Promoting beekeeping enterprises as additional income sources

Development of beekeeping and pollination enterprises can help farmers earn cash income through sale of bee products e.g. honey, pollination services of honeybees, and related enterprises (construction of beehives and other beekeeping equipment, colony production etc.). It also creates employment opportunity for youth and farmers at or near home, thus helps in reducing out-migration of youth. ICIMOD, through various programmes and initiatives (e.g. Himalica, HICAP and KSL-CDI), is supporting the development of community-based beekeeping and pollination enterprises as source of income diversification to enhance resilience of the mountain people by adopting the following strategies: 

Understanding the existing status of beekeeping 
A clear understanding of existing status of beekeeping and agriculture in an area is important for identifying interventions and developing implementation plans for the development of a vibrant beekeeping and pollination enterprise. ICIMOD has been carrying out a complete analysis of honey value chain including number of households engaged in beekeeping/ honey production, number of colonies per household, beekeeping practices, quantity and quality of production, market demand and requirement in terms of quality and quantity, pricing mechanism, and the resource potential for development of the value chain. We are also collecting information on the crops and varieties cultivated, their pollination requirement, farm inputs and production in each of our implementation sites to assess the possibility of linking beekeepers to crop owners for pollination services. 

Development of farmers’ organisations - groups/ associations/ cooperatives
ICIMOD, in each of its implementation sites, has been facilitating development of local institutions by organizing target beneficiary farmers into groups, associations or cooperatives ensuring participation of the poor, women and disadvantaged groups of the communities. This is important to attain volume, scale and quality required for efficient enterprises development, and also to link farmers to various government programmes/ schemes. Cooperative formation and capacity building is also important to provide continuity to the activities and help ensure sustainability of the project in the long run.

Institutional strengthening - capacity building of individuals and organisations
Capacity building of individuals and farmer organisations is necessary to support production and quality of honey and other bee products, and pollination services through pre-harvest and post-harvest technologies. ICIMOD plans to ensure this through providing technical and equipment support, and organizing trainings and exposure visits to facilitate learning on the use of improved management practices for improving economy of scope and scale. Technologies/ services are being promoted through trainings and demonstrations. As such, need-based trainings, workshops and exposure-cum-learning visits are being conducted to enhance farmers’ skills and knowledge. Training of trainers and lead farmers and other capacity building programmes are being provided to key members of the farmers’ organisations by engaging line departments and experts, enabling them to efficiently process and market honey and other products. These trained members/ farmers are used as resource persons for training other farmers within the villages to outscale the efforts. 

Strengthening access to information, market, finance and technology: 

  • Facilitating access to information: Access to information on the factors affecting a value chain (positively or negatively) such as that related to the technical aspects, weather, market, quality, price, government programmes, subsidy etc will facilitated on their mobile phones through SMS by identifying and linking farmers to information service provider. Platform will also be created for organising multi-stakeholder meetings and workshops to facilitate information sharing among various stakeholders such as development projects/ programmes of government, non-government, and private sector organisations.
  • Facilitating access to market: The aim of all activities i.e. production, technology intervention, etc. is to improve farmers’ incomes, is possible only if the marketing linkages are strong so that proper demand and supply chains can exist. For meeting consumer requirements and expectations of procuring agencies, market survey will be carried out to find out the market demand and market requirement in terms of quality and quantity. Marketing partner (market service provider) will be identified and business agreements facilitated to ensure access to buyer (assured market). Honey produced by the indigenous honeybee Apis cerana is a natural, organic, high value product that sells at a much higher price in villages. Currently farmers harvest honey and fill it in used beer/ liquor bottles along with the wax flakes and sell it locally in the village, on the roadside or to a known person in the nearby town. Thus there is a possibility of add value addition to it. A value addition plan for honey will be developed to clean, package and label it for selling in specialised market as high value niche product. In addition to technical beekeeping skills, ICIMOD is also facilitating training to include business and entrepreneurship skills, market literacy training and developing new approaches to fair trading and certification systems for small-scale producers. Besides, the products will also be mainstreamed and marketed through transboundary melas.
  • Facilitating access to finance: Different value chain promotion activities such as value addition and product development, branding, etc. would require finance for infrastructure development for collection, production, processing etc. Relevant programmes of government, non-government, and private sector institutions that support small farmers through loans and subsidies will be identified and farmer groups and cooperatives linked to them. Besides, a revolving fund will be raised at the cooperative initially by providing some seed money from the project, which will be restricted to useful project activities and will be reutilized once sufficient profits are generated. Platform will also be created for organising multi-stakeholder meetings and workshops to develop synergy and explore possibilities for resource sharing with other development projects/ programmes of government, non-government, and private sector organisations.
  • Facilitating development and promotion of new product/brand: Product development and value addition would require processing, product development, packaging, branding and certification in order to be able to compete in the market or sell the product through specialised/ niche market. Value addition to each product will be carried out using good practices (improved technology), processing (quality improvement), etc. as per market requirement. 
  • Facilitating cross country learning and knowledge sharing: Learning and knowledge sharing is the key spirit of the ICIMOD programmes. This will be ensured through organising exposure-cum-learning visits to different countries to facilitate knowledge sharing and learnings from cross boundary experiences. Besides, participation in transboundary festivals and melas will be facilitated.

Gender mainstreaming in beekeeping value chain development: 
An intervention is most successful when it takes into account the point of view of everyone in the society, regardless of gender, caste, or ethnicity. Gender mainstreaming is understood as the integration of a gender perspective and gender analysis into all stages of design, implementation and monitoring of projects, programmes, policies or planning at all levels and is hallmark of ICIMOD’s work to achieve sustainable results (Ref Strategic Framework). Adequate participation of women will be ensured through organising trainings, exposure visits and other capacity building activities at the time and place most convenient for women to participate.

Ensuring equitability and sustainability concerns:
Ensuring equitability and sustainability of the programme efforts is a key challenge. This needs to work out a concrete plan and design activities so that the target communities continue to gain income and better livelihoods from the beekeeping value chain even after the programme is over. Various activities identified to address the issue of sustainability are as follows:

    • ICIMOD is building on the existing resources by engaging the economically active population especially the rural unemployed youth in the development of beekeeping by utilizing locally available honeybee, Apis cerana for bee products and pollination service. Women and other disadvantaged groups are especially encouraged to participate in the programme activities by organising activities and events as per their convenience. 
    • Supporting the development and strengthening of community-based organisations such as associations and cooperatives, and building their capacity through trainings and exposure visits, provision of key equipment, and other support such as facilitating access to information, technology, finance and market. 
    • Leveraging and convergence with ongoing projects and related government schemes to help in extending the intervention from pilots to whole landscape and ensure its continuation and sustainability in the long run is being done through regular communication and sharing of impact and learning with concerned officials, and organising meetings and field visits to pilot sites. 
    • Encouraging communities in planting trees/ plants that provide nectar and pollen to bees around the house and the common village land, and convincing concerned departments (e.g. forest department) for including such plants in their plantation schemes to help in strengthening beekeeping in the area. This does not only help in beekeeping development but also contribute to better ecosystem health and provisioning of quality ecosystem services.