Taking Zambian honey global, winning pitch contests: Alan Chanda of Dytech
How much does it cost social entrepreneur and engineer Alan Chanda to make one of his patented beehives, called ZamHives?
This beehive is an innovative double-decker made from unwanted wood waste. The eco-friendly design boosts productivity, increasing honey production per beehive from 15 kilograms to 75 kilograms per season.
Higher productivity means higher incomes for the 2,500 rural outgrowers who work with Chanda’s Zambia-based honey business, Dytech Limited. The producers, many of them women, benefit from having a guaranteed market. They also earn more than they did before as maize farmers: One kilogram of maize brings 10 cents, whereas a kilogram of raw honey brings $1. At full productive capacity, one beehive produces $75 worth of honey per season. The average beekeeper has 10 ZamHives, resulting in $750 in income.
In this way, honey has become the main source of income for these producers, enabling them to provide for their families, invest in their children’s education and even start side businesses.
For example, several women are taking advantage of the value-matching payment option available to them by receiving payment in kind, in the form of mobile phone charging stations installed near their homes. Community members – who oftentimes live in remote, rural areas and do not have easy access to charging stations – can pay a fee to charge their phones.
In this way, a business begets a business.
Good for people, environment
ZamHives are strategically placed near wild, naturally flowering trees in forests to attract bees. No trees are cut down and no land is cleared for production. While traditional beekeeping involves cutting down trees and using logs as beehives, Chanda’s hives are made of wood waste, offcuts and sawdust.
Dytech’s motto is ‘100% made by bees’. As Chanda describes it, bees find their own food and produce the honey, and the company simply packs it. Honey is cold-pressed to preserve quality, colour and smell, then packaged and branded based on the flower source under the name ‘SweetHarvest Pure Honey’.
About 10% of Dytech’s honey is bottled, branded and sold in 150 shops across Zambia, while the rest is sold in bulk. The company has sold in bulk to customers in South Africa to the tune of 90 tons a year.
Targeting new markets
Dytech will soon export to Germany and China for the first time. A buyer in Germany has ordered 200 tons, for which shipments will start in December. Shipments to two Chinese buyers – an import-export company and a wine company – will start within the next several weeks.
The Chinese market has opened up through the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa (PIGA). With support from PIGA, Chanda has travelled twice to China to meet potential buyers and discuss business opportunities. He has also participated in a two-day PIGA training in Lusaka on talking to Chinese counterparts, as well as the dos and don’ts of business relationships.
PIGA is a partnership between ITC, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s Department for International Development (DFID), the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and the China-Africa Development Fund (CADFund).
Under PIGA, Chanda will participate in the China International Import Expo in Shanghai in early November, joining entrepreneurs from the food, textiles and apparel, and services sectors in presenting products and exploring business deals and partnerships.
Winning global recognition
Chanda recently won a global pitch competition at the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) annual public forum for civil society and business groups, on 2-4 October. The theme of the event this year was ‘Trade 2030’.
The PIGA team recommended that he apply for the competition.
His pitch – consisting of five minutes of highlighting his ‘export action plan’ and five minutes of answering questions from a panel of judges – beat out those from 11 other finalists from around the world, including Algeria, Mongolia, Peru and Scotland, in the Open to Export-sponsored contest. He took first place and won $5,000.
‘I’m flabbergasted,’ Chanda said, post-win. ‘There were so many people with interesting ideas from around the world, and I’m extremely thankful that I’ve been chosen to go back home with a smile on my face.’
Chanda plans to use the prize money to build 1,000 ZamHives, giving 10 beehives to 100 women outgrowers. Funds will also go towards improving export plans and increasing traceability across the honey value chain.
This isn’t Chanda’s first time competing in a pitching contest. In 2015, he won $20,000 in the Nyamuka Zambia Business Plan Competition for his business plan to develop honey-based sweets. More recently, he competed in the 2018 World Export Development Forum (WEDF) young social entrepreneurs pitch contest in Lusaka, Zambia, on 12 September.
‘Because of WEDF, we cannot cope with demand for ZamHives,’ Chanda said. ‘We don’t have the capacity or resources to keep up.’
As a direct result of WEDF, Dytech has received requests for 10,000 beehives from within Zambia, 20,000 from Mozambique and 50,000 from Nigeria. Dytech outsources the building of the hives to vocational schools. Because demand is so high, the company is looking to hire additional people through word of mouth and social media to keep pace.
Planning for a sweet future
Looking ahead, Chanda has big plans for his buzzed-about business.
‘I’m hoping to scale up in the coming months and years to become the largest single supplier of honey in Africa,’ he said.
Dytech plans to expand its product line-up with honey-based sweets, such as lollipops and lozenges by March 2019.
The ZamHive rural outgrowers concept is also gaining traction outside of Zambia, in countries like Nigeria and Mozambique.
Chanda says there is scope to tap a wider variety of sources of honey, as well, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to expand its supplier base. People in certain regions of the country speak the same language as those in Zambia.