Aytekin Sadiqova is a forced migrant from the Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan, where beekeeping has traditionally been widely developed.
"Today I have 22 beehives, 10 of which I bought thanks to the project's support. Besides the local bees we also have Iranian, Italian and German breeds. The latter is known for its high performance," says Aytekin, who operates the bee farm together with her son.
"At first we received 10 kg of honey from each beehive, then the production grew to 15 kg. We are not using any sweeteners and produce only the natural product; that is why we do not get much. However, we focus on quality and not quantity," she says.
In total, from the 10 beehives bought thanks to the project, the family produced between 100 and 150 kg of honey last year. The money they received for the honey was enough to support the production and carry out much needed renovations in the house. The new harvest is expected in May.
For the past 25 years, she has been living in the Bilasuvar region in the south-west of the country.
Aytekin's family has always bred bees. She grew up seeing adults around her caring for beehives and preparing bees for wintering when she was a child.
In 2016, Aytekin learned that the Women's Resource Centre had opened in Bilasuvar and offered support for starting a small business, so she decided to continue the family business by proposing a business plan for beekeeping.
In addition to financial support, the Centre provided her with a number of training courses on the basics of accounting, how to run a small business and beekeeping.
The centre operates within the framework of the project "Enabling civil society to play a greater role in advancing gender equality and women’s rights", which was implemented in the region by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs and funded by the European Union.
Not only fellow villagers, but also residents of the capital – where Aytekin's daughter works – buy honey from the family. They are trying to keep up with innovations in bee farming in order to be able to do their business successfully and further develop it.
"The agriculture will always feed us. However, we must put effort into it and approach it reasonably, following all the norms and techniques, and learn from the experience of others," says Aytekin.
As a single mother, Aytekin's life has not been easy, but as a true role model to thousands of women in her community she has walked through the turbulences of life feeling content and always looking ahead for a brighter future. She considers good education the most important thing for her children and grandchildren.
Author: Elena Ostapenko