Village 6 of Phuoc Loc commune, nestled at the foot of Ngoc Linh mountain, is known as the independent, bee-keeping town. Life of the people here have long revolved around the forest. Unlike the general case among highland villages, they have never turned to the government for financial support, said Mr. Luu Huyen Thoai, Chairman of People's Committee of Phuoc Loc village.
Currently only 35 families live here in wooden cottages bundled up amidst the trees. Vegetables and forest plants thrives on this piece of land blessed by nature with a temperate climate. Despite only living off of the forest’s resources, village 6’s dwellers are relatively more well-off than those in neighboring villages.
“My people have been living comfortably all thanks to our tradition of bee keeping”, said one of the village elders, Ho Van Dong. Elder Dong let us in on the very unique and easy method people use to harvest honey from the bees. Villagers start to prepare bee hives in the 2nd month of the lunar calendar when it is warm outside. They would choose a large tree, with fragrance and plenty of shades to lure in the bees. The hives are made by carving a pocket about 40cm deep into the tree’s body, about 1 meter above ground. After bees have entered the pocket cavity, they cover the opening with pebbles and dirt, only leaving a couple of tiny holes for the bees to enter and exit.
The pebbles must be chosen carefully and must not be replaced often, because the bees see them as territorial signatures, and they would be the home to their colonies for dozens of years to come, said elder Ho Van Nho. Every year villagers would carve new pockets and check up on the existing ones for any damage, waiting patiently to harvest the honey.
Honey harvest season usually falls on the 5th month of the lunar year. At the time of this writing article, each family in village 6 owns dozens or even hundreds of honey pockets.
Elder Ho Van Yen, owner of almost 200 bee hives, could provide for his family and cover his children’s tuition fee all thanks to trading honey. One litter of this glossy liquid sells for about VND400,000 (US$17.12), going up to VND500,000 (US$21.04) or even higher when Lunar New Year is nearing.
According to Ho Van Doan, Chief of Police at Phuoc Loc commune and also a resident of village 6, the bee hives must be built in trees strong and big enough so as not to collapse after being carved into. Therefore the villagers are extremely determined to keep the forest safe. “Deforestation has never been an occurrence here, because the people know very well that their livelihood would be gone if the trees are not protected”, said Mr. Dong. Each time making a trip to the forest, villagers would immediately report any sign of tree being destroyed to the authorities.