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Quote from the Director-General, FAO of the United Nations

Truly inspirational Quote by José Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“Pollination services are an ‘agricultural input’ that ensure the production of crops. All farmers, especially family farmers and smallholders around the world, benefit from these services. Improving pollinator density and diversity has a direct positive impact on crop yields, consequently promoting food and nutrition security. Hence, enhancing pollinator services is important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as for helping family farmers’ adaptation to climate change.”

You would be happy to know that UTMT has so far reached out to 3500 farmers in 129 villages in 13 of the poorest districts in India in Gujarat, Maharashtra and MP.

Picture Credits: Martin Kunz clicked in Dandwal village of Dharampur, Gujarat.

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A proud moment for UTMT

Sujana Krishnamoorthy Executive Director, UTMT,  made a presentation on UTMT’s work on 29th April, 2016  in New Delhi at a South Asia conference on “Managing and Valuing Ecosystem services” organised by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), GoI, SANDEE (South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics) and GIZ.

The aim of this conference is to disseminate and create awareness amongst policy makers, managers, researchers, and conservation NGOs about the results obtained in TEEB India Initiative (TII), as well as similar research made on demonstrating the economic value of ecosystems and biodiversity in India and the South Asian region.

Courtesy GIZ

Image Courtesy GIZ

Image Courtesy - GIZ

Image Courtesy – GIZ

13

Social Story – When our Respected Donors Trust Us all the more

We recently hosted on field in Nashik, Mr. Jehangir and Mr. Dinsoo, Trustees from our longtime funders Dr & Mrs S H M Modi Hormus House Benevolence Trust Fund. The Trust has been supporting beekeepers in Peth block of Nashik, Maharashtra for two years, where yields of mango, cashew, drumstick, French bean, bottle gourd have improved greatly since the intervention.

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Senior Master Trainer Tukaramji demonstrates the working of a honey extractor to a curious Mr Dinsoo and Mr Jehangir

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Learning from Senior Master Trainer Ravi about how bees live in a beebox
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Ravi explains the mobile based monitoring app specially developed for tracking beebox health
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Leafing through colourful scrapbooks developed by a beekeeper Mr. Mangesh Gagurde, where he shares his own experiences keeping bees
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18

Honey Papaya Face Pack

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We are all familiar with the goodness of honey on the skin. We are also aware of the amazing amount of Vitamin A that papaya brings with it. A combination of these two can help radiate a natural shine from your skin, thereby making it soft and supple. Here’s how you make a quick Honey-Papaya Face Pack.

You will Need:

  1. A piece of ripe papaya
  2. 1 tbsp of UTMT Honey

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Method:

Mash the papaya and add in one tablespoon of honey to it.  Apply it on the face and keep for 20 minutes, rinse it off and you will be able to notice the glow.  You can also add turmeric to this face pack.

 

 

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Social Story of Success

Trained by UTMT in early 2015, in tailoring beekeeping inputs – swarm bags and beeveils – Premilaben’s Self Help Group (SHG) in Nanapada village of Dang, Gujarat, bustles with activity. The SHG forms part of UTMT’s beekeeping “ecosystem” in the predominantly tribal Dang district, where a NABARD supported project for women beekeepers is in progress.
The group has made 200 inputs so far, earning an income of Rs. 20,000 from the activity. The inputs will be distributed to new beekeepers as part of the programme – swarm bags are used when transferring swarms of bees into a beebox and bee veils protect the face and neck from bees.
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Hoshangabad Tales

With great pride we would like to share a beautiful and detailed experience of the newest member to out UTMT family – our intern Olivia. She describes her overall experience on her trip to Hoshangabad and tells us how awestruck she was on meeting our Master Trainer Hemraj and his family. Olivia was amazed to see Hemraj’s dedication toward Bee keeping. Here’s what she has to say –

ROAD TO HOSHANGABAD

The road to Hoshangabad began at the break of dawn, yet the crowded streets suggested a later time of day. Our cab darted and weaved through seas of people though there was seemingly nowhere to go, as most shops had yet to open. I was glad to leave the bustle of the city for the wider, and comparatively bare streets of the highway.

My relief soon gave way to fear, however, as our driver was determined to play chicken with oncoming traffic like a schoolboy from Grease. I’ve learned in India that it does little to worry, so I turned my attention to the enthralling sights just out my open window. As we drove, I wove my fingers through the air, bouncing them to the beat of the Bollywood music playing from the car’s radio until a panicked look from the cab driver reminded me to keep clear of the window. As if to remind me yet again of the perils of not remaining in the confines of the secure car, we whizzed past a small herd of cattle making their way down the highway without a care in the world.

Hemraj's family in the village of Padav.
Hemraj’s family in the village of Padav.

The four hour journey went on similarly as we passed goats, buffalo, cattle, monkeys, and several caravans of camels draped in colorful cloths and even more colorful people. Stopping only for the occasional chai, we arrived in a small village that seemed to have more livestock than people. Though honking is as common in India as the chirps of birds or the hum of insects, transport in the village was mainly comprised of bicycles and motorbikes and our loud car honks brought eyes from every direction. The gazes of the villagers were not unkind, merely curious and excited as our car struggled over the narrow dirt roads.

Our arrival at the home of Hemraj, Under the Mango Tree’s Master Trainer in beekeeping for the Hoshangabad area, was well met as his family gathered round to greet us. His home was painted entirely blue inside and the shade reminded me of the fabled homes in Santorini, Greece or the Blue City of Morocco; as we sat on woven beds, his children and other family members studied us from the corner of the room.

Hemraj proudly displays his bag of pollen from the Himalayas.
Hemraj proudly displays his bag of pollen from the Himalayas.

Though my Hindi is limited, it was easy to understand when Hemraj spoke of his successes in beekeeping as his eyes sparkled and he seemed to sit taller in a more comfortable and commanding position. He was eager to show us a bag of pollen collected from a region near the Himalayan Mountains, which he intended to feed his bees with. He spoke of his bees much like a father would speak of the accomplishments of his own children. After my colleagues had collected the necessary information and provided new resources for the upkeep of the bees (training videos, a cellphone for ease of contact, pollen for the bees, etc.), we made our way over to Hemraj’s bee boxes which were kept just a few hundred feet from the house.

Of the farmers Under the Mango Tree supports in Madhya Pradesh, Hemraj has the most bee boxes. He currently has five, though he recently sold two boxes to other farmers and has located a natural colony near his home. Hemraj’s bee boxes were afforded every care and protection from the gabled canopy that covered each box to the individual thatched roofs, which provided shade from the sweltering heat. As he removed the layers of protection, bees began to venture out through the slit in the box that was left uncovered by the mud used to keep them cool. Hemraj worked with skilled and confident fingers as he pulled out sheets from the box to reveal the sticky honeycomb within. The bees seemed unperturbed, no doubt due to the artful manner in which Hemraj handled them.

Hemraj with his bees.
Hemraj with his bees.

We left Hemraj’s bees to visit those of another farmer whom Hemraj often assists in his beekeeping. As I learned more and more about Hemraj, it became clear that though he has only been keeping bees for a few short years, the results have been more than increased yields in his other crops or honey for the market; he is depended on and sought after for advice and as such has become a more prominent member of his community. Before leaving to visit his neighbor’s bee box, Hemraj changed into a clean shirt, as he would leave from our next destination to serve as a priest in a nearby wedding. While Hemraj and others inspected the status of the final bee box, I attempted to speak with children in the nearby field. Our language was limited, but it did not stop us from understanding one another as one boy brought me leaves to feed the goats I’d been trying to pet or as I signaled that I wanted to take a picture of them in the field.

Boy plays in field by bee box.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Boy plays in field by bee box.

We left the way we came, though our path was blocked by some skittish cows that had stopped short on account of a massive, dead python made bigger due to some recent meal it had consumed. We forged our own path through the brush, avoiding the traffic jam caused by the behemoth snake and dropped Hemraj and his cousin off to preside over a wedding. The journey home was as lush and exhilarating as the road to Hoshangabad had been filled with sightings of Komodo Dragons and, of course, more monkeys.

Though our time in Hoshangabad was far shorter than the trip there, the experience was one which I will never forget.

You can check Olivia’s original post here – https://soliviagant.wordpress.com/2015/06/24/road-to-hoshangabad/

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The Impacts of UTMT’s Work

 

 

Believe it or not, the importance of bees stretches beyond their ability to produce honey.  As India faces desertification and the size of its arable land decreases, bees play an increasingly important role in keeping crop yields high for the most vulnerable farmers in rural regions.  Bees are natural which facilitate cross-pollination.  Under The Mango Tree strives to develop more productive rural livelihoods as a result of…

improving household income by creating a marketable surplus of agri-horticultural* produce and providing direct market access for the sale of honey

increasing agricultural productivity by 30-50% through increased bee pollination

generating rural employment opportunities through associated beekeeping activities like developing bee flora nurseries, training in carpentry, tailoring and comb function (CF) mills.

Beekeeping is a low-cost activity that only requires thirty minutes of work per week.  It is also an inclusive activity in which everyone in the farmer’s family can participate.  The children observe and are fascinated by the bees’ unique behaviors over time through multiple seasons.  The effects of beekeeping on crop yields are also impressive, with farming seeing up to a 50% increase in the output of major crops.  As a result, the farmers increase their annual income by 25%.  The women of the villages also gain employment from sewing nets and packaging honey for sales in the market.

In the words of farmer Shankar Baraf, a resident of Nani Kosbadi village, the bees create “magic” on the farms.  On his farm, where he grows adad, he increased his yield by about two-fold from 75-80kg of the crop to a record 140kg.  In addition to increasing his income to Rs. 11,000 from Rs. 8,000, he also has more free time to spend with his family, letting the bees do their “magic” instead.

Larger crop yields are a huge incentive for farmers to maintain their bee boxes; however, they are not the only reason.  Farmers like Raghu Devram Padhvi extract honey from the hives in the boxes to sell at his local market.  His honey sales have provided a fund to pay for medical and health requirements for his family.

As the farmers become experts in beekeeping, UTMT provides them with further training to promote them as Master Trainers.  Our Master Trainers began like other farmers using bees to increase crop yield, but over time, they have gained full understanding of the methods of successful beekeeping.  Not only do they teach other farmers in neighboring villages and districts, they also gained the confidence to fulfill the role of a leader.  Their enthusiasm and expertise are the foundation of our work at the local level.

The farmers of India are finding revolutionary ways to farm with the help of organizations like ours.  Under The Mango Tree is a leading social enterprise for rural livelihood development and we hope to set a model for any other organizations that are focused on improving the lives of Indian farmers.

utmt team giving snack to Casa Montessori kids

The Rich & Unique History of Honey

Honey is a natural sweetener that has been used since ancient times.  The earliest evidence of honey hunting was found on a wall painting in a cave in Valencia, Spain.  It depicts a human figure hanging on the side of a tree with a bucket, bees in the surrounding and a hive in the tree.  Archeologists suggest that it was painted over 8,000 years ago.  Likewise, the oldest honey remains were found in Georgia in a clay vessel that dates back to approximately 4,700 to 5,500 years ago.

 

 

Even though the evidence proves that honey existed 8,000 years ago, the usage of honey in cultural contexts proceeds the prove of existence.  For example, in India, honey was documented in both Vedas and Ayurveda texts demonstrating their natural healing properties that were used for spiritual and therapeutic purposes.  Because it is a natural ingredient that is rich in nutrients, many still use honey to cure sicknesses.  It is often consumed along with medicines, teas, and dried fruits.

In Hinduism, honey is known as one of the five magical and medicinal potions of immortality that is used for deities in the Madhu abhisheka ritual.  In Buddhism, honey symbolizes peace, a time when the Buddha left his palace to live in the wilderness.  It has been said that a monkey offered him honey in an act of kindness.  In Islam, the Qur’an states in a Surah called an-Nahl (the Bee) that honey is highly recommended for healing purposes because it is nutritious and healthy.  Every region and religion has their own interpretation of the usages of honey, but agreeably, it is a healthy ingredient that has the power to heal.

 

 

 

Throughout history, honey has been consumed, traded, gifted, bathed in, and fixed wounds.  It had a large variety of usages for its nutrients and its sweetness.  In ancient Egypt, the honeycomb was even preserved and buried in the tombs of the pharaohs so that honey will be present in their afterlives.

It is a global ingredient that exists in all parts of the world and has unique histories depending on the region and culture.  It has profound significance and importance in healing that it is the perfect gift to show care and to wish a friend, family, or colleague well.  The uniqueness in the variety of flavors depends on the region in which the bees pollinated, which means no two honeys taste exactly the same!  Honey has exciting flavors and a rich history that it is considered as one of the oldest and most sacred ingredients.

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Natural Process of Bee Pollination

 

I bet you don’t think about bees every time you sit down to eat a meal, but they are an integral part of the food production process.  Without bees, the world would not have apples, onions, cucumbers, oranges, and many other fruits and vegetables, because they depend on pollination, which only bees can provide!  But it’s not just fruits and vegetables that are pollinated; nuts like almonds from trees need bees to help them grow as well!

So what is pollination?  The process of pollination is the transfer of male pollen to the female part (known as the sigma) of a crop.  Some crops are able to self-pollinate, which means they can transfer the male pollen to an existing stigma of themselves.  Other crops like blueberry plants and grapefruit trees require cross-pollination, a bee-facilitated process of transferring the male pollen to the stigma of another crop of the same type.  When the bees gather nectar from the crops, the male pollen sticks to their fuzzy bodies and then is rubbed off on another crop.  Once pollinated, the crops are fertilized in order for their seeds to be matured.  In addition to helping plants, the bees produce honeys that take on the unique flavors of the crops that they pollinate!

Though the process seems simplistic, some flowers like orchids have complex mechanisms to attract bees for the purpose of pollination.  Orchids use methods like food deception and sexual deception to appear attractive to bees.  In food deception, the orchids appear or smell as though they produce nectar when in fact they do not produce anything edible for the bees.  The attraction nevertheless draws the bees in search of the nectar, which leads them to carry male pollen through their fuzzy bodies to another orchid.  More interestingly, food deception is less effective than sexual deception.  In sexual deception, the orchids appear as female bees to attract male bees to visit the plant and facilitate the pollination process.  However, the orchid can only appear as only one female pollinator – bee, wasp, etc. – and only attract that particular type of male species.  It might seem counterintuitive since it limits the amount of pollinators, but in fact, this method yields higher pollination rates.

 

“In other words, a higher percentage of the pollen that was taken from sexually deceptive orchids actually made it to another orchid of the same species. The orchids with multiple pollinators had more pollen taken from their flowers, but more of that pollen was lost — dropped to the ground or deposited in flowers of the wrong species.

So it appears that specializing with one pollinator — and appealing to it with sex — makes for a more direct line from one orchid flower to another, with less precious pollen lost in the transport process.”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091217183442.htm

 

The world of pollination is incredibly fascinating.  Without bees and their hard work to process the natural wonders of crop production, many fruits, vegetables, flowers and nuts would not exist.  They are an integral part of food production that have the ability to increase yields without using pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are harmful to other plants on the farms, pollinating animals, and consumers – us!  Keep the environment friendly and consumers safe by promoting the work of bees on every farm!

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Impact

Since March 2009, UTMT has grown from just sourcing honey to providing beekeeping training, capacity-building and ensuring market access to nearly 3000 farmers across 6 states over the country impacting more than 15,000 rural lives including farmer’ families. Some of these activities have involved:
• Training 1,432 farmers in beekeeping including women, thereby increasing their income by Rs 10,000 -12,000/ annually.
• Providing 1,500 small beekeepers direct market access for their sustainably harvested honey and increasing their annual income by 25%.
• Trained 1,432 farmers in beekeeping and demonstrating a 50% increase in yields of important crops.
• Creating 55 Master Trainers to provide support to scale up the BPR model at farm level and by Rs 12,000 per annum.
• Bringing to the market 10 Metric Tonnes of honey and 5 Metric Tonnes of beeswax.
• Impact of Beekeeping on Agricultural Productivity:
• Results from a UTMT short-term research study on the impact of beekeeping with the indigenous Apis cerana indica on agricultural productivity, show that all of the 16 locally important plants studied demonstrated productivity increases, with the highest being Capsicum (Bell Pepper) at 227% and ridge gourd at 27%.

• Examples of increased agricultural productivity at the farm level are as follows:
• These remarkable increases in agricultural yields as a result of beekeeping, have substantially increased marketable surpluses of both food and cash crops for farmer families, increasing their incomes by over 50%.
• UTMT’s BPR model has showed farmers that beekeeping is quite feasible and possible in areas where unsustainable honey hunting was previously practiced, leading to a decline in the local bee populations.
• Delete everything from Our Future Plans. Creat new subtitle–Our Future Plans–under the About Us header