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ShardaTai – An Inspiration For Many Female Farmers

Sharda Pimpalse, 42 years of age hails from Sukhapur village in Dhule district. She is one of our most passionate new women beekeepers. Trained in February 2014 as part of the UTMT-NABARD project to teach the women self help groups beekeeping, she took an active interest in learning the skill and encouraging her fellow trainees from the outset. Today, she is the proud owner of 2 buzzing bee boxes kept on her 2.5 acre farm.

 

Here’s how it all began

ShardaTai had never heard of bees being kept in boxes before UTMT arrived. Like many trainees, she too feared the bees. After attending UTMT’s basic 2-day theory-cum-practical training in the village, her initial skepticism vanished. She realized it could bring great benefits in terms of both agricultural yields and honey, in the long run.

 

It took ShardaTai months to master the first step, that is, the art of transferring bees from the environment into a bee box. She accompanied UTMT’s Technical Assistant on four colony transfers, observing the procedure carefully each time, occasionally lending a hand before finally attempting it herself. The experience made her more confident of independently handling the bees. The next step of the learning curve was the routine bee box checking and maintenance, which she then learned much faster. In fact, ShardaTai began helping her fellow trainees maintain their bee boxes as well when required.

 

ShardaTai’s dedication towards beekeeping can be better understood through the following incident

The CEO of the Dhule Zilla Parishad, having heard of the project, recently visited Sukhapur with his family and requested a bee box demo. ShardaTai declined to open her bee box, explaining that it had just been checked 2 days prior, and a second check in less than a week would disturb the bee colony’s health.

Recognizing her potential, we selected her to be a junior Master Trainer, a position that not only gives her access to learning advanced techniques during special quarterly workshops but also assists her with maintaining all the 14 bee boxes in the village. This is one more feather added to ShardaTai’s entrepreneurial cap.

ShardaTai is the President of her 13 year old SHG (Preeti Mahila Bachat Gat), she is involved with a livelihood’s NGO in Mahim, she plays a very active role in her village development, and also takes orders for tailoring from home. Her active involvement in community development makes her the first point of contact for anyone visiting Sukhapur. What is truly inspirational is that ShardaTai handles all this without having had a formal education, and in addition to managing farming and household chores!

 

In her typical humble demeanor, she credits her supportive family for her multitasking abilities. “My husband and 3 sons are immensely supportive, and that’s why I have been able to do so much in life. My husband takes over cooking meals, if I have to go out for any work. He has been asking me to teach him beekeeping, so that he can take over when I am occupied with other work. When the boys are at home, they accompany me to the neighboring villages on beekeeping meetings. They’ve begun to take an interest too. They assist other trainees in constructing stands and shades for bee boxes.”

ShardaTai enjoys interacting with new people, something she has had the opportunity to do often during exposure visits to our old project areas in Gujarat, and also when new trainees visit her bee box. “Meeting old and new beekeepers help us exchange thoughts and bond over shared interests. It’s also the time I can convince skeptics about the merits of beekeeping. A group of newly trained women from the nearby village Dhamander visited Sukhapur for an exposure visit in October 2014. A few were extremely doubtful if beekeeping can really bring the benefits spoken about. I told them, ‘One needs to look ahead in life and not backwards. The men try to discourage us from doing new things, don’t let that happen. What will you lose by giving it a try? UTMT staff travel long distances to teach us, talk to us, senior Government officials have given this activity a lot of attention –so certainly beekeeping must have benefits.’”

 

Going forward, ShardaTai is keen to expand her bee box numbers. She is willing to pool in personal funds if needed. “In Mauchipada village half an hour away, they are locating bee colonies more often than us here. I have requested a few friends there to search bees in the forest and reserve them for us. I will pay them, and for box transportation too”.

ShardaTai is an example of the hope UTMT has for women in the marginalized communities we work with, that they may develop an empowering skill to improve their livelihoods.