NO Bees, NO food.
At Under the Mango Tree, we provide sustainable livelihood opportunities to low-income farmers, alongside solving a worldwide issue of decrease in the number of bees. With no bees, we’ll be bereft of one in every three bites of food consumed and the alfalfa we use to feed dairy cows. Yes, it’s alarming and I’m not sure if most of us are aware of this.
Pollination and pollinators are reducing year on year due to varied reasons including global warming, habitat loss, parasites and a class of bee-killing insecticides known as neonicotinoids. Bees are one of the major pollinators in the ecosystem. UTMT’s major role is to train farmers on Beekeeping as one of their livelihood options. Spreading awareness about the issue goes hand in hand.
Here’s a series of photographs taken in the Palghar District of Maharashtra, explaining about the work at UTMT:
Bees collect pollen up to a radius of 4-5 km. Before any project starts, a preliminary assessment is necessary to check the general flora of a village. Flora is important for bees to feed upon and it also helps with pollination. The terrain is looked upon for water shortages and habitat possibilities to find bee colonies.
General awareness is spread in a village with the help of local sources or authorities. Here, a meeting is organized for farmers to talk about beekeeping, its benefits and how we’ll support them in the process. Further, farmer selection takes place depending on the number of interested candidates.
A group of Women Farmers is explained about beekeeping and how the organization will help them with sustainable opportunities for a better future. Interested farmers are selected to move to the next step defining this stage as Farmers Selection.
A live footage of a Natural Colony Transfer, meaning a naturally existing bee colony transferred to a bee box. It’s the first step to beekeeping. Stings and swelling is a part and parcel of the process.
Resources issued to Beekeepers for quality and safety measures. Two bee boxes, swarm bag in white and a bee veil in camouflage.
Baseline surveys are performed right at the start of a project to compare expected versus actual results after the end line survey. Debika from Monitoring & Evaluation team surveying a Bee Keeper with curiosity.
Tukaram Ji, an experienced beekeeper and a technical assistant, inspecting a farmer’s beebox during one of his monthly inspections. It is important to make sure that the hive is healthy at all times so that the bees don’t swarm away.
Master Trainers (MTs) are selected from each village, usually to make them the head of beekeepers in their village. They are given advanced level training in beekeeping so that they can manage the village and be self-sustainable.
Selected farmers are now moving a step ahead by becoming MTs. Two farmers from every village are trained to become MTs for future sustainability. A virtual learning session is organized for them to have a better understanding of the subject.
A group of MTs gazing at the technicalities of handling a bee box explained by our technical assistant.
Our MTs being trained on honey extraction by a technical assistant. Honey is usually extracted after the bee box has been settled for a year. It’s a critical process as bees work day and night to collect nectar for honey. We make sure there are all the precautions taken to keep the comb in perfect shape while extracting honey. It is also made sure that 50% of honey is left so that bees don’t feel devastated.
Here, the center of attention is a farmer who was trained under UNDP’s project. Surrounding him are UNDP officials who came for a visit.
Bee boxes, as the name suggests is a box usually made of wood. Mud hive, in the photo, is an experiment by one of our oldest Master Trainer at his apiary, the place where bees are kept. Mud maintains a cool atmosphere for bees. The more natural it is, the better. It also results in strong hives, loved by bees.
Exposure visit is a part of farmer training to gain more practicality and a new point of view on the subject. Here is a picture from a visit organized for our farmers in Gujarat field area to understand the value chain of Honey.
Pollination effect on lemons at UTMT’s apiary handled by Bhikarijee – the oldest MT in the area. These lemons are as juicy as they look.
The creativity displayed by a Beekeeper’s kid. A self-made bee veil using a hat and fishnet. Beekeeping now runs in the family.
All the above pictures are taken in a duration of 3 months. Many more activities are involved to provide livelihood opportunities to marginal farmers, be it the production of bee boxes or types of equipment required for Beekeeping. It is made sure to assign activities to people from villages itself. In the coming months, I surely have a lot more to discover in this beautiful region and to mingle with community for organizational work. Lots of lives are yet to be touched and made better with beekeeping.