Posts

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Social Story: Our UTMT Champion

We have had a string of wonderful guests visit our rural project sites recently. In March, our Gujarat team hosted Mr. Martin Kunz – an accomplished, passionate beekeeper and fairtrade expert from the United Kingdom. Mr Kunz has been an enthusiastic UTMT supporter and provides valuable inputs from his many decades long career in the sector. Keen to learn about the impact of UTMT’s work, he interacted extensively with the beekeepers and UTMT staff, comparing and contrasting beekeeping practices with those of other regions in India and the West.

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At Tutarkhed village in Valsad district, a group of women beekeepers chats with Mr Kunz and his wife, with UTMT’s Gujarat team leader Dhara Patel translating along the way.

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Photographing the bees!

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Getting a close-up of the honey extraction process, aided by Master Trainers Madhubhai and Manilalbhai

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Thrilled to see UTMT’s latest experimental initiative – mud hives built using locally available raw materials. If successful, it will keep the hive cool in scorching summer months and help reduce starter kit costs.

We are very grateful to count Mr. Kunz as one of UTMT’s champions!

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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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UTMT Technical Assistant – Chabildas Jadhav

Chabildas Jadhav, 37, is UTMT’s most experienced Technical Assistant, having risen through the ranks from beekeeper, over 6 years. Hailing from Kopurli village in Nasik, he is a crucial part of the Maharashtra field team, travelling to new project villages in neighbouring districts to teach new farmers how to beekeep.

Chabildas also mentors the new bunch of Master Trainers from Maharashtra’s project areas, delivering trainings with little supervision.

We look forward to many more years of Chabildas’ expert guidance!

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One of the most progressive beekeepers in the fold, Chabildas constantly looks for new ways to expand his operations. He was the first to experiment with renting his beeboxes to pomegranate farmers in Nasik for pollination, an exercise that met with big success and led to demand for beeboxes from other pomegranate farmers.

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 Speaking of yield improvements in his own crops, he says the most notable is his gourds – a 40% increase, tremendous improvement in quality and a shorter flowering to fruiting period. Here he is seen taking Vijaya Pastala, founder of UTMT, to see the beeboxes

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Inspecting a bee colony closely
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Seated under a small mango tree, with a beebox and a honey extractor, Chabildas explains honey extraction to Master Trainer Tukaram before beginning the process.
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Teaching a batch of women beekeepers the ropes
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Discussing with fellow beekeepers their experiences and plans for expansion
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UTMT Master Trainer from Nashik

Mangesh Gangurde from Peth, Nashik, is an unconventional beekeeper. Employed full-time as a teacher in a local school, he assists his family in cultivating mango, cashew, sunflower, seasonal vegetables and rice on their 3.5 acre farmland in his free time. Keeping bees has become his third livelihood!

Mangesh underwent UTMT’s beekeeping training in 2012, as part of a Modi Trust supported project. He had earlier heard of his neighbours keeping bees, and felt inclined to try it for himself. Mangesh has not looked back since. Three years and 10 beeboxes later, he is much respected in the community for his beekeeping initiative.
Thanks to his teaching background, Mangesh knew about the pollination value of bees before he saw his farm yields increase. He says his sunflowers are bigger in size and more in number after the beeboxes came, with a 30% increase in production since 2012. Encouraged, he cultivates more sunflower than before.
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With one of his beeboxes. The elaborate, sturdy shade protects the box from strong monsoon winds and rain, while the water moat at the base of the stand is essential to keep ants at bay.
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Helping UTMT staff check a farmer’s beebox health. Mangesh is an important local resource person for UTMT, providing valuable inputs for mobilizing farmers, identifying flora and searching for bee colonies.
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He has become a staunch ambassador for bees, convincing sceptical farmers about the bountiful agricultural impacts of beekeeping. Using his teaching skills, he has prepared a booklet and charts on the benefits of bees, and installed the charts near his beeboxes. His success has drawn many curious visitors to his farm – fellow school teachers, an Agriculture Department officer, staff of an NGO.
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At a demonstration teaching how to transfer bees from the wild into a beebox. Mangesh often accompanies UTMT staff on new farmer trainings, pitching in with his experience.
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What makes Mangesh’ story stand out is his children’s interest in bees! Having seen their father handle the insects, they are just as fearless, much to the surprise of visitors. You can see this in the picture where his 3-year old daughter happily holds a beebox frame.
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A day in the life of a Master Trainer

When you start talking to Vimaltai Vadvi, 32, you understand just how much she loves her new pets – the bees! In February 2015, one of her bee colonies “absconded” (flew away) from her beebox. “I didn’t get sleep that night”, she says. “They are like my family”.

Vimaltai is one of the 12 new women Master Trainers in Dhule from a NABARD-supported project, selected for their progressive beekeeping skills and keen interest in the activity. She receives advanced beekeeping training every 3 months, which equips her to look after her fellow beekeepers’ beeboxes in her tribal village of Mauchipada. With time and experience, she will go on to teach new beekeepers in UTMT’s new project villages.

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Vimaltai took to beekeeping much faster than her peers. Her confidence has origins in her childhood years. She belongs to a family of traditional honey hunters, and as a child she often tagged along on forest trips to harvest honey from wild beehives. Exposed to bees from a young age, she has no fear of handling them unlike most other trainees who take time to adjust.

 

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Her 2 beeboxes are kept in her guava orchard next to her house, where the family can keep a watchful eye. Vimaltai does the rounds every alternate day to make sure the bees are alright.

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Vimaltai gives demos on beekeeping to other women when required. People enjoy watching her work, both adults and children alike! In this picture, she teaches how wax sheets should be fixed onto wooden frames of a beebox, for bees to quickly begin building honeycombs on.

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At monthly Master Trainer meetings held in the local Beekeeping Resource Center, Vimaltai diligently reports on progress in her village, challenges faced and inputs from the community.

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One of Vimaltai’s biggest strengths is her ability to deftly transfer bee colonies from the wild into a beebox. The technique requires precision and patience, and few develop the capability. Vimaltai along with two other similarly talented women, are now the go-to resource persons every time someone spots a bee colony in the village. Here, she searches for the queen bee in a newly filled beebox.

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At another demonstration in a neighbouring village, wearing a protective bee veil.

 

 

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Social Story – Hemraj Maskole, Master Trainer

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Hemraj Maskole, 30, is one of UTMT’s most promising Master Trainers from the first batch of beekeepers in Madhya Pradesh. Hailing from the small forested hamlet of Padav in Hoshangabad district, Hemraj is a progressive farmer who loves learning new things. Experimental by nature, he is often the first to practice new beekeeping innovations taught during UTMT’s advanced Master Trainer workshops.

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On a beekeeping exposure visit organized by UTMT to Uttaranchal in 2014, Hemraj learned about how a wooden queen gate (the entrance through which bees enter & exit a beebox) was more effective in summers than the commonly-used metal one.  Returning home, he set to work fashioning a wooden queen gate on his own. He proudly shows it off to whoever visits.

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For Hemraj, his bees are like his pets. He attentively tends to them in all seasons, practising every tip learned from UTMT staff. Here, he has religiously plastered his beeboxes with moist mud externally, to cool the hive in searing hot 45 degree summers

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Checking on his beeboxes in the rains, with the help of fellow farmers. He takes great pains to keep the box dry using basic, readily available local materials – building a straw shade and covering the top with a plastic sheet.

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In the last two years, Hemraj’s technical skills have developed so well, he has been given the responsibility of teaching trainees from new projects areas.

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Hemraj with his 4-year old daughter. His family have gotten used to the beeboxes outside their home, and enjoyed the honey harvested last season. Hemraj believes that the agricultural improvements he has seen are much greater than value from honey.

 

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Master Trainer Success Story – Bharatbhai

Bharatbhai Bhoya, 25 is UTMTs youngest Master Trainer from Tutarkhed village in Gujarat. Bharatbhai initially cultivated only rain-fed crops such as Rice, Ragi, and Black Gram.

After being trained by Under The Mango Tree on beekeeping, Bharatbhai understood the role bees played as pollinators and their impact on increasing farm yields. He then adopted a bee-friendly cropping pattern and today also takes a second crop, that includes Sunn Hemp, Onion, Niger and Gram.

As a result of bee pollination, yield of these crops have increased by 80% earning him an additional income of Rs 7700/- last year. With regard to income from honey, he says “In the monsoon when we have no income source, we have honey to sell”. Last year, he earned Rs. 2300/- through honey sales with the help of UTMT.

As a result of honey and increased farm yields, Bharatbhai has now been able to add Rs 10,000 to the Rs 25,000 he earned annually before beekeeping.

His income thus increasing by 40% in just one year!