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Quote from the Director-General, FAO of the United Nations

Truly inspirational Quote by José Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“Pollination services are an ‘agricultural input’ that ensure the production of crops. All farmers, especially family farmers and smallholders around the world, benefit from these services. Improving pollinator density and diversity has a direct positive impact on crop yields, consequently promoting food and nutrition security. Hence, enhancing pollinator services is important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as for helping family farmers’ adaptation to climate change.”

You would be happy to know that UTMT has so far reached out to 3500 farmers in 129 villages in 13 of the poorest districts in India in Gujarat, Maharashtra and MP.

Picture Credits: Martin Kunz clicked in Dandwal village of Dharampur, Gujarat.

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Social Story – The children in our project area

Our bee boxes attract audiences of all ages – especially children of beekeepers and their neighbours. On our trips, we often capture candid kiddie moments – some entertaining, some touching and others just plain cute!

Here are some heart warming pics of the innocent angels on our fields.

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Tug – o- War!

 

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Secret hiding place!

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Readying for honey extraction

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Already on her way to becoming a beekeeper

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Let’s Play

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Smallest member

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Swinging towards a bright future

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Bliss

 

 

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Social Story: Mud Hives Training

Experimenting with new techniques, team UTMT recently learned to make mud hives and wall hives. These were explored as alternatives to the wooden beeboxes currently used to house our Apis cerana bees.
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Women trainees in Dhule learning to make a mud hive in a corner of a garden
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Comparison between a wooden beebox (LHS) and mud hive (RHS).

After completion, a mud hive will have the same eight wooden frames on which bees will begin building a honeycomb. With a shape and structure similar to a beebox, the mud hive closely replicates the internal environment bees are accustomed to living in. Using naturally available mud not only brings down raw material costs, it also helps maintain optimal temperature of the hive.
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Dhara Patel, Team Leader, Gujarat, gets her hands dirty
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A “wall hive” being made. (LHS) Work in progress and (RHS) the finished product. Basically it is a mud hive affixed into the wall of the village house. Through the wooden “door” on the front side, beekeepers open the structure to check on their bees.
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Technical Assistant Madhubhai Bhoya from Gujarat teaches women beekeepers construction of a mud hive.
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It’s time for a trainee to practically apply Madhubhai’s teaching
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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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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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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.

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