"Sustainable Management of Beekeeping in Nepal: An Effort of ICIMOD's Project Entitled "Indigenous Honeybees in the Himalayas"


It has been learned from previous development efforts that the conventional development models were more of top-down and centrally driven and no longer effective and sustainable. These development efforts were failed in most cases due to the fact that very little attention was given in responding to the real needs of beneficiaries. The development efforts had ignored the role of local organizations in achieving sustainable development. This can be achieved through capacity building of these organizations and mobilizing local skills and resources. ICIMOD's project on " Indigenous Honeybees in the Himalayas: A Community-based Approach for Conserving Biodiversity and Increasing Farm Productivity " is therefore, implementing a partnership-based programme with local organizations since last three years in Nepal. The project follows the principle of partnership for programme ownership and effectiveness. Experience suggests that sustainable management of beekeeping is only possible to achieve through the participation of local organizations led by beekeepers themselves. The project is therefore, facilitating rural beekeepers to establish their own organizations initially within the project sites. The project adopts the principles of participatory decentralized approach to programme planning and implementation in which local organizations have been responsible to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate beekeeping related activities on their own initiatives. In this process rural beekeepers both men and women are facilitated to organize themselves in establishing their own grass root institutions. The following local organizations namely; Surya Social Service Society (4S), Jumla, Rural Women Unity and Development Centre (RUWDUC), Dadeldhura, Annapurna Beekeeping and Environment Promotion Centre (BEENPRO), Kaski and other Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) were facilitated for achieving sustainable management of beekeeping through capacity building and networking activities. Participatory approach was central to the activities undertaken. Various participatory methods such as Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and Appreciative Participatory Planning and Action (APPA) approach were used in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of project activities. Through continues learning the local organizations seem now more capable in managing beekeeping activities on their own. These organizations are now working together with other organizations both at community and district levels providing effective beekeeping services and linkages. Presently, the local organizations are being involved to mobilize CBOs in participatory Apis cerana selection and multiplication programme, farmer-to-farmer training and micro-enterprise development activities in three project sites of Nepal. The project facilitates to expand its impacts beyond project sites through the services of Apiculturists' Network, Nepal (ApiNet, Nepal) and its member organizations. All these results indicated that the local organizations play vital role to achieve sustainable Apiculture.


It has been learned from previous development efforts that the conventional development models, which were more of top-down and centrally driven are no longer effective and sustainable. They failed due to the fact that very little efforts were made in responding to the needs of real beneficiaries. These development actions have also ignored very essential elements of sustainable development such as the farmer-led organization development at the community level, the capacity building of those organizations and proper mobilization of local resources including the utilization of local human resources and social capital associated with them.

It has now been realized that sustainable management of beekeeping development is only possible to achieve if the needy beekeepers are involved in all phases of development process starting from program planning to implementation, monitoring and benefit sharing. ICIMOD's beekeeping project and its partner institutions have been implementing a community based approach that leads rural beekeepers, both male and female, to the building process of local self-managed institutions for sustainable management of beekeeping particularly in remote mountain communities of Nepal (ICIMOD 2001).

Beekeeping situation in the remote communities of Nepal

There is rich tradition of beekeeping in remote villages of Nepal, which is associated with genetic diversity of Apis cerana, availability of bee forage plants and a wealth of indigenous knowledge in sustainable management of beekeeping in traditional log hives. It is the fact that the native Apis cerana bees now keeping only by those, who are poorest of the poor in the remote villages of Nepal. Traditional beekeepers who keep bees in log and wall hive are poorer than those practicing beekeeping in movable comb hives. Within the beekeeping communities in Nepal, Apis cerana beekeepers are poorer than those keeping exotic bees (Apis mellifera). However, Apis cerana beekeepers possess high degree of social capital and are strongly integrated within the society as compared to commercial beekeepers. Selling bee products contribute cash income to the livelihood of remote and isolated communities in Nepal.

Several mountain communities are inaccessible, lack transport and communication infrastructure so in these circumstances migratory beekeeping with Apis mellifera becomes highly expensive, vulnerable and high-risk activity (Ahmad et al 2002). Stationary beekeeping with Apis cerana fits well in these circumstances and supports the livelihood of poor mountain people.

Beekeeping with Apis cerana does not require a lot of management like sugar feeding, disease control and migration. So it is easy for an isolated farming community to practice beekeeping with this bee species on the basis of their indigenous knowledge. While Apis mellifera beekeeping system needs all the above-mentioned management elements, which are high cost and require broader knowledge base and training.

Beekeeping experience and associated knowledge accumulated by the mountain communities through centuries is an asset. Leaving this information and experience aside can lead to the drastic implications in the context of beekeeping development. Training mountain communities in Apis mellifera management is a costly exercise in terms of space and time. This becomes much more expensive while considering the amount of investment and risks associated with the introduction of Apis mellifera.

Honeybee services to farmers in Nepal

There are three major services of honeybee to farmers in Nepal. Farmers from high altitude areas in Jumla district (above 2000 m.a.s.l.) usually do not have land for rice growing therefore, since long time there is system of bartering honey with rice from lower altitude areas. Beekeeping is one of the major income sources mainly for those beekeepers who have limited options for cash income. Beekeeping therefore, provide not only cash income, other benefits like food, nutrition and medicine as well. It is equally important to maintain biodiversity at society, national, regional and global levels. Honeybees perform several ecological functions without competing for scare land resources. Honeybees provide benefits for better farm yield through pollination service

Approaches and technologies

Austrian government funded project entitled " Indigenous Honeybees in the Himalayas: A community-based approach for conserving biodiversity and increasing farm productivity " has been implementing beekeeping activities in Nepal since July 1999 following through participatory decentralized program planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation approach. The main objective of the project is to promote sustainable management of Apis cerana and other indigenous honeybees in the Himalayas, that can be applied by mountain communities and contribute to the overall conservation of biodiversity and increasing farm productivity. The project is assisting rural communities through its partner institutions in promoting indigenous native bee strains and appropriate technologies, which require minimal inputs and low management efforts as poor farmers from remote villages of Nepal are not in position to afford high management cost and intensive care.

The project has been implementing Apis cerana selection and multiplication program for improving bee behavior and honey productivity for commercial use and biodiversity conservation. In addition, the project has also been trying to develop better colony management techniques, which require low external inputs and without any extra drudgery to women. The project in partnerships with other stakeholders and rural beekeeper's groups is trying to produce appropriate training and extension methods that help to implement, disseminate and apply beekeeping technologies in the field more effectively. Beekeeping also plays an important role in the promotion of farm yields through pollination service.

The project has formulated its own working principles and implementation procedures, which are continuously refined on the basis of learning with partners and grassroots beekeepers. The project has five major working principles that have been adopted for making the program more participatory and people-centered. The major working principles are; adopt community-based approach, ensure the local institutions' capacity is built, encourage program partnerships, adopt interdisciplinary team and gender-balanced approach. Experience has shown that these principles are highly effective in developing strong social capital among beekeepers and partner organizations with the sense of ownership and commitment to undertake sustainable beekeeping activities.

Project's sites and partners

Project partners were selected from different regions within Nepal based on their willingness for program partnership on sustainable management of beekeeping. ICIMOD follows the principle of partnership in which partner organizations will have main responsibility to plan, implement, and finance program activities related to beekeeping research and development in Nepal. The following partners were selected in Nepal;
  • RUWDUC, Dadeldhura
  • 4S, Jumla
  • BEENPRO, Kaski
  • Bee Development Section, Godavari
  • Royal Gokarna Apiary, Gokarna

Project partners have initiated various field activities on Apis cerana selection; capacity building, micro-enterprise development and pollination related issues in partnership with rural communities of their respective areas.

The role of local organisations

Participatory Planning and Extension: The process of participatory planning is being followed to decide project activities in the communities. Needs and priorities were identified involving all beneficiaries using participatory rural appraisal tools and techniques. All beneficiaries including women and disadvantaged group of farmers are being participated in the planning process (Saville N 2000). Participatory action research on Apis cerana selection, beekeeping management, indigenous knowledge and marketing issues are being implemented in different project sites as prioritized by farmers themselves. Farmer-trainers training, village-based training and workshops, and marketing related activities were also decided through participatory planning process.

Participatory Action Research on Apis cerana Selection and Multiplication: The main objective of this program is to improve the behavior and honey productivity of Apis cerana through continuos selection process involving farmer's groups and local partners (Joshi et al 2002). Participation is an integral part to this program where beekeepers take main responsibility for selection and multiplication continuously. The active participation of beekeepers in the selection process increases their learning capacity and motivation for the improvement of bee behavior and productivity. Participation also helps to institutionalize the selection and multiplication process at community level. The participatory selection process builds capacity and confidence of individuals and groups, which ultimately increases sense of ownership and accountability. The selection process starts from group formation of beekeepers followed by capacity building and capital formation at group level that are required to run selection program continuously under their own management.

Networking and Linkages: There are various government, non-government and grassroots organizations carrying out research and development activities into the development of beekeeping, honey collection and marketing. The work is scattered and has had very limited sharing of information and collaboration among agencies working in beekeeping. Such approach of working in isolation resulted into very little impact on the overall beekeeping scenario. ICIMOD's project is therefore, facilitated to create Apiculturists' Network - Nepal (Api Net - Nepal), a network of beekeeping organizations and individuals linking the whole honeybee community in Nepal. This network has formulated its own vision and objectives based on issues and problems prevalent in beekeeping in Nepal. The vision statement of the network is "conservation and development of sustainable apiculture in Nepal through active participation of member-organizations and other stakeholders". Primarily, the network will make valuable contributions to improve exchange of information and sharing experience among agencies and individuals working in beekeeping.

Building Farmer Organizations: The local organizations facilitate to develop an organized group of beekeepers, which can work together for promoting sustainable beekeeping in the communities. The main role of local organizations is to facilitate communities to undertake Apis cerana selection, training and extension, awareness raising about conservation of indigenous honeybees and market related activities. Local organizations help beekeepers to prepare a common work plan and implement together through self-learning, action research and farmer-to-farmers training and village-based workshops (Gurung et al 2001). There are so far 67 beekeepers groups formed in Jumla district. Local organizations encourage women participation in all activities related to beekeeping. There are 17 women groups formed in Jumla district of Nepal. Similarly a total of 2 and 3 beekeepers groups are formed in Dadeldhura and Kaski districts of Nepal respectively. These groups are responsible to undertake regular meetings, regular savings, and mobilization of local resources and utilization of local skills for income generation activities in their respective areas.

Few words for future considerations

The strengthening of local organizations for the development of a farmer-to-farmer training and extension services in beekeeping, farmer's participatory action research on Apis cerana selection and marketing services for bee based products including other local products is needed for a new focus in future.

In the participatory development process the villagers decide themselves for their priorities and opportunities and they tend to take an integrated approach of development. A beekeeping project focusing on poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation can not work in isolation therefore, partnership with local organizations is crucial to integrate other forms of income generation program such as vegetable seed production, apple farming, promotion of local products like blanket, herbal tea, bamboo and woolen products etc. Local organizations are in good position to integrate these components.

Considering the issue of adaptation, local ownership and sustainability participation of farmers is vital in the process of Apis cerana selection and improvement therefore, the project is facilitating to make the program participatory and sustainable.


We are thankful to Austroprojekt, Austria for financial support and help to conduct this study in Nepal. We are equally grateful to our partner institutions in Nepal for their active involvement and cooperation in completing this work.


  • Ahmad F, Partap U, Joshi SR and Gurung M.B., (2002), "Retreating Native bee, Apis cerana populations and Livelihoods of Himalayan Farmers" An issue paper, ICIMOD, Kathmandu, Nepal (In Press).
  • Gurung M.B., Joshi SR and Ahmad F., (2001), "Sustainable management of Beekeeping in Jumla district of Nepal: The role of farmer-led institutions" Paper presented at the International symposium on mountain agriculture in the HKH region, 21 - 24 May 2001, Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • ICIMOD (2001), An Internal Evaluation Report of Jumla Beekeeping Program, Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • Joshi S.R., Ahmad F. and Gurung M.B., (2001) "Participatory action research on Apis cerana selection for improving productivity and conserving bio-diversity" Paper presented at the International symposium on mountain agriculture in the HKH region, 21 - 24 May 2001, Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • Saville, Naomi M., (2000), Farmer-Participatory Extension in Jumla, Western Nepal, Asian Bees and Beekeeping: Progress of Research and Development, Proceedings of Fourth Asian Apicultural Association International Conference, Kathmandu, Nepal, March 23 - 28, 1998.

This paper was written by Gurung MB, Ahmad, F. and Joshi SR of ICIMOD and presented at 6th Asian Apiculture Association International Conference held from 24 February - 1 March 2002, Bangalore, India.