Bee cause

Bee cause

Bee CauseChintabhai with his wife Girjaben and their granddaughters
Picture Courtesy: Manilal Vaghera

Chintabhai Dhakalbhai Kakar, 55, lives with his wife Girjaben, 55. The couple has two sons and a daughter who are in their 20s and 30s respectively. The daughter is married at an early age in a nearby village but often stays with her daughters in Painkhed. One of the son works as a daily wage labor in a factory in the nearby city of Valsad. The other son lives with his parents and assists them in farming.

The family lives in a small village called Painkhed. The village is as small as it is difficult to find it on Google search. It comprises of 79 houses with an approximation of 500 people residing in it. Located at the uphill of Western Ghat in southern Gujarat, climatic conditions remain dry and hot most of the year. Villagers eagerly wait for monsoon, which brings adequate rainfall and scenic beauty to the surrounding. “…this is the time of the year where we have maximum production in the farms, with good monsoon we grow food for an entire year some years…” says Girjaben.

The community broadly practices subsistence farming which supports them target their survival and local requirements with minimum trade. A journey through Painkhed and the neighboring villages repeatedly throws up one visual-occasional narrow strip of cultivation with hardly much cash in hand.

“…you will not find many below the age of 40 in the field…it is people like us who are into farming…” says Chintabhai with a disquiet that farming helps them feed the family but hardly brings any money. Tall and clad in a white fabric chewing areca nut without a break, Chintabhai shares his story of beekeeping “I heard about beekeeping through my brother in law from the nearby village…I was expectant to make some money in hand if it worked well…”.

Chintabhai started beekeeping five years back and took training under UTMT Society in 2017 when he heard about the UTMTS-Kalpataru project through his friend in the same cluster. After a proper training and getting skilled in beekeeping, Chintabhai started it with two bee boxes. But as it is said that sometimes bad things have to happen before the goods can, Chintabhai was socially disturbed for keeping bee boxes. Neighbors started accusing that the bees would affect everyone’s yield in the farms and would hence lower the agricultural production. “…they damaged my boxes and stole the honey during Holi…it was a big loss for me that year…” sadly says Chintabhai.

“During my training I learnt that bees do affect in agriculture through steady pollination, affecting the yield adversely though just the other way round.”The family has experienced a considerable amount of increase in their crop yield since they have started practicing beekeeping. According to the family there has been a considerable increase in production of mangoes, nuts, pigeon-peas and egg plants recently.

Chintabhai and Girjaben with their UTMTS bee box
Chintabhai and Girjaben with their UTMTS bee box
Picture Courtesy: Manilal Vaghera

Chintabhai’s wife Girjaben equally supports him in beekeeping. Her prime task is to monitor and feed the bees when necessary.

Chintabhai, standing beside her proudly boasts: “…she is an expert in bee colony transfer and honey extraction, which requires a lot of care and skills…” Chintabhai started beekeeping with one box and currently owns ten bee boxes.

It brings them a profit of about 3000-4000 INR per box, twice a year. “…initially we were afraid of the bees but now we are not… bees are a blessing to us, they bring us healthy crop with high yield, honey and a substantial amount of money for us…” says Girjaben.

“Beekeeping and the training has addressed me with confidence and recognition in the village. Few years back I could not confront people tormenting me and damaging my bee boxes. Now being the master trainer, villagers come to me for learning beekeeping skills…”

The couple have never been to school but are positively hopeful for their next generations,“…now that our honey brings us some money, we can send our children to school…everyone aspires for a better life and I don’t want them to grow as farmers…” affirms Chintabhai.

Chintabhai also aspires to expand the number of bee boxes for a better income. In recent future he wishes to teach his son about beekeeping. This will help him not go far off places for tough manual industrial works for a very low earning. According to him, this will help him stay home and healthy. He says “…young boys in our village go distant places for little money; the hard labor physically weakens them at an early age. We can make similar and sometimes more money than those works at our home by beekeeping, only if we are actively and accurately doing it…”

Karan Sethi
Cohort (2017-18) of India Fellowship Programme