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Tata Power CSR project – Women’s training at Jawhar

UTMT’s most recent CSR partnership with Tata Power in Jawhar, Maharashtra, scaled new heights in September.

Seeing their husbands keeping beeboxes for the past 10 months, the women in the community expressed interest in learning the skill too.

They felt they could pitch in maintaining the boxes when the men were away on work.

We were only too happy to conduct a training for the enthusiastic bunch of women who attended with their children.

Here’s are a few pictures from the CSR project –

Chintu Sathe, UTMT’s Master Trainer, breaks the ice with stories from his own 3-year beekeeping experience

Jawhar1

Theory lessons on the different kinds of honeybee species found in nature. The “students” diligently take notes

Jawhar2

 

Chabildas Jadhav, Senior Technical Assistant, points out the distinguishing features of honeybees’ combs through photographs. Most women are familiar with them, their families having lived in forests for generations

Jawhar3

Chintu takes a volunteer’s help to explain parts of a bee box and honey extractor

Jawhar 4

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Case Study – Vitthal Choudhary, Beekeeper

Vitthal Choudhary

Badagi village, Peth block, Nashik, Maharashtra

For Vitthal Choudhary,a 23-year old beekeeper from the small village of Badagi 3 hours away from Nashik city, keeping bees has proved to bea huge boon for his mango wadi (orchard).A diploma in Agricultural Science from a college in Nashik, he currently juggles his  Bachelor of Arts studies with a part-time job at a private company in Nashik. Vitthal’s father assists him in tending to his mango wadi and ensures that he gives special attention to the wadi alongside routine farmwork, watering and tending to it devotedly through the seasons. Vitthal attended Under The Mango Tree’s beekeeping training in a neigbouring village in December 2013. He liked what he learnt, accompanying the technical staff on searches for bee colonies in surrounding forests, and learning to transfer the bees into his beebox.

Vitthal has 2 beeboxes in his wadi since February 2014.Given by the NGO BAIF in 2003, the family’s 12-year old wadi comprises 20 mango trees, 15 cashew trees and 9 amla (Indian gooseberry) trees. His mango trees are of two popular mango varieties – the famous Kesari, and the Rajapuri. Until 2013, his annual mango harvest was 5 to 10 carats, with each carat fetching Rs. 200-300 in the local market. Vitthal’s mangoes thus brought the family an income of upto Rs.3000 annually. In 2014, they noticed a marked increase in mango output – 25 to 30 carats – a threefold increase compared to previous years! Also noticeable was a stark difference in quality – the mangoes were larger in size (each Rajapuri mango weighed nearly a kilo), and their flesh much sweeter in taste. The quality improvement was evident from the better rate they commanded in the market – each carat sold for Rs.400-500, nearly double the previous years’ price, bringing the income to around Rs. 10,000, a three fold rise!

 

Vitthal’s father points to the blooming mango tree that promises to yield a bountiful mango harvest

 

Vitthal with a frame of his beebox;

 

Vitthal’s father speaks about their beebox

Vitthal’s father is effusive in his delight, “Till 2013, the mangoes tasted slightly sour, and did not look like high quality fruit. You have to see last year’s mangoes crop to know the difference!” He credits his bees for the incredible change.“I tend to the farm throughout the year, and know my crops and trees. The change occurred only after the beeboxes came.”

The family used the extra money earned to pay Vitthal’s annual college fees of Rs.5000 and his travel costs to and fro Nashik to the village. They are happy they did not need to borrow from family and friends towards this, like they used to before.

Vitthal and his father have become firm believers in the pollination value of bees. Having witnessed firsthand the results, they hope the brinjal, tomato and fenugreek in their small vegetable patch, will also bear similar bumper yields next season. Vitthal is careful to practice the information he has gained from UTMT trainings. Having learned of the harm certain chemical pesticides pose to bees, he shared the information with his father who has stopped using chemicals for tomato plants.

Vitthal expresses eagerness to expand the number of beeboxes he owns, aiming for a total of 4 by 2016. If he manages to find 2 bee colonies, he will achieve his goal. He has already thought through the plan, intending to build a small make-shift house on the farm for ease of beebox caretaking. Their current house is situated half a km away from the farm’s location, making monitoring difficult. His enthusiasm with beekeeping shines through as he signs off, “Even if UTMT stops coming to teach us and check my beebox, I will continue to keep bees. Just the way the NGO BAIF came, taught us how to cultivate a wadi effectively and then exited the village after a years, I will similarly persist with beekeeping should UTMT stop providing support.”

 

 

 

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Case Study – Lahanubhai Tople, Carpenter

Lahanubhai Tople

Carpenter

Tutarkhed village, Dharampur block, Valsad district, Gujarat state

Lahanubhai Tople, 40, is a simple farmer hailing from Tutarkhed, a remote tribal hilltop village situated 3 hours away from Valsad town in south Gujarat. A small-scale carpenter by profession, Lahanubhai’s irregular and meager income proved insufficient to sustain his family of five. He routinely migrated to Dharampur or Valsad for four to five months a year, leaving his wife and 3 young children behind. Lahanubhai detested the travails of migrating – the unfamiliar environment, the uncomfortable adjustments, the distance from his family and most of all the exploited feeling. The lack of a sense of belonging that came with being a migrant worker, left him dispirited.

 

 

A few members of the carpentry group

 

Lahanubhai displays wooden beebox frames made by the group

 

 

Cutting wood into specific dimensions using a cutting machine 

In 2012, UTMT’s operations had expanded so extensively, that the demand for beeboxes outweighed their supplier’s capability to deliver. The need to start in-house production of beeboxes was felt. UTMT staff began scouting for skilled carpenters in the project villages, and in the process met Lahanubhai. He asked umpteen questions, trying to understand the work it would entail and prospects for growth. He saw it as a risky proposition at first – beginning manufacturing of a new, niche product. Using inputs from the UTMT staff, he mapped the costs and potential profits per box and found it worthwhile. Lahanubhai travelled to Kolhapur, Maharashtra for a month long carpentry workshop under the tutelage of a popular beebox maker. Once acquainted with the process and specifications, Lahanubhai felt more confident of his capabilities. He made 10 beeboxes on a trial basis, using the feedback from staff to refine his technique. Orders began to flow in, and Lahanubhai no longer felt the need to migrate for work, even going on to hire two apprentices from the village.

 

 

Wooden frames in the unit

Today, two and a half years and 500 beeboxes later, Lahanubhai smiles as he recalls his journey from part time migrant labourer, part-time carpenter to full time resident village carpenter manning a unit of 9 workers. He feels proud that the beeboxes he makes stand on farms in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. He speaks of the labour and time intensive phase in early 2013, when he cut wood with an axe and polished it with a hand machine. Realizing operations would be more efficient with a cutting machine, he purchased one with a Rs. 40,000 loan from a shopkeeper and a UTMT staff member. With the comfortable 20%-30% profit earned on each beebox, he made enough to repay the loan after just 50 beeboxes. Lahanubhai continues to dream big: he hopes for a stable electricity connection that will help him produce upto 100 beeboxes a month, a big jump from the current 60-70.

With the steady stream of income, Lahanubhai has rebuilt his humble mud house into a brick-cement house and ensured his children continue their education. He is proud that his eldest daughter, who was to discontinue schooling due to untimely fee payments, has appeared for the state Higher Secondary Examinations. In addition, healthcare is another major spend. “Earlier, I had to regularly borrow money when I fell ill. Now, I do need to borrow!”

“UTMT changed my life… It’s like they were God-sent. I had never seen so much money before…Earlier, I used to be worried about where my next meal would come from. Today, amounts as huge as Rs. 1 lakh get deposited as advances in my account!”

More than anything else, Lahanubhai values the respect he gets from the community and the self-confidence he has developed. He enjoys his work and knows that he does it well. Associating with UTMT has given his life new direction. He has money, satisfaction, pride and more than that, a deeper intangible joy.

Finished beeboxes stored indoors