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This Mechanical Engineer Quit His Job to Become a Beekeeper. His Life Has Been Buzzing Ever Since!

For Neil’s project, the first honey harvest from the beneficiaries will take place between October and mid-November this year.

As an assistant engineer at Larsen and Toubro, Mumbai, Neil Kamat spent a couple of years working on the company’s CSR initiatives. He would spend a lot of time teaching kids in the slums of Dharavi how to play football.

This engagement sparked his interest and inclination towards social work, to the extent so much that Neil decided to quit his job and work for societal good.

He quit the company in 2015 and returned to his hometown, Bengaluru where he participated in spot fixes conducted by The Ugly Indian and tree-planting drives organised by Say Trees.

Neil Kamat

He looked up for the details of the fellowship programme on the SBI Youth for India website, read experiences of former fellows and knew for certain that he wanted to take up the fellowship. After he cleared the interview, he was given a choice of seven NGOs to work with, among which he chose Barefoot College, a voluntary organisation working for the upliftment of rural communities.

At Barefoot College, Neil was assigned to work on the Enriche curriculum which invests in women to help them reach their full potential, fulfil their aspirations and transform their communities. As part of this programme, he was given the responsibility of training tribal women from Uttarakhand and Kerala in beekeeping.

“I am working on a livelihood project which involves training in beekeeping activities and overseeing various stages of the process, including the training of women beneficiaries in varied regions like Uttarakhand and Kerala. Today, the general belief here is that ‘Pests are not a farmer’s biggest worries, fertilizers are’. I am now a humble beekeeper working for the cause of farmers and the environment,” he says

Interested in applying for the SBI Youth For India Fellowship? Applications are open till June 9, 2017

Unable to view the above button? Click here

The fellowship started in August 2016 from Uttarakhand, with 12 women selected from four different villages to participate in the project.

“This was quite a challenge as the first criterion was that only women can apply for this training, which was a matter of objection for these male dominated remote villages. The next challenge was the connectivity to these villages. One had to trek for 2 to 2.5 km to reach a particular village every time,” says Neil.

The women were selected on the basis of their social and financial needs. Anyone between the ages of 20 and 60 were eligible to apply with preference given to widows or survivors of domestic abuse. Even though the project allowed only 12 women to be trained, there are many others who were motivated simply by observing the training.

Neil talks about one such woman, “Anasuya is not one of our beneficiaries. She didn’t meet our eligibility criteria. But she is one of the most enterprising women I have come across during my village visits in Kerala. She and her husband are growing on a tiny piece of land, what others are growing on land twice or thrice that size. When we first visited her village, Karini, she was instantly convinced about the idea of beekeeping and its economic and environmental benefits.”

Though baseline surveys revealed that other women would be better impacted by the initiative than her, Anasuya did not give up and was willing to undergo the training and invest her own funds in bee boxes and beekeeping equipment. She also managed to convince the ground partner to agree to the same. “She is a leader in the making,” says Neil.

After training, the women return to their homes with five hives each along with one set of necessary beekeeping equipment.

The beekeeping instructor/expert undertakes six follow-up visits during the first year post training till the women have gained sufficient confidence to handle the activity on their own.

The team also helps women to extract the honey and pack them in air tight containers. After quality checks and other operational formalities, the honey is bought by Barefoot College, offering the women 25 per cent more than the market price.

The women can also retain a portion of the extracted honey, to a maximum of 10 per cent, for personal use.

“In these villages, women are mostly the bread earners, while men just drink and do odd jobs to buy alcohol for themselves. This is the reason it is so very important that we make these women independent,” says Neil.

For Neil’s project, the first honey harvest from the beneficiaries will take place between October and mid-November this year.

He plans to continue working at Barefoot College in the capacity of a volunteer till that time and witness the first big success of his project in person.

The Engineer-turned-Bee keeper – Neil Kamat

“I have immersed myself so deeply into the fellowship and my project that it is going to be hard to think of life beyond it. I shall miss the people, the candid conversations and the endless learning that I experienced during this journey,” he concludes

‘SBI Youth for India Fellowship’, an initiative of SBI Foundation provides a platform to the urban youth to participate in Rural Development with their innovative ideas to address the rural struggles and also benefit from the learnings through on-ground experience.

Interested in applying for the SBI Youth For India Fellowship? Applications are open till June 9, 2017

Unable to view the above button? Click here

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