Kurdistan’s Pioneer Beekeeper

Rojin Khasraw embodies the multi-faceted mosaic within the Kurdistan Region, building success as a young woman in a niche industry that delights the breakfast tables of her fello

Kurdistan’s Pioneer Beekeeper
February 24, 2024

Rojin Khasraw embodies the multi-faceted mosaic within the Kurdistan Region, building success as a young woman in a niche industry that delights the breakfast tables of her fellow citizens and, increasingly, those around the world. Rojin, who is 30 years old, has devoted more than three years of her life to beekeeping, transforming it into a sustainable livelihood. Her journey mirrors the broader triumphs within the KRI’s internationally renowned honey industry.

The Kurdistan Region’s honey industry currently boasts around 700,000 beehives managed by 16,000 beekeepers and spans diverse terrains, from Sakran’s peaks to Nineveh’s plains and the mountains of Hawraman. The production of honey has long been pivotal in shaping the region’s economic prosperity.

Khasraw, known as the pioneering female beekeeper of Halabja, has not only expanded her hive count from 30 to over 70, but has also earned her place in the tight-knit beekeeping community. Living in the heart of the Kurdistan Region’s famed pomegranate region, which is abundant in fruits, walnuts, and fine oils, she strategically cares for her bees so that they thrive amid the natural bounty of their surroundings.

Her meticulous approach involves placing hives across varied landscapes, from the mountainous areas of Sharbazher to Hawar and Hawraman, ensuring the extraction of pure, natural honey. “This year’s harvest promises abundance, compensating for the previous year,” Rojin confidently states, alluding to the challenges that any young entrepreneur faces.

“Although it was challenging at the outset – from bee stings due to my lack of expertise to the skepticism of those around me that thought I was undertaking an insurmountable task, I persisted. I faced obstacles within my community, with people asserting that beekeeping was too arduous and essentially impossible. However, I refused to give up,” she recalls. 

“Thanks to personal conviction and the unwavering support of my family, I persevered through it all. Now, I stand with my own project, aspiring to expand it in the future,” Rojin adds.

International demand

Kurdistan’s honey recently clinched the title of the best honey in Asia at the 16th Conference of the Asian Apiculture Association held in Saudi Arabia in August 2023. This accolade followed the success in 2009, when a honey from the KRI secured the top spot in an international competition in Paris.

In line with the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) vision to diversify the economy, support farmers, and empower the private sector, two tons of Kurdistan’s premium honey were delivered to Qatar by air in November 2023. An additional ton has been sold to local and national retailers in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, further supporting Kurdistan’s hardworking beekeepers. This shipment is set to appear on shelves next month.

This initiative, backed by the KRG Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, the KRG Prime Minister’s Office, and the private sector, involved over 200 beekeepers, generating nearly 100 jobs and forging new relationships with retailers in Qatar and the Gulf. Harvested from beehives across the KRI, this effort is poised to lay the groundwork for increased exports and foster new bilateral trade opportunities between the KRI and its international commercial partners.

Recognized around the world for its superior quality, Kurdistan’s honey has recently witnessed soaring demand. With a production of approximately 550 tons in 2023, the region aims to meet burgeoning international interest, signaling the potential for additional production growth in the future.

Kurdistan boasts three distinct honey types, including 100% natural honey that is derived from mountainous flora and those sourced from semi-artificial farms that still maintain high purity levels. The third type, which contains sugar, caters to specific preferences but differs in its composition.

Determining the best honey involves evaluating various criteria, encompassing quality, taste, color, and several other factors that define its excellence.

Peshraw Mahdi is a freelance journalist and photographer with substantial experience in the field, having worked for numerous media agencies over several years. He has won multiple awards in photojournalism.

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