Bees in India play a vital role in agriculture. A study facilitiated by the Non Governmental Organization Under the Mango Tree working with subsistence farmers, has shown that pollination can increase productivity by a factor of four (in chillies).
Bees Abroad is entering into a partnership with Under the Mango Tree in an attempt to help them improve their lives by keeping bees.
Bees can dramatically improve lives. Small farmers can grow one and occasionally two additional crops as a result of bee pollination (e.g. sesame and mustard). These trees provide cash crops and can produce higher yields when bee pollinated. In particular mangos and cashews can yield around 50% more if a bee box is stationed nearby, and the regular vegetables grown yield more too. This means that some of these small farmers no longer are forced to migrate to towns and cities during the dry season, when nothing grows, in order to earn some money on construction sites and as day labourers. With the increase in yield and an additional income from honey, they can stay with their families all year round.
It does not cost much to introduce beekeeping. A wooden hive, made by a local carpenter, costs around £10, but for an aspiring beekeeper, this may still cost too much; Many beekeepers prefer mud hives that cost around £4 to build. Under the Mango Tree is working to come up with a design combining a bamboo frame with mud (perhaps half timbered), so that these bee-homes can be moved. The bees prefer mud to wood because it keeps the hive cooler in the heat.
There are four types of honey bees in India: Apis Cerana, also known as the Asian or Indian honey bee is slightly smaller than the European honey bee Apis Mellifera. Apis Florea, the ‘dwarf’ bee, nests in the open on single combs about the size of a badminton racket, whilst Apis Dorsata, or ‘rock bee’, is roughly twice the size of the European cousin. It also nests in the open and is described as one of the most dangerous animals of the jungle …
Apis Mellifera has been introduced to India because it provides more honey, and theoretically is a more hard working pollinator. However, it brought with it disease and competition, leading to the collapse of thriving apiculture livelihoods, such as the one in Coorg, the coffee growing region in the Western Ghats.
The farmers with whom Under the Mango Tree work keep Apis Cerana, or they harvest honey from Apis Florea or Apis Dorsata.
In India there are knowledgeable beekeepers so there is less of a requirement for Bees Abroad training. However, the existing projects need to expand to include more women. Our aim is to work with Under the Mango Tree to promote healthy bees for healthy growth. By working together, we can share best practice and use our joint skills to help communities build sustainable livelihoods.