asked his relatives and neighbors until year 3, villagers started to accept this business from seeing income in every month. The group members start to sustain from riding a bicycle to driving car.
Ban Koh Lae Nang stingless bee community enterprise has 15 members in Koh Lae Nang Village and 15 members in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat with the enterprise’s office being the center of collecting, processing, transporting and marketing which Bang Nick gives much precedence to it. At first, Thai people were never introduced with stingless bee honey, and thus the group mainly delivered products to Malaysian markets, and most customers were hospitals for patients having chemotherapy to drink to restore health. Later, the products in Malaysian farms increased, and the group’s sales decreased. They brainstormed to look for a solution by analyzing the fact that the group has operated this business for 3 years, and stingless bee starts to be more extensively introduced among Thai people, so they started doing marketing in Thailand by arranging a booth in events. Although the products were not sold at first, it was a way to do public relation.
Next is a matter of trust and confidence with product quality and it is a part of strategies in administrating community products to be a well known brand among people with focus on quality assurance, cleanliness and product safety. The group thus entered the process of standardization for food and drugs (FDA) and halal mark to be on the containers. Finally, in 2017, they started to officially sell products in Thailand. Initially, they place the products at shops in tourist attractions, and the feedback was that the products were hard to sell because tourists did not know information of the products.
In 2017, the enterprise group decided to open a shop in a department store in Bangkok to be a shop where products are placed. They invested with about 300,00 Baht but finally, they had to shut it down because of changing social context. The behavior of consumers changes as they just order products online and wait to pick up at home with no need to waste time to go to the shop. Furthermore, the customers can look for information in support of their decision to search if our information is correct, to compare with other shops, to take a look at reviews. If the customers make a decision to buy, they will buy it regularly. So, the group decided to fully enter online world by providing a distribution channel through applications of Lazada, Shopee, Thailand post mart and Otopsongkhla, and they also have channels of Line application, Facebook page: Stingless bee honey “Ban Koh Lae Nang” Brand
At present, 90% of customers is from online channel when there are various online platforms. An important activity is delivery to deliver products to the consumers. At present, the logistic system is advanced and highly competitive with very low delivery cost and fast service. At first, the enterprise group had a problem about management that broke even due to remote location from delivery service points in town. Therefore, Bang Nick provided a new strategy and made a decision to extend delivery by purchasing a delivery franchise to open in the village, which can save transportation cost of the group, earn income from delivery service in local area and get share of total delivery cost.
Being committed to do something until it is successful along with helping other people is true happiness. Bang Nick is a new-generation person who brings happiness, prosperity and peace to southern-border provinces truly. This makes us realize that different thought is not strange or causes disharmony, but differences require participation to prove how to make that dream come true. From learning to doing, adjusting, extending and planning in all aspects and dimensions along with training and passing on knowledge to interested people, at present, Stingless Bee Enterprise of Koh Lae Nang Village is accomplished and bring sustainability to 30 members in four southern-border provinces. They export 200-300 kilograms of honey every month with value of hundred thousand. This indicate success of assembly of local people leading to peace, and happiness in the southern border of Thailand in a sustainable way.