Beekeeping livelihoods in the Himalayas
Uma Partap, Co-ordinator Honey bees Project, ICIMOD, GPO Box 3226, Kathmandu, Nepal
For over two decades the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has been promoting beekeeping, raising awareness of the importance of honey bees as pollinators, and drawing attention to the important roles of Himalayan indigenous bees. Many factors still need to be addressed so that farmers can make the most of beekeeping for income and rural development. Most important of these are to exploit market opportunities by using a value chain approach, to create an enabling environment for trade, to improve the knowledge of experts in topics important for beekeeping development, and to promote awareness of the role of bees as pollinators for agricultural productivity and biodiversity.
The present phase of the Austrian Development Agency supported project Improving livelihoods through knowledge partnerships and value chains of bee products and services in the Himalayas is to address these issues. We are working with 17 partners in the countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region. Efforts are being made to promote equitable participation of women in all project activities.
Pro-poor value chains for honey
Competition in the honey and bee product sector is fierce and it can be difficult for farmers to access markets to sell their produce at reasonable prices. In our project, stakeholders are using a value chain approach to analyse market pathways and maximise benefits. This approach addresses the factors that determine whether a product meets market requirements concerning quality, price, dependability, volume, design, and speed of delivery. A pro-poor value chain for honey will help producers to improve their incomes from bee products by bringing quality into their production and enhancing their marketing prospects.
We conducted action research to assess current honey value chains. Honey production, harvesting, processing and marketing practices were studied in sites in the Chittagong Hills (Bangladesh), Himachal and Uttarakhand Provinces (India), Dadeldhura District (Nepal) and Chitral District (Pakistan) to identify leverage points in the chain where interventions can be made. Area specific action plans have been developed and the partner organisations are being supported to implement them.
Our project is helping HKH countries to develop residue monitoring plans, traceability parameters, national honey sampling policies, and Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines to address the issues of quality and honey trade. The results are being shared with our partners, beekeepers and honey processors.
Although many agricultural universities, training centres, vocational training institutes, and NGOs provide training in beekeeping, the content and delivery of the curricula vary, and topics like value chains, honey trade policies, and gender and social equity are rarely included in courses. Our project has developed and strengthened partnerships with technical institutions and universities developing curricula on sustainable apiculture for a wide range of stakeholders. Basic beekeeping training courses tested by partners in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal were well received by the participants as they addressed new areas including honey value chains and social issues such as gender. Academic curricula have also been developed jointly with partners in Bhutan and Pakistan. These curricula are being implemented for teaching undergraduate courses in agriculture universities in Pakistan and at the College of Natural Resources, Bhutan.
Pollination and ecosystem services
There are indications of a marked decline in the diversity and abundance of pollinators as a result of indiscriminate pesticide use, land use change, and other factors. This must have adverse impact on natural pollination, agricultural productivity and maintenance of biodiversity. ICIMOD has focused effort to raise awareness of this issue and to promote honey bees as an input in agricultural production technologies. However, we still need to gather hard data on the value of pollinators to convince those at policy and planning level.
In its current phase our project and our partners in India, Nepal and Pakistan are undertaking various activities including field demonstrations of the impact of bee pollination on crop yield and quality, organising awareness camps, wall painting, developing posters and brochures to raise awareness of the importance of pollination services provided by honey bees.
More information at www.icimod.org