Oprah Winfrey said, “the biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.”
This is the story of UNDER THE MANGO TREE’s Master Trainer, Nikhil who gives life to this quote. He is vocal about his efforts, committed to teaching farmers beekeeping, and passionate about raising awareness about the many benefits of beekeeping.
Nikhil was introduced to beekeeping during his one month certificate course with Central Bee Research and Training Institute (CBRTI) where he learned the skill and developed a passion for beekeeping. Afraid that urban cities did not have the required flora for honey bees, he decided to focus on other work although he was passionate about beekeeping. He was still curious on what would happen if he gave it another shot. Nikhil decided to try it out on his balcony and realised that beekeeping is a hobby that anyone can try even for those dwelling in the most crowded cities. Thus began his bee-autiful journey with bees and beekeeping.
Nikhil continued to pursue his beekeeping journey for a while at his home in Pune. He painstakingly cleaned the bee box, checked for signs of disturbance, ill health in the hive and simply observed the colony and how they interacted with each other – the more he worked on his bee boxes the closer he felt to nature. He continued beekeeping for a while and decided he wanted to dedicate more time to the hives. Nikhil learned about Under The Mango Tree’s work and applied. He joined the team and starting working on improving the livelihoods of marginalized farmers through beekeeping. Under The Mango Tree trains farmers on beekeeping to bring them additional income through honey and increase their agricultural yield.
Nikhil has a few goals he wants to meet with Under The Mango Tree such as figuring out ways to establish more Apiaries (a collection of bee-boxes at a location earmarked for demos and experiments), Colony Rearing (multiplying bee colonies faster using special techniques) and control absconding (when bees abandon the bee-box due to various issues). That’s not all, there are two other wild native bee species – ‘Trigona Bee’ also know as ‘Stingless bee’ and ‘Apis Dorsata’ also known as the ‘Indian Rock-bee’ that he is wants to learn about.
Beekeeping comes with its own set of obstacles. Finding new locations for beekeeping can be a huge challenge. There are many criterias that need to be met for an area to be suitable for beehives. Another challenge Nikhil faces is the reduced tree diversity in the forests around Under The Mango Tree’s sites in Dhule, Maharashtra, where he is based.
The mainly timber-trees means less variety not only for bees but also for long term overall ecosystem health and functioning. One way Under The Mango Tree has thought of overcoming this issue, is by encouraging farmers to plant select native crops and fruit trees which would be valuable sources of bee food as well as contribute to the farmers incomes. Nikhil is a key team member in this new endeavour.
As someone who constantly loves to learn, and experiment with new techniques, Nikhil loves that his job allows him the flexibility to do just that. “Comb honey” is an exciting new concept he is in charge of piloting, where beekeepers would earn a premium price and consumers would access pure, natural honey. Communicating the idea to farmers, devising a plan for implementation, identifying key issues, are some of the key activities he will be working on.
Reflecting on his journey so far, he says it was bees that got him into beekeeping. Apart from that, his mentor and good friend Jitin Anand also had a big hand in encouraging him to doggedly pursue his passion and explore ways to develop his skill as a beekeeper.
When you find your calling, it is hard to resist it. Nikhil learned that once you fall in love with something, there is no going back. He is amazed that a hobby he took on out of fun has brought him full circle in a career working with bees. Reminiscing about his journey he is happy he didn’t give up on beekeeping blindly without giving it a real chance. When you are really passionate about something you will figure out a way to make it happen and make it look easy to others.