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TBI Blogs: Why Indian Farmers Are Learning the Art of Beekeeping

TBI Blogs: Why Indian Farmers Are Learning the Art of Beekeeping

Nikhil Sathe, a Junior Technical Expert in beekeeping, talks about his experiences training farmers in beekeeping.

Under The Mango Tree Society has dedicated staff that goes out into the field everyday to handhold farmers who are learning how to be beekeepers. Beekeeping increases their agricultural yield and livelihoods. Today we catch up with Nikhil Sathe as he trains a new group of farmers in beekeeping.

According to you, what are the most significant ways in which the training session(s) have impacted the lives of the farmers?

Generally, the maximum duration of most bee-keeping training sessions for farmers or less-educated people is one month, or sometimes even shorter than that. However, we not only provide two-day or monthly training sessions, but also walk along with the farmers throughout the year, practically teaching them seasonal management and advanced bee-keeping techniques, and new inventions related to bee-keeping. I personally find this very significant and unique as I have noticed that it has impacted the lives of the farmers impressively through the inclusion of bee-keeping in their routine.

What are some of the most common questions/ doubts you are asked during the training session?

Farmers mostly ask how they can fill up the bee-boxes. Some other frequently asked questions are:

  • How can we manage a bee-box as bees sting a lot?
  • What do we do with the surplus honey? (questions about market access)
  • How will we get a bee-box, and what is the expense incurred for the same?

Can you please describe the content you use during the training session?

We use pictures and videos of every single thing we talk about in our training. Pictures of Queen, Drones, and Worker bees, where they live, how to identify cerana bees, and examples of stand and shade for bee-boxes are used. In addition, videos on how to transfer a feral colony into a bee-box, preparations before doing an NCT (natural colony transfer), how to extract honey, life-cycle of honey-bees, how bees pollinate, and many others related to bee-keeping are shown during the training.

Are such visual aids more impactful during the training sessions?

I personally believe these to be very impactful aids because they help farmers relate to/understand the sessions more easily throughout the training.

Technical Assistant Nikhil getting potential women beekeepers and children excited about the prospect of beekeeping by showing videos and pictures of active bee-boxes.

What are the benefits of extracting honey from a bee-box as compared to hunting bees in forests?

Extracting honey from a bee-box saves the time and energy bees require to re-fill honey in the empty combs without wasting their time on making the comb first. It also saves the time and energy of the beekeeper while removing and putting back the combs in the bee-boxes without disturbing the honey-bees.

It is a pro-environmental practice as honey is extracted without destroying the combs. Honey is extracted only from the super chamber (surplus honey), which doesn’t take away the bees’ stored honey used during dearth periods (without food) and also doesn’t expose the brood frame (egg, larva, pupae, etc.) to outside elements which can kill or infect them.

In addition, extracting honey from the bee-box also provides assurance of the honey’s purity. Thus, one can consume the honey extracted through this process without any processing, given that the entire extraction process is hygienic.

Technical Assistant Nikhil Sathe explaining to local honey hunters how easy it is to extract honey from a bee-box as compared to hunting bees in forests.

Can you tell us about the response, particularly from potential female beekeepers, to the training sessions?

In general, farmers become more inquisitive after the training, and are eager about the new journey of beekeeping that they are about to embark on.

I distinctly remember one instance where learning about the bees and their lives amazed this woman. She came and attended the training, and was glad she did. Otherwise, all her life she would continue to think the only purpose of a bee’s life is to collect honey. However, at the training session, she became aware of the crucial role honeybees play in our ecosystem.

Kanti Bai (left) was the first one to give her name for wanting to train as a beekeeper. We are proud to add her to our cadre of beekeepers!

What was the most memorable experience for you during the training session(s)?

The astounded look on farmers’ faces when they learn about honey-bees is something remarkable. This happens in every training I have attended so far. This feeling is very beautiful because I personally have experienced it when I was learning about honey-bees.

Farmers also thank the trainers at UTMT for teaching them about the importance of bees in their lives. They particularly appreciate learning about the role bees play in pollination. In addition, they also become aware of other useful information. They learn how to domesticate bees, their various species, the benefits of beekeeping, and the various modern beekeeping practices.

Donate a bee-box and change the life of a rural farmer by increasing their yield and income.

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