UTMT Society works with small farmers in tribal communities on beekeeping with indigenous bees. This leads to conservation of the keystone species of local honeybees, increased yields and incomes for farming communities through better pollination and additional livelihoods.
Our Name: When Vijaya Pastala founded the organization in 2009, she had in mind Indian villages, especially those located in dry, semi-arid regions. A mango tree often stands out. Under its inviting shade, farmers rest after a morning’s work, children catch their breath after playing under the sun and women share stories on their return from the local well. A community bonds. Wandering traders eyeing a potential sale stop by to offer their wares, villagers learn about the changes in the world outside their own and traders discover the needs of the rural producer. Each group–-rested and more learned–-moves on. Yet, each individual will remember the respite offered by the mango tree’s shade. Thus, “Under The Mango Tree” is a metaphor calling to mind the areas we work in and the people we work for.
Vijaya set up two entities as part of the hybrid Under The Mango Tree – UTMT Society to train farmers in beekeeping with indigenous bees and UTMT Company that provides market access to different kinds of delicious honey from across India.
Our Journey: The ‘Bees for Poverty Reduction’ programme began as a Concept Note in 2009 that outlined the potential that beekeeping with indigenous bees, especially Apis cerana indica, could have in increasing yields for small farmers.
The concept note moved to a Pilot that was rolled out in Dharampur (Valsad district) and Surgana (Nashik district) blocks in collaboration with BAIF Development Research Foundation in mid-2009. The Pilot aimed at documenting local honey hunting practises and information on bees, through Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) in identified communities and providing basic beekeeping training with Apis cerana indica to farmers in select villages.
Atar Singh Kaintura, a Diploma in Bee Science from the Central Bee Research and Training Institute (CBRTI), Pune who had more than a decade of experience in working with indigenous bees in Uttarakhand was roped in as our Technical Expert. Atarji played a big role in training farmers in beekeeping for 5-6 years. He understood what needed to be done in the first few field visits. He thought nothing of putting his work in Uttarakhand on hold and spending weeks in the interiors of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh in subsequent years, training farmers in the technical aspects of beekeeping.
The first year was an especially tough one as farmers were unwilling to believe that bees could actually live in boxes. Almost all of them saw a modern beebox for the first time during the training. Besides his technical knowledge, Atarji’s positive attitude rubbed off on all of us and gave us the strength to face the next day when nothing went right. Today, a strong local cadre of Master Trainers in three states stands testimony to his ‘margdarshan’ – guidance. Even now, when one of our Master Trainers faces a particularly tricky technical issue, they call Atarji and get his inputs. His contribution to our journey has been invaluable.