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5 Aug 2015 | KSL

Community based chyura and beekeeping enterprise improves rural livelihoods

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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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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