Indigenous Honeybees of the Himalayas: A Community-based Approach to Conserving Biodiversity and Increasing Farm Productivity

Background

Poverty and fragility are two major constraints to development in the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH). Indigenous honeybees can play a very important role in addressing both issues: they pollinate important mountain crops, which means they increase productivity; improve the replenishment cycle; and produce high value bee products. The indigenous honeybees in the HKH include Apis dorsata, Apis florea, and Apis laboriosa, (whose products are collected, but which cannot be kept in hives) and Apis cerana, which is used in beekeeping. The HKH region is also home to many species of stingless bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees. Traditionally bees have been kept for the production of honey and other bee products. But as farmers turn more towards cash crops, especially fruit and vegetables, there is an increasing recognition of their important role in pollination.

Apis cerana is part of the natural heritage of mountain communities. However this bee is not always welcomed by commercial beekeepers and farmers. Here, as in many regions of the world, survival of the native species is threatened by Apis mellifera, which has been introduced on a large scale. But Apis cerana offers potential benefits that are still not always recognised by farmers and development workers.

The ICIMOD / Austroprojekt programme was designed to develop a better understanding of these issues through participatory action research and documentation of information. The main aim of the project is to promote sustainable management of Apis cerana, and of other indigenous honeybees that can be adopted by the communities in the HKH region, as a contribution towards the conservation of biodiversity, improvement of farm productivity, and increasing farmers' income.

Objectives

The aim of the ICIMOD / Austroprojekt programme is to develop a better understanding of these issues through participatory action research and documentation of information.

The main objective of the project is to promote sustainable management of Apis cerana, and of other indigenous honeybees that can be adopted by the communities in the HKH region, as a contribution towards the conservation of biodiversity, improvement of farm productivity, and increasing farmers' income.

Activities

The main activities

  • Apis cerana selection and management
  • Integration of pollination in farming systems
  • Indigenous honeybees and honey hunting communities
  • Training, extension, networking, and capacity building
  • Marketing and micro-enterprise development

Expectations

The project expects to see:

  • an increase in the number of farmers raising Apis cerana as an income-generating activity;
  • increased income for communities involved in beekeeping and honey hunting;
  • increased farm income through pollination services; and
  • a strengthened institutional capacity of bee-related organisations in the HKH region.

Approach

The programme involves detailed documentation, action research, training, and extension through collaborative mechanisms with local and regional partners (in Bhutan, China, India, and Pakistan, as well as in Nepal). The project is particularly concerned that it maintains a gender-balanced and community-based participatory approach.

List of Partner Institutions

  • Renewable Natural Resources Research Centre, Jakar, Bhutan
  • Eastern Bee Research Institute, Yunnan Agriculture University, Kunming, China
  • Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Solan, India
  • Honey Bee Research Institute, NARC, Islamabad, Pakistan
  • Rural Women's Development and Unity Center, Dadeldhura, Nepal
  • Surya Social Service Soceity, Jumla, Nepal
  • Annapurna Beekeeping and Environment Promotion, Kaski, Nepal
  • Bee Development Section, Department of Agriculture, Nepal
  • Royal Gokarna Apiary, Department of Agriculture, Nepal