Their life is turning out to be milk and honey

Their life is turning out to be milk and honey

If innovation and adaptation are the key to success, farmers in Bharatpur district have shown how agriculture could be made a viable livelihood option, despite adverse factors like shrinking size of agricultural land, climate change and increasing costs of farm inputs with value addition.

With a little help from a local NGO, the farmers in Bharatpur have developed an alternative vocation out of bee keeping along with mustard cultivation. It has been a win-win situation for the farmers as it has not only generated additional revenue but also helped to augment mustard production. It has changed the face of the rural economy in the last four years in the predominantly agrarian district.

The extensive sowing of mustard crop in eastern Rajasthan has helped in the expansion of apiculture in the district, as honeybees prefer cross-pollination of yellow mustard flowers, leading to 20 to 25 per cent increase in the crop yield. As an agriculture-based activity, beekeeping requires low inputs and ensures high profits. Thanks to the intervention made by the NGO, the local youth were trained in capturing bee colonies, preparing bee boxes and extracting honey in bulk. It also extended technical assistance to the youth. Now, honey production has emerged as a viable livelihood option in a large number of villages in the district.

According to an estimate, about 2,000 youths are at present associated with beekeeping in Bharatpur and the annual honey production in the district has touched 1,250 tonnes. It has provided alternative employment, mainly to small and marginal farmers and landless workers and brought about a significant imp­rovement in their economic condition.

The NGO, which has been helping out the local youths in taking up the avocation for the last four years, has selected apis mellifera species in view of its quick adaptation to the weather conditions in north India.

An important aspect of honey production is that the exporters purchase the product directly from the bee-breeders without intervention of middlemen in view of the heavy demand for sticky
yellow substance and wax in the western countries. In Germany alone, the consum­ption is estimated to be about 90,000 quintals every year.

“A model unit of apiculture needs 50 bee-boxes and other accessories that are kept in agricultural fields near the flowering crop. Each honeybee travels a distance of two to three km to collect
nectar from flowers. October is the peak season for honey production in the fields with mustard crops,” said SR Gupta working for the NGO.

When the bee hives are in the boxes are filled with honey, they are processed in a machine for collection of both honey and wax. A minimum distance of two km is maintained between each unit to prevent a clash between honeybees from different colonies.

The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) provides subsidy of 30 to 35 per cent for purchase of bee-boxes, while loans are obtained for the bee-breeders from banks on easy terms. The units can be easily shifted from one field to another keeping in view the temperature, water supply and abundance of flowers, crops and plants.

During the last one year, the emphasis has been on scientific beekeeping and better bee management practices at the apiaries.

The future plans include establishment of a honey-processing unit and a mini honey-testing laboratory in Bharatpur and bee nurseries in several villages in the district.

Against the international per capita consumption of 200 grams of honey, the figure in India is less than 10 grams. The support provided to apiculture would not only improve the health condition of people and increase the honey export curre­ntly pegged at 7,000 tonnes a year, but also would attract investors to the regions like Bharatpur and strengthen rural development.

Now the organisation has requested the government to include a small quantity of honey in the mid-day meals supplied to students in the schools and it could turn out to be a ground-breaking action for improving the health standards of young boys and girls, besides opening a new avenue for consumption of honey. Honey can be specially produced and packed in pouches for the purpose, added Gupta.

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