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The inspiring story of OmnaTai

Omna Suresh Mauchi

Mauchipada village, Sakhri block, Dhule district, Maharashtra 

Omnatai, 38, from Mauchipada village in Dhule, is another rising star from the new batch of trainees in UTMT’s NABARD-supported beekeeping project. She was inducted in January 2015 as a Master Trainer, which entitles her to specialized training workshops held by UTMT for promising Master Trainers.

 

Trained in January 2014, Omnatai had never heard of beekeeping in boxes before UTMT came to her village. However, she was quite familiar with bees, having practiced honey hunting of the smaller, wild Apis florea bee with her family from a young age. It is this inherent fearlessness that served her well when learning the process of transferring the indigenous Apis cerana indica bees that UTMT works with, from nature into a bee box. Soon after the first demonstration by UTMT’s technical staff, she independently began scouting for bees and successfully transferring them into bee boxes, a great achievement as both are technical skills that usually a new trainee several weeks to learn. UTMT Program Associate Ms. Dhanshree Chavan vouches for her abilities, “She does colony transfers with great precision”.

 

To date, Omnatai has conducted 4 colony transfers. She often shares notes with Vimaltai, a fellow trainee and friend equally skilled at colony transfers. Together they make a formidable pair whom villagers refer whenever a new colony of bees is found.

Multitasking is necessary at such times. “My best experience of beekeeping is filling bees into bee boxes. If someone finds bees, I leave everything at home, even if I haven’t cooked, and rush there. My husband and children do not mind… they prepare tea, and wait for me to return and resume cooking. Sometimes, I wake up at 4 am, to cook and keep things at home ready, before leaving. It is not too tough to manage housework, farm work and beekeeping.”

Omnatai does not feel the activity is difficult, however she feels the need to understand in more detail the subsequent steps in the beekeeping process. She eagerly awaits the bees’ growth season when she will learn the technique of multiplying the bees to fill more bee boxes. This way, the other less confident members of her Self Help Group – Priti Mahila Bachat Gat – can have their bee boxes filled with bees quickly.

 

Omnatai perceives the increased yields of chillies, onion, chana, mango and amla on her humble 1.5 acre farm, to be the biggest benefit she will accrue from beekeeping. With the supplementary income obtained from these and the sale of honey, she intends spending for her children’s routine needs and for purchasing vegetables. 2 bee boxes presently stand in the farm.

She has had a fair share of detractors, “A few people say ‘Bees sting, why do you want to do this?.’ I tell them, ‘I am interested, that’s why.’”

Omnatai hopes to expand her number of bee boxes soon, even willing to invest personal funds if needed. She is also keen to help her group members fill their boxes and start practicing beekeeping soon.

 

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Success Stories – NABARD supported Beekeeping Training

Sumitraben Shubhanbhai  Bhoya, 43, is the latest addition to the cadre of woman Master Trainers in UTMT. Master Trainers are farmers who demonstrate special interest in beekeeping from among the group trained, and are imparted advanced skills so that they are equipped to care for all the village bee boxes.

Educated until Class VIII, Sumitraben’s life revolved around farm work, raising her 2 children and often migrating for labour work. She expected to continue the routine she was used to. However, things changed when she heard of a NABARD supported beekeeping training being conducted by UTMT in her village of Nadagkhadi. Beekeeping sounded very new and different, so she decided it was worth a try and attended the training in April 2014. Sumitraben liked what she learned, and became the first from her village to start practicing beekeeping.

The proud owner of 4 bee boxes, she says the bees are part of her family now. She worries about them like she does her own children. During a follow up visit by UTMT staff in February 2015, she spoke of her distress following the absconding of one bee box, “Someone from the village opened my box and now all the bees have absconded. I feel like as if a family member has left home.”

Sumitraben tries to encourage other women to find bee colonies, so their bee boxes get filled too. She takes a few women to her bee box when maintaining it, so that they are able to learn by observation.

Sumitraben has experienced first-hand the benefits that keeping bees can bring. On her 5 acres of land, she cultivates nagli, rice, vari, khurasani, udad, sunhemp, groundnut, tuvar, lady finger, moong, onion & water melon during different seasons. She says she has seen a 30-40% increase in the yields of sunhemp and tuvar.Sumitraben saw honey in her beebox for the first time in May 2014, when 950 gms honey was extracted. She sold it for Rs. 220.

Being from a small village Sumitraben is grateful to have had the opportunity to learna new livelihood generating activity. She feels her confidence and leadership qualities have improved. She would like to eventually work with UTMT in expanding bee keeping in her village.