|Beekeeping / Organic Honey Production|
Outreach: Districts: 5 (Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Tehri, Uttarkashi and Pauri); Villages: 218; Beneficiaries: 3657; DNPPCL total output 29 tones of honey/annum; Net annual returns: 72.5 lakhs (year end 2014); Average Income- Rs 20,000/ annum.
The rationale for identifying bee-keeping as one of AT India's programmes lies in the predominantly agrarian economy and land use pattern of Uttarakhand. The Apis cerana himalaya commonly referred to as the Himalayan hive honeybee and Apis cerana cerana are the indigenous bee sub-species promoted under the programme. The species is known to be the ideal pollinator for organically grown mountain crops, with the capacity to significantly enhance agricultural productivity. As with other wild bee species, Apis cerana plays an indirect but vital role in combating soil degradation by pollinating wild plants thereby enabling improved regeneration of biomass, to be returned to the soil. Thus, AT India's honey programme remains true to the organization's twin goals of conservation and livelihoods.
Honey production from Apis cerana is lower than for most other honey bee species but despite that it has been reared for centuries by the local people through the traditional wall hive technique. However with AT India's intervention since 1995, its output has improved through the introduction of improved production technology and practices.
. Beekeeping has become a livelihood opportunity for approximately 3657 farmers.
. Over the years, technical support and training by way of introducing low-cost, improved bee boxes has enhanced honey productivity by over 50%.
. Establishment of 24 bee breeding centers addresses the most critical constraint to extension of activities, i.e. shortage of swarms. Such innovations in multiplying colonies have significantly reduced of the risk of the beekeepers in the event of poor swarming due to inclement weather sometime in the swarming season.
. Currently AT India has promoted approximately 6,059 bee colonies under the management of its organic honey programme.
. The honey processing plant, which is established in Dehradun and operates under the aegis of DNPPCL had been upgraded with a bottle sealing machine and improved testing laboratory in order to further enhance the quality of the produced honey and has enabled DevBhumi honey to establish its own niche in the market.
. Institutionalization of the honey programme as an independent commercial activity through DevBhumi Natural Products Producer Pvt. Ltd Co. has greatly improved its marketing prospects.
. Organic Certification for honey has been received from Uttarakhand State Organic Certification Agency (USOCA). A total of 2966 farmers have been certified as organic. DevBhumi honey is also recognized by the Fair Trade Federation of America.
Honey Extraction Process
The bee box technology employed and popularized by AT India to collect honey in Uttarakhand, does not involve the killing of bees. The honey is collected in moveable frames contained in the bee box. These wooden frames contain sheets made from the original bees wax. When one frame has sufficient honey to be harvested, it is gently removed from the box, inducing the bees to fly to the adjoining frame in the box. The honey from the frame is then extracted by dripping it off through rotational motion in specially designed drum based honey extractor. The same raised frame with the pollen and pupae intact is replaced into the box, enabling the bees to continue where they left off. Traditional processes of honey extraction by the villagers from the wild, involve firing the entire bee colony and in the process killing a huge proportion of bees and destroying their home. The remaining bees have to again start from a scratch.
Honey from other agriculturally developed areas where agro-chemicals are used in large quantities; the honey produced under the project has been certified as organic and hence guaranteed to be completely free from any kind of chemical contamination. The bees also feed on the myriad herbs and wild flowers of the mountains. Therefore, the honey is processed in a manner that all its natural properties are retained. Any such treatment which may de-nature the plant and bee enzymes, vitamins and other crucial heat labile components of the honey is avoided.
The organic certification to the producers has been extended in collaboration with Uttarakhand Organic Certification Agency (USOCA). It has registered 2966 farmers for Organic cultivation in the districts of Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Pauri, Tehri and Uttarkashi with land holdings totaling to 988.89 hac.
AT India have now approximately 988.89 ha under certification, by the Uttarakhand State Organic Certification Agency (USOCA). The agency has accreditation from APEDA and also is an authority for certification for compliance with NOP, NPOP, standards. A total of 2966 farmers have been certified through a group certification scheme
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