She is not only an Apiarist; she is also a job creator, house builder, mother and proud trainer.
At a very young age, Haseena came out of her comfort zone to take the responsibility of a bee farm, which her father, Ahmad Ali Khan, was running 27 years ago.
55-year-old Haseena runs a bee farm under the name ‘Oriental Apiary’ and is famous for selling pure honey. She sells honey at her home in Naidyar area at Rainawari in Srinagar.
Located on the banks of Dal Lake, Haseena’s farm is known for the production of pure honey.
"I was very interested in beekeeping. I learned about it at a very young age from my father as I used to watch how he was doing the whole process,” says Haseena.
A successful business lady, today she employs six persons whom she also trains about the whole process of beekeeping and the methods of extraction of pure honey.
Through her rigorous efforts and pure quality honey, she has built a clientele in many foreign countries.
“I have clients in countries like Canada, Australia, USA, Japan, China and many countries. My clients were also Mick Jagger, lead vocalist and co-founder of The Rolling Stone; Tunji Banjo, a former professional footballer of Nigerian-Irish descent; Yash Chopra, late Bollywood producer; and Karan Singh, the last Dogra heir of Kashmir,” she says.
She also says, “Her main aim is to sell locally made pure honey in the larger markets.” She successfully collects honey, packages them attractively in small bottles, and supplies to the customers.
Haseena attracts her customers with a great knowledge of honey varieties and their medicinal values including their antibacterial properties.
“My foreign customers are coming on Shikaras to buy honey. I am very confident about my pure quality products. Even I know all the types of bees in different countries and methods of beekeeping,” she says.
She mostly rears Italian breed of bees in her farm. “My father imported these Italian bees after the Kashmiri bred bees died due to Varroosis, a parasitic infection. These bees do not produce a large amount of honey but are disease-free,” she says.
She also explains that no pesticides or chemicals are used on the plants in order to preserve the bees. Instead, she uses a more natural approach using oils to fight off insects.
“The process of beekeeping is very sensitive. It needs a proper method and care. Everything we are doing, the bees are very much a part of what we do in a natural way,” she says.
She further says, as soon as she has a bulk amount of honey, she is then able to start selling it and get it out to where people can benefit from it.
Due to some family issues in her life, her journey toward becoming a successful businesswoman was harder than many others.
But braving all odds, she became a self-reliant lifelong champion to spread sweetness. “A woman can become successful even in an area out of her comfort zone if she keeps her dedication and willpower up in difficult times as well, "says Haseena.
She also believes that her earnings might not be much higher but it gives her immense satisfaction to be doing something that she loves and making some money out of it as well.
“I really love my Apiary. I liked it since my father was running it. Collecting the honey from these beehives is an extremely challenging and precarious task. I send workers to collect honey but I look after everything with proper care to ensure the quality products,” she says.
Lotus, almonds, saffron, apple and lily are some of the honey varieties that this lady stocks.
“The type of honey we get from bees highly depends on the prevalent season and blossoming of flowers. June is a favorable season. Our production of honey is completely handmade. We do not use machines and chemicals. This is also a reason why our honey is famous everywhere,” she explains.
Haseena said that she feels honored to be the first woman in Kashmir who is keeping a decades-old bee culture alive in the city.
"I am selling pure Kashmiri honey and it gives me happiness. Markets in the valley are flooded by honey products of other companies," she said.
The lady said that she feels comfortable when she communicates with customers in her mother tongue.
"Kashmiri language has its own charm. We should never forget our language, culture and heritage. I have even inherited the honey business from my father. Our ancestors were associated with Kashmiri honey. I am trying my best to keep the bee culture alive in Kashmir," she said.
There are nearly 70,000 bee colonies spread across Jammu and Kashmir and over the last few years the UT has yielded 7,206 quintals of pure honey.
The agriculture department has designed and drafted Detailed Project Reports for promotion of high-altitude honey in J&K under ‘Honey Mission’. The government’s target is to create seven lakh colonies, even as they work to get a GI tag for Kashmir honey.
The government is also planning to establish seven lakh colonies in the next five years which could generate employment for 1.14 lakh families. The hope is that the apiculture industry would generate employment for 1.4 million people by 2025.
What is Beekeeping
Beekeeping (or apiculture) is the maintenance of bee colonies, commonly in man-made hives, by humans. Most such bees are honey bees in the genus Apis, but other honey-producing bees such as Melipona stingless bees are also kept. A beekeeper (or apiarist) keeps bees in order to collect their honey and other products that the hive produce (including beeswax, propolis, flower pollen, bee pollen, and royal jelly), to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary or "bee yard".