Promoting Beekeeping Enterprises for Improving Pollination Services, Mountain Livelihoods and Resilience

Beekeeping has been identified as a useful income generating option in mountain areas across HKH region. ICIMOD undertook field visits to the pilot villages of Himalica in Taplejung and Tsirang pilot sites to assess the feasibility of promoting beekeeping enterprise as a source of livelihoods diversification in these areas. The findings revealed that beekeeping is a common practice among the pilot households in both Bhutan and Nepal, where over one-third of the households keep Apis cerana bees in traditional fixed comb log and wall hives. These areas are rich in bee flora necessary for the survival of honeybee colonies and honey production. Leucosceptrum canum (bhusure (Nepali) or gurmis (in local language), Eurya accuminata (wild osmanthus), Englehardtia spicata (bandre), and Prunus cerasoides (wild cherry) are main sources of honey in different seasons which form the basis for the development of beekeeping enterprise. Other bee forage sources available in the area include Albizia spp., Bauhinia spp., Berberis spp., Bombax ceiba, Castanopsis spp., Citrus spp., Eupatorium spp., Neolamarckia cadamba, Prunus persica, Pyrus communis, Pyrus pashia, Rubus ellipticus, Saurauria nepalensis, Schema wallichi, Shorea robusta, Zea mays, etc.
However, by traditional practice, honey is harvested by squeezing the combs resulting in low yield and poor quality. Traditional harvesting method also kills brood and adult bees, leading to a decline in colony strength. The small quantities of honey harvested by individual beekeepers is packed in used beer / liquor bottles and sold locally. Thus, a need for improving quality of honey and saving adult bees and brood through introducing modern bee management techniques and equipment was identified.

The existing tradition of beekeeping, availability of bee flora, farmers’ interest in adopting modern beekeeping beehives/ equipment and methods of beekeeping, unmet market demand for honey, and growing popularity for Apis cerana show that there is a great scope for development of community-based beekeeping enterprise with Apis cerana in the area. Moreover, beekeeping development will not only help farmers earn cash income through honey and other bees products, but also by providing ecosystem service (pollination) necessary for production of various crops, for example, cash crops like large cardamom (in Taplejung) and citrus (in Tsirang), and natural flora in the area leading to an improvement in agri/horticultural productivity and maintenance of biodiversity), thereby helping them adapt to climate and other changes. Further, it will also support the ongoing poverty reduction efforts of the governments, especially in Bhutan, through rural enterprise development for self-employment and help in controlling rural-urban migration of youth.

To harness this potential ICIMOD through its various Initiatives is supporting rural communities to develop a viable beekeeping enterprise as a source of income diversification for enhanced resilience by introducing modern methods/ practices of beekeeping management and build the capacity of partners, local youth and farmers in using modern bee management practices and other inputs. Key interventions being undertaken for developing beekeeping enterprise in the pilot areas include:

  • Identify enterprising youth and farmers (including 40-50% women) and concerned partner staff from each pilot area having keen interest in learning and adopting / keeping bee colonies in movable-frame hives; preference to be given to the ones already having bee colonies (in any type of hives) and has interest and desire / intention to train other people in the village and help them in establishing their apiaries
  • Build the capacity of farmers/ youth through trainings in improved methods of beekeeping management, exposure visits to successful beekeeping enterprises (beekeepers’ apiaries, hive making workshops, shops selling honey and other bee products) to encourage and motivate the participants
  • Support the trained youth/ farmers in establishing apiaries of 5-10 bee colonies each
  • Technical follow up support to the bee entrepreneurs in apiary management
  • Support in enterprise development and management (i.e. training in product development, and value addition – processing, packaging, branding and labeling, certification, advertising and marketing, accounting and book keeping, and business plan development,) and enterprise linkages with public and private institutions for strengthening honey enterprise
  • Undertake monitoring of field activities and progress; and necessary technical support and follow up