The Bees for Poverty Reduction (BPR) programme began as a pilot in Dharampur block, Valsad district in 2009 in partnership with DHRUVA – BAIF. It aimed to train farmers who had mango and cashew wadis in beekeeping to help them increase their yields. The Pilot demonstrated the potential for beekeeping in the area – as local communities had a long relationship with local bees and practised honey hunting.
The programme subsequently spread to Kaprada block, Valsad district and to the neighbouring districts of Dangs and Silvassa (Dadra and Nagar Haveli). The area now has 650+ beekeepers and an entire ecosystem including a carpentry workshop that produces beeboxes, bee flora nurseries set up by women’s groups, a technical cadre of Master Trainers and a full-fledged functional Beekeeping Resource Centre (BRC). A number of innovative aspects of the programme have been piloted here.
Key AspectWhile beekeeping is the core of our programme, a number of related ecosystem services also play an important role.
- Awareness Program – The message of conservation of bees is critical in communities that practice honey hunting. This is done in multiple ways – Gram Sabhas and village meetings, awareness programs in local schools through on the importance of bees in the environment through audio – visual means.
- Bee Flora – Bee flora, important for bees and farmers, is distributed to farmers during monsoon and winter. This helps in enhanced honey production and colony multiplication.
- Beekeeping Resource Centre (BRC) – The Beekeeping Resource Centre is the focal point for information dissemination on beesfor a number of villages in the area. It hosts training programmes, Training of Trainers workshops for people from other states and districts.
- Carpentry and other Beekeeping Inputs – The carpentry workshop makes beeboxes for both Apiscerana and Trigona beekeeping. An SHG has been trained to make bee veils, swarm bags and suits for Apis dorsata honey harvesting.
- Developing local Master Trainers – Progressive beekeepers trained as Master Trainers cater to the needs of beekeepers in and around the village.
- Honey supply chain – Local people employed in the honey value chain, collect honey from the farm gate.
- Organic fertilizers and pesticides – Farmers are trained to make bio fertilizers and pesticides using locally available raw ingredients in an effort to bee friendly, sustainable agriculture.
- Queen Rearing and Apiaries – Apiaries are set up by farmers to increase the number of bee colonies and promote better colony management practices among tribal farmers.
Impact Story : Beekeeping, Saving the Soil!
Bachubhai Valvi, once a honey- hunter and currently a Master Trainer earned a meagre annual income of Rs. 20,000 primarily from his two-acre agricultural plot in Kaprada, Gujarat. Prior to beekeeping Bachubhai often practiced honey hunting (honey hunting is an unsustainable, age-old practice of extracting honey from wild bee colonies after destroying the hives and killing bees). After training with UTMT Society in 2016, he understood the role of bees in agriculture and ecology. He recollects “During the meeting, I was embarrassed when I realized how my ignorance has impacted the ecosystem; being a honey hunter I had destroyed considerable number of colonies from the wild as I never knew how important bees are for pollination. I believed that honey bees are only for honey”.
Post training, Bachubhai kept his bee-boxes in a half acre vegetable patch, where he was growing cucumber, bitter gourd and ridge gourd. He was pleasantly surprised when the yield almost doubled. He says, “I saw more flowers and lesser pests even without spraying chemicals”. Since then he has stopped using pesticides. Bachubhai observed that his neighbours also experienced better yields and less flowers dying prematurely. His income has increased after beekeeping, through sale of honey and selling increased quantities of vegetables.