Community based chyura and beekeeping enterprise improves rural livelihoods


Chyura, also called the 'Indian Butter Tree' grows abundantly around KSL-CDI pilot villages in the Bin and Munakot blocks of Pithoragarh. Chyura plays a prominent role in the rural economy. Its uses include soil and water conservation, livestock fodder, beekeeping for honey production and ghee for cooking, medicine to cure rheumatism, ulcer, and itching, and also as pesticide and insect repellent. Chyura also grows abundantly and beekeeping is a common household activity in KSL-Nepal, This offers a great transboundary learning and experience sharing opportunity between KSL India and Nepal.  

Chyura flower - a source of abundant nectar and high quality honey to support beekeeping development in KSL-India

KSL- CDI of ICIMOD and its country partners the Central Himalayan Environment Association (CHEA) are working in six villages in the Bin block of Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. Here, farmers produce chyura ghee, which is used for cooking and sell their surplus for income generation. These villages have the potential to produce 54,750 kg of ghee annually, worth INR 5.5 – 6.5 million. However, only 60 percent of this is currently harvested as market demand is limited. Yet, value-added products such as chyura soap, lip balm, scrub, or hand-and-body lotion could be developed as these hand-made products are gaining popularity in niche market.

Chyura forest in KSL-India landscape - chyura plays an important role in local communities; is an important source of cooking oil and honey

Additionally, huge quantities of high quality chyura honey, worth INR 8.6 – 12.9 million, could be produced annually from existing chyura trees but only 5-6 percent of this is harvested today. Over a quarter of households (27 percent) currently practise beekeeping using traditional fixed-comb log/wall hives. The honey is sold mainly in Pithoragarh for 400-500 rupees per kg, bringing a farmer an average income of INR 3,250 per year. However, traditional practices of honey harvesting through squeezing combs result in poor quality, kills bees and weakens the colony. Thus there is scope to introduce modern bee management techniques to increase production and improve quality.

Chyura fruits - seeds inside the fruit yield high quality oil 'chyura ghee' used in cooking and frying;

The initiative aims to promote community-based enterprise to produce and market chyura honey, ghee and ghee-based value-added products. The enterprise focuses on identifying and promoting technologies to enhance production and quality, as well as developing niche markets. Key features of the initiative include organising farmers, training in improved technologies and learning visits for developing and marketing products. There is also the possibility of collaborating with government development schemes for additional support to encourage greater participation of the poor, women and disadvantaged groups. Progress so far includes:

  • The formation of 6 joint-liability groups that are being organised into a cooperative called ‘the Pancheswar Ghati Swayatta Sahkarita Self Reliant Group’.
  • Introducing 450 movable-frame hives to 150 farmers to improve beekeeping to enhance the production and quality of honey management 
  • Training of 25 progressive farmers as instructors at the State Beekeeping Centre in modern bee management methods to provide technical help to beekeepers.
  • Training three staff members of partner organisation at Lansh Training Institute, Mumbai in making various chyura ghee-based biocosmetics. This helps the development of chyura ghee enterprises in local communities. 
  • A transboundary exposure-cum-learning trip for farmers to the chyura and beekeeping area of Nepal.
  • Quality testing and certification of chyura ghee and honey at accredited laboratories including Delhi Test House, India and Wessling GmbH, Germany; certification of these products by an accredited organisation is being explored.
  • Linking farmers to Reuters Market Light (RML) to facilitate access to information such as weather, beekeeping, and market prices.
  • Contacting private sector organisations for marketing niche mountain products. 
  • Supporting five women groups in developing chyura nurseries, which are linked to Van Panchayats and forestry plantation schemes.
Beekeeping trainig in action -  a group of trainees learning techniques for bee management using movable-frame hives from the bee expert, HS Bora

These efforts will not only result in improved income generation and employment, but also represent an advance in soil and water conservation and wasteland development.