Farmers Learn Modern Beekeeping

Women participants learn about the movable-frame beehive setup. 

Beekeeping with Apis cerana is a common practice among the pilot households in Taplejung district of Nepal. Over one-third of the households are engaged in this enterprise. Each household has 2–20 colonies of bees in traditional fixed comb log and wall hives. They produce 5–50 kg of honey each. The area has flora necessary for honeybees to survive and produce honey. Leucosceptrum canum (bhusure or gurmis), Eurya accuminata (wild osmanthus), Englehardtia spicata (bandre), and Prunus cerasoides (wild cherry) are the main sources of honey. These plants form the basis of the beekeeping enterprise in the district. 

Farmers harvest honey by squeezing the combs. This traditional method of honey harvesting results in low yield and poor quality of honey. The brood and adult bees are killed in the process, reducing colony strength. The small quantities of honey harvested by individual beekeepers is filled in used beer bottles and sold locally. There is a need to improve the quality of honey by introducing modern bee management techniques. 

Participants inspecting a comb for identifying the adult bees (queen, worker bees, drones), brood (eggs, larvae, pupae) and honey an pollen stores

The Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalayas (Himalica) initiative of ICIMOD, in partnership with the Environment Conservation and Development Forum (ECDF) – a local organization based in Taplejung – is working to strengthen the resilience of rural people, including the poor and vulnerable groups and women, by promoting beekeeping as an alternative option for livelihood diversification. The initiative, which is targeted at farmers engaged in large cardamom farming, promotes improved methods of beekeeping to increase production and enhance the quality of honey. 

As part this effort, ICIMOD and ECDF conducted a six-day training to build the capacity and skills of local beekeepers in modern beekeeping in Taplejung from 21-16 April 2016. Twenty enthusiastic beekeepers including five women (25%) came from three different VDCs of the Himalica pilot area. A field staff of the partner organization also participated in the training. 

The Local Development Officer (LDO) of Taplejung district, Keshav Bhattarai, inaugurated the training and was chief guest at the opening session. A representative of the Taplejung Chamber of Commerce and Industry also attended the session. The training was conducted by Aniruddha Nath Shukla, Min B. Gurung and Uma Partap of ICIMOD and Chandra Kalikote and Harish Chilwal of ECDF. In the beginning the participants were asked to share their expectations from the training. A pre-test was administered to judge the participants’ level of knowledge on beekeeping. Most of the participants scored between 10 and 15 out of 20. 

A training session in progress

The training was designed to be interactive and participants were encouraged to share their experiences. A variety of training methods were used, including lectures, power point presentations, videos, group discussions and hands-on exercises. The farmers learned the skills involved in modern bee management. The topics covered included bee management using movable-frame beehives and other bee equipment; colony inspection, cleaning, and feeding; seasonal bee management; uniting and dividing colonies; the management and control of swarming, absconding, robbing and laying workers; the management and control of bee diseases, pests and predators; bee flora and pollination services provided by honeybees to crops and natural flora; harvesting, processing, value addition and effective management of honey and beeswax. 

In addition to technical training in bee management, there were two special sessions that saw the participation of relevant government officers. During these sessions, farmers learned about government programmes that promote beekeeping as a livelihoods option and the necessary procedures for getting government support. The Senior Agriculture Development Officer of Taplejung conducted the session on the District Agriculture Development Office programme, while the Industry Officer led the session on the District Cottage Industries Department programme. Participants were also introduced to topics such as packaging, branding and marketing of honey, and processing of beeswax and making value added beeswax products such as cream and candles. At the end of the training a post-test was administered using the same set of questions to evaluate the progress made. Participants scored between 16 and 20 (most of them scored 18 or 19; two of them scored a perfect 20).  

Each participant prepared their individual action plan for beekeeping development and expressed their commitment towards achieving it. By the end of the training, it was evident that participants were highly motivated to use modern equipment and methods of bee management. They showed great appreciation for the content, curriculum and structure of the training and thanked ICIMOD and ECDF for organizing it. Some of the participants asked ICIMOD to organize a more advanced training on queen rearing and hive construction and requested for an exposure visit to successful beekeeping enterprises.