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2 Dec 2019 | Mountain agriculture

Beekeeping Makes for Better Lives Nepal

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Farmers keep Apis cerana colonies in log hives hanging outside of their homes in Taplejung district. Apis cerana beekeeping is a source of income and contributes to cardamom productivity and biodiversity.

Beekeeping is an income generating option in several areas across HKH region. A group of experts from the Initiative International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development’s (ICIMOD) Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalayas (Himalica) and Environment Conservation and Development Forum (ECDF) made a field visit to Himalica pilot site in Taplejung to assess the feasibility of developing a viable beekeeping enterprise as a source of income diversification for enhanced resilience of people in pilot villages.

The findings revealed that beekeeping is a common practice in pilot households with more than one-third having 2-20 colonies of the Apis cerana in traditional fixed comb log and wall hives producing from 5 to 50 kg of honey each. The area has bee flora necessary for honeybees to thrive; Leucosceptrum canum (bhusure or gurmis), Eurya accuminata (wild osmanthus), Englehardtia spicata (bandre), and Prunus cerasoides (wild cherry) are the main sources of honey which form the basis for the development of beekeeping enterprise.

But the harvesting method of squeezing combs by hand results in low yield and poor quality. Traditional harvesting methods also kill some brood and adult bees, leading to a decline in colony strength. The small quantities of honey harvested by individual beekeepers is sold locally and not able to enter the mainstream market. There is a need to improve the quality of honey through introducing modern bee management techniques and equipment.

There is a great need to develop community-based beekeeping enterprise in the area. Not only will further development help farmers earn cash income through sale of honey and other bee products, but pollination for production of various crops, particularly cash crops like cardamom, and will lead to an improvement in productivity, maintenance of biodiversity, helping farmers adapt to climate and other changes. Beekeeping and large cardamom are mutually beneficial — large cardamom provides food for bees and in turn bees provide pollination services necessary for production of large cardamom capsules.

As a result of the study, further training and technical/financial support for youth, women and farmers in the pilot villages will be provided jointly by ICIMOD and ECDF. Further need-based trainings and technical and follow up support will be provided in the village itself.

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