32

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!

Chabildas1

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
49

Social Story – Hemraj Maskole, Master Trainer

Hemraj 1

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.

Hemraj 2

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.

 

57

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

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

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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

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

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62

Social Story – Carly’s Visit to the field

UTMT recently hosted young Carly Forcade, a final year student from Mount Holyoke College, U.S. Carly’s assignment focused on filming women farmer impact stories across UTMT’s projects in Maharashtra and Gujarat, which necessitated roughing it out in remote tribal villages. Carly counts the experience as an amazing one, it having helped her push her limits and recognize her adaptive capacities.

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 At the first location in Dhule, Maharashtra, with women beekeepers Sumantai, Sangeeta and Ripka.

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New beekeepers Ripka and Sangeeta eagerly view themselves on camera, in the courtyard of a house.

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Carly shows Sangeetatai and a few children, photos on her phone.

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Ripka, Carly and Sangeeta are all smiles at the end of the video shoot. This is the first time the beekeepers faced the camera for a video, they enjoyed being part of the process.

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She had some fun moments too – here she tries her hand at cleaning rice in Dakshaben’s home in Gujarat.

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One of the videos captured the women’s Self Help Group in Nanapada village of Dangs, Gujarat, which tailors swarm bags and bee veils needed to do beekeeping. At the end, Premilaben showed Carly how to work a sewing machine, much to her delight.

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Beekeeping with NABARD

Dangs (Gujarat) and Dhule (Maharashtra) rank among India’s most backward districts in a number of development indices due to high percentage of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Caste populations, low wages, and low productivity. UTMT’s collaboration with NABARD aims to improve the livelihoods of 1,000 WSHG (Women’s Self Help Group) women in these districts by training them in low–cost homestead beekeeping with the indigenous bee Apis cerana indica.

Nabard - logoThe pilot project, started in December 2013, focuses on women from local WSHGs (Women Self Help Groups) and is the first initiative in the country to take Apis cerana beekeeping to WSHGs. A formal inauguration ceremony was held in November 2014 in Sakhri block, Dhule, with the District Collector Dhule, NABARD DDM Dhule, and other district officials in attendance, which attracted much local attention.

Beekeeping trainings are underway at the village level, to familiarize trainees with bee box maintenance and bee behaviour across all seasons. It comprises an initial basic 2-day theory-cum-practical session where trainees are taught about types of honeybees, benefits of beekeeping and the technique of transferring bee colonies from the wild into a beebox. Thereafter, the UTMT team handholds the trainees through fortnightly follow-up visits at the farm gate and quarterly seasonal trainings at the village level.

The women have progressed steadily, participating in training sessions enthusiastically. Many have even begun independently transferring bees into boxes with minimal assistance, an especially skilled technique. Thirty two women showing special initiative have been selected to become “Master Trainers”, tasked with looking after all beeboxes within their village and reporting progress to the field staff. Master Trainers are crucial to the programme’s expansion. They undergo advanced beekeeping training at Master Trainer workshops, conducted by UTMT’s technical team. Four such intensive workshops have been held to date in Dangs and Dhule, with nearly full attendance. Monthly interactive Master Trainer meetings enable a review of progress, sharing on beekeeping issues faced and target setting for the next month.

DSCN0309Towards building a local “beekeeping ecosystem”, UTMT conducts activities that not only support the beekeeper but also serve as an income generating stream for non-beekeepers. These include beebox-making trainings with 5 carpenters, bee colony spotting trainings with cowherds and goatherds, and swarm bag/ bee veil tailoring sessions with 36 women. These micro-enterprises supply beekeeping inputs required to sustain a beekeeper. Three local Beekeeping Resource Centres (BRCs) have been set up under the project. They serve as hubs for skill trainings, storage of starter kits and inputs, Master Trainer meetings, and provision of technical services.
This project has been crucial in proving that beekeeping can be practiced very successfully by women in tribal communities. Their attention to detail, perseverance and evolved confidence with the activity are exemplary. With a full-fledged self-sustaining set-up operational, beekeeping in Dangs and Dhule is geared for expansion even after the project ends in 2016.

Vimaltai’s story, Dhule
Vimaltai 1Vimal Dilip Vadvi hails from a small village in Dhule, one of Maharashtra’s most backward tribal districts. She is among UTMT’s first woman beekeepers to master the technique of transferring bee colonies from nature into beeboxes. Her love for bees is apparent as she speaks: “People in the village now know that other women and I are good at filling bees into boxes. When they spot a colony, they promptly inform us and we rush to transfer the bees into their beebox”.
Even Technical Assistant, Chhabildas Jadhav expressed amazement at her skill. “In all my years of teaching both men and women farmers, I haven’t come across anyone who could successfully begin beekeeping after only two demonstrations”. Vimaltai has 2 beeboxes of her own and is excitedly waiting to extract honey in the upcoming honey flow seasons. She envisages 50 farmers in her village keeping 2 beeboxes each; which will increase their incomes through higher agricultural yields and sale of honey.

Vimaltai highlights the immense potential that every farmer has, to lift themselves from poverty with the help of a simple beebox.

IMG_6336DakshabenIMG_20150224_175740Sharmilaben

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Dang Baseline – June 2015

The Monitoring & Evaluation team here at UTMT have been busy bees these days! On the heels of the Dhule leg of the NABARD baseline study, a second baseline was recently conducted in Dang district of Gujarat, where UTMT is teaching beekeeping to women’s Self Help Groups with support from NABARD. 102 women across 10 village were surveyed in 6 days. It marks the first time UTMT has surveyed such a large number of beneficiaries, and the team worked very hard to meet the target in record time.

Photo-snippets from the field:

Some farmers are extremely shy, some less shy but still take time to open up, while others are chatty as ever from the start. This particular lady in Bhapkal village belonged to the second category. It took Program Associate Pradeep time to make her comfortable with the survey.
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The local dialect in Dang is Dangi, a mixture of Marathi and Gujarati. We relied on a pair of local college students to communicate with the community all through the survey. Here, the intern Dipesh explains a point made by the woman, to Rhea, Senior Program Officer who focuses on capturing the data in her notes.
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Program Associate Christina alongwith field staff Manilalbhai and an intern, listen while a trainee in Pimpri village explains about her experience with bees.
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The process often turns into an attraction for curious neighbours and passers-by, something the team is used to. Here in Bhapkal village, Dhara, Team Leader Gujarat (left) leads the discussion.
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The team often shares light moments, especially when they try to speak the local language. It becomes a source of much amusement to the community, like this time when Rhea tried to!
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Relaxing after a hard day’s work at at the famous Giradhod waterfall.
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Our Successful Master Trainer Workshop – April 2015

UTMT’s “Master Trainers” are farmers who have demonstrated more interest and capability in beekeeping than the rest of their beekeeping peers. They are part of the technical team performing a host of field-level activities: teaching beekeeping to new beekeepers, providing fortnightly handholding, checking health of the beeboxes and solving issues related to beebox management.
Ms. Smita Ranjane, a donor representative, listens to a participant making a point. Ratnamala-tai (in red sari) next to her, diligently takes notes. Ms. Smita later said, “Ratnamala-tai was incredibly sincere… we are going to try and mobilize women in our project areas now…they are often unnecessarily underestimated. In fact, they are much more organised and committed.”
New Master Trainers are identified and selected by UTMT staff from a group of newly trained farmers, and have the opportunity to attend advanced beekeeping workshops organised by UTMT thrice a year. At these workshops, not only are the Master Trainers’ technical skills honed, but also their soft skills like communication and group management which are equally essential in order to effectively engage new beekeepers.
The group is all ears for Mr Atar Singh’s tips on keeping a beebox cool in summer
The Master Trainer workshop held in April 2015 in UTMT’s Beekeeping Resource Centre in Tutarkhed village, Valsad district of Gujarat was focused on summer management of beeboxes. 20 trainees participated from 3 projects in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya  Pradesh, including a woman trainee. Mr Atar Singh Kaintura, UTMT’s experienced
Manilalbhai Gavit, an old UTMT hand from the village, assists Mr Atar Singh in demonstrating summer management of a beebox.
Technical Expert from Uttaranchal, delivered the training over 3 days, covering season relevant topics like summer maintenance, flora pattern, and honey extraction. Practical demonstrations at beeboxes were held to cement the theory lessons. A few snapshots from the workshop.
Old Master Trainers Madhubhai Bhoya (left) gets a helping hand from a new Master Trainer Ambelalbhai, during a practical session

 

38

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 – Chabildas Jadhav

Technical Assistant Chabildas Jadhav

Kopurli village, Peth block, Nasik district, Maharashtra state

 

Chabildas Jadhav 36, first learned of beekeeping in 2009 when UTMT visited his village. Uncertain about his future and depressed with his meager income from agriculture and wage labour, he enrolled for the training held in his small village of Kopurli in Nasik.

Initially the only motivation to practice bee keeping was to support his family comprising of his wife and three children. But gradually he began to finding bee keeping fascinating. What started out as an income generating activity soon became a passion. He worked hard, quickly rising up the ranks from beekeeper to Master Trainer and now Technical Assistant in UTMT’s Maharashtra team. Today, Chabildas not only delivers training to farmers in new project areas and checks beeboxes, but also mentors newly recruited Master Trainers. Chabildas acknowledges the constant support and encouragement received from UTMT as a key factor in his ascent. He is grateful to the organization for recognizing his potential and giving him opportunities to develop.


Chabildas Jadhav with one of his beeboxes

Of the 9 bee boxes Chabildas owns, he rents 5 to other farmers in Nasik for pollination purposes and keeps 4 in his own 5-acre farm. According to him, not only has he seen the yield of gourd increased by 30-40%, but there is tremendous improvement in its quality and a shorter duration between the flowering to fruiting stage. As a result, he is able to harvest greater quantities of better quality vegetables more frequently in each season. This in turn has increased his agricultural income to support his family, which earlier was difficult.

Sensing a larger opportunity, Chabildas piloted Pollination services in February 2013, when he gave 3 beeboxes to a pomegranate farmer in Peth for 6 months. Chabildas visited the pomegranate farm to maintain the beeboxes twice a month. Although he did not charge for experiment, the farmer, seeing the improvements in fruit yield and quality, paid him Rs. 10,000 in gratitude. Word spread quickly in the area, and 4 more orchard owners have approached Chabildas for renting beeboxes. He intends charging Rs.1000 per beebox per month for the coming season.

Chabildas has reached a stage where he has enough bees to sell. When the need for beeboxes in new project areas in Maharashtra arises, he sells his beeboxes to UTMT. Over the last 2 years, he sold 7 bee colonies for an average of Rs. 750 each.

His financial situation has thus improved considerably since his pre-beekeeping days. Chabildas’ income sources used to be fragmented, before he joined UTMT. Until 2012, he worked part time 3 days a month with the NGO BAIF, on a monthly salary of Rs. 800/ month. His work comprised teaching women self help groups how to maintain records, understand accounting and take loans. For 8 months annually, he also migrated to Nashik, working as a daily wage labourer in vineyards. After joining UTMT full time as a Master Trainer in 2012, Chabildas left BAIF and stopped migrating altogether.

Chabildas’ wife Mirabai is involved in beekeeping in her own way. She is a member of the village women’s Self Help Group – Shiv Shakti Mahila Bachat Gat – which was formed by UTMT to create employment opportunities around beekeeping for women. The SHG was trained to tailor 2 beekeeping inputs – swarm bags and bee veils – and they have begun supplying the items regularly to other UTMT project villages. Chabildas and his wife constitute two important members of the beekeeping ecosystem in Kopurli village.

When Chabildas reflects back, he feels that life took an altogether different turn after UTMT entered the scene. He is more than able to support his family and can comfortably provide for the education of his three children. His eldest daughter who was earlier to discontinue schooling due to his inability to meet timely fee payments, is presently in junior college, while his second daughter is readying for her Std. 10 board examinations. His son studies in Std. 7. Interestingly, a side effect of beekeeping has been his acquiring a higher social status within the village. Neighbours often approach him for advice on a host of matters, and take small loans from him. Recently in 2014, he purchased a two wheeler, something he has aspired towards for many years. He feels it will save him tremendous time commuting between villages, eliminating his reliance on irregular public transport. He took a loan for for the purchase from UTMT, and is repaying it in installments. Chabildas’ next hope is a concrete house, for which he has applied for a subsidized home loan through a Government scheme.

For Chabildas the association with UTMT has been beneficial on all fronts and he is immensely thankful for the change. He comments while sharing his thoughts, “In the beginning my involvement with UTMT was solely to fulfill my economic needs, but now there’s an emotional connect too”. He feels that his journey from someone who had to struggle hard to make ends meet, to the present where he has a direction in life, has been an incredible experience.

 

 

 

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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