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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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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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Case Study – Vitthal Choudhary, Beekeeper

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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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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!