We’ve been working with the Much Kaab co-operative in Mexico since 2009, helping them build a business selling products, such as soap and shampoo, made from Melipona bee honey.
Now, 6 years later, we feel that we’re really beginning to make a difference. Here’s why:
- The first phase of the project was about the conservation of the stingless bee, and the Mayan tradition of keeping Melipona bees. We established healthy colonies and bee keeping practises. Great stuff – but where’s the tourism link?
- We moved on to helping the group formally become a co-operative, and develop their skills to enable them to run a business. All good stuff, but again, where’s the link? Where’s the impact?
- We worked with the co-operative to develop products suitable for the tourism market, bringing together the co-operative and the private sector. There’s the link!
- The Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe was the first hotel to sign a purchasing agreement with the co-operative. They initially purchased the products for sale in their gift shop, and then also introduced them into guest rooms. Two more hotels followed suit (Grand Palladium Riviera Maya and Karisma Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya), stocking the products in their gift shops. This was a huge step forward for the co-operative. Impact! But we’re not quite there yet…
Obviously, a lot has happened over the years to develop the Much Kaab business (you can read more on the project history here). The aim was to develop a viable and sustainable business for the group, which has been achieved. Success? Absolutely, but it’s about so much more than this.
For us, the real impact is this:
- The hotel has introduced a ‘friendly’ procurement policy for local suppliers, such as 50% upfront payments and 50% final payment no longer than 7 days after delivery. This is a huge step forward, considering the hotel industry usually takes 3 to 6 months to release payments.
- The hotel are so pleased with the products that they are considering introducing them into their sister property in Cozumel.
Mr Carlos da Silva, general manager of the Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe, recently visited the co-operative, and said:
“Now that I’ve met with Much Kaab Cooperative, I’m very pleased to see first-hand that through our local procurement policy we are contributing to the growth of this amazing group of Mayan women. It has given me a better appreciation and a broader understanding of what goes in to each and every single shampoo or soap bar that is placed in our Villas.”
It’s been a pleasure to bridge the gap between a local supplier and a large scale tourism business, and watch them both reap the benefits of their new relationship. It’s so important that the tourism industry opens its eyes to the value that local suppliers can bring (and vice versa), and I hope this project can be a great inspiration to others in the industry.
Written by Terry and Yuri.