Bees Boost Business for Bhutan’s Farmers

Tsering Wangdi Sherpa with his beehive and honey

Tshering Wangdi Sherpa was a small farmer living in Darachu, Bhutan who kept a few colonies of honeybees in log hives and harvested what honey he could squeezing the combs by hand. 

In 2010, Tshering participated in a beekeeping training organised by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and Renewable Natural Resources Research and Development Centre (RNR-RDC) Jakar in Galephu. 

With the new information he gathered from the training, Tshering went home and changed his beekeeping practices. He started beekeeping using movable-frame hives. Wanting to learn more, Tshering also participated in other workshops organised jointly by ICIMOD and the Department of Livestock, MOAF, RG Bhutan. The farmer was able to visit beekeepers and bee-based enterprises in Atital VDC of Dadeldhura district, Nepal; to learn about queen rearing training in Dagapela of Dagana district in Bhutan; and learned the art of beehive making in Kathmandu, Nepal. 

Today, Tshering has become a successful beekeeper and his curiosity and persistence serves as an inspiration to others. Last year Tshering had 50 honeybee colonies, Apis cerana, in movable frame hives. Last year he earned Nu 100,000 from selling honey. In addition, he constructed and sold ten beehives and ten bee colonies earning Nu 50,000. Now, he sells honey in clean glass bottles of 250 grams and 500 grams from his home. Beekeeping has become a main source of cash income to Tshering and his family. 

In Bhutan Apis cerana honey sells for Nu 1000 per kg, a beehive for Nu 3,000, and a bee colony for Nu 500 per frame. Tshering says there is a huge demand for honey and beekeepers do not have any problems in selling it.  

Tshering is also engaged in vegetable cultivation and is the chairperson of the vegetable farmers’ group of his area. He encourages others in beekeeping and promised to support ICIMOD’s Himalica pilot project in Barshong as resource person. His efforts have started making impact in Bhutan as successful bee entrepreneurs have started coming from different districts of the country including Chukha, Dagana, Sarpang and Tsirang.  

ICIMOD has been supporting the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest (MOAF), Royal Government (RG) of Bhutan in promoting beekeeping as an income and employment generating option for the rural people, particularly youth. In this context, the programme is working in collaboration with RNR-RDC, Jakar and the Department of Livestock to build the capacity of institutions and farmers. Capacity building efforts include training officers and farmers, conducting hands-on workshops and visits, and providing equipment support. 

As a result, several rounds of training in bee management, queen rearing, management and control of bee diseases, pest and predators, bee flora and pollination management, and marketing of honey and other bee production were organised at Kathmandu as well as in different villages in Bhutan. Specialised trainings in beehive and other equipment making and mass queen rearing were provided to key enterprising farmers. Visits of key farmers and officers to successful beekeeping areas and bee enterprises in Nepal were made, and equipment support provided to build the capacity of district offices.