Farmers Learn Beekeeping in Pilot Villages in Bhutan and Nepal

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More than one-third of households have two to ten colonies of bees in traditional fixed-comb log-comb, wall-comb, or pitcher hives in the Himalica pilot villages of Barshong geog of Bhutan, Rauta VDC of Udayapur in Nepal, and HICAP pilot villages in Kavre district of Nepal. Farmers catch bee swarms from the wild during the bees’ spring reproduction season.  There are plenty of bee forage resources near the villages for bees to survive and produce honey — citrus, guava, papaya, pear, peach, maize, buckwheat, mustard, cucurbits, Budleia asiatica, Jujube, Engelhardtia spicata (bandre), wild Osmanthus (Eurya accuminata), and Melastoma spp, etc. Farmers harvest honey three or more times per year with an 8-10 kg average per year of honey production per colony. Honey is harvested traditionally by squeezing the combs.

The potential to develop beekeeping and bee-based enterprises as a source of income diversification for farmers and youth in these villages is great. Linking beekeeping with citrus, cardamom, and vegetable farming is another business opportunity as these crops are planted by village farmers and offer pollen and nectar for honeybees and bees, who in turn, pollinate crops enhancing their production and quality. To date, there have been no efforts in beekeeping development in these villages. No farmers are keeping bees in modern movable frame hives in Barshong and Kavre, however, a few farmers in Rauta VDC in Udayapur tried modern hives but failed due to the lack of training. 

To harness this potential, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) conducted a week long ‘Farmers Training in Beekeeping: Improving Rural Livelihoods through Better Management of the Indigenous Honeybee Apis cerana in Bhutan and Nepal’ 10-16 May 2016 at ICIMOD Knowledge Park in Godavari. 

The objective was to support development of community-based beekeeping enterprises as a livelihood diversification option for rural communities in pilot sites in Nepal and Bhutan. Training included strengthening farmers’ bee management skills and knowledge using improved beehives and beekeeping equipment, and the harvesting, processing and value addition of honey and beeswax.