Women in many developing countries can become independent businesswomen and feed their families by going into beekeeping or working with other bee products. This is the first of several blog posts based on recent reports about the perks and prosperity that bees are bringing to the lives of women. Beekeeping gives women social and economic empowerment in a way few livelihoods can.
As stated in the Mongabay-India report, as much as 75% of the world’s food crops depend on pollination, at least partly, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).
The FAO also adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an “undeniable impact” on production in the beekeeping sector. It has affected the market and production, and therefore also the livelihoods of beekeepers. Humans had to stay home, so bees had a cleaner world to pollinate, with less pollution and general disturbance.
Under the Mango Tree Society, by UTMT Society, is a 4:28-minute video that shows the positive influence this organization is having on Indian society:
Not all honey hunters are women. More than 300 tribal families in the Western Ghats make their livelihood from wild honey harvesting as shown in this 13:10-minute video by Wild Honey Hunters called Wild Honey Harvesting in Sirumalai. View stunning Indian countryside as men collect honey from rocky cliffs:
The pandemic has changed many things around the globe, including some ancient practices. In India, across Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, more than 900 women honey hunters have had to give up their reliance on honey harvesting and become beekeepers. Travel restrictions caused by the pandemic kept them from being able to complete the honey harvesting process and to prepare colonies prior to the arrival of the monsoon.
This brings positive changes, creating sustainability and helps increase rural incomes. The initiative is part of the ‘Under the Mango Tree’ (UTMT) network, a social enterprise that works with bees to generate income and enhance the ecology. Ms. Vijaya Pastala is the Founder and Managing Trustee.
Most of the women honey hunters became beekeepers once they were trained by the UTMT experts.
UTMT data indicates that in a year of production, there is a 60% increase in crop productivity for pollinated plants like mango, guava, tomatoes and eggplant in the beekeepers’ community. Thanks to the bee boxes, families had more food during rough times. The lush gardens planted by beekeepers before lockdown included spinach, green coriander and red pumpkin.
Bees became a lifeline during the pandemic, and increased food production in the kitchen gardens by way of pollination. Kitchen gardens offered increased foods due to bees pollinating, and this helped migrant workers returning to rural areas during the lockdown.
This 5:16-minute video by Village Life Nepal shows a woman honey hunter at work:
Beekeepers relocate indigenous feral bees like giant Asian honeybee, the Indian stingless bee and the Indian honey bee from their colonies in mud and tree cavities, wherever they are found, into bee boxes. This transfer can be a tedious process that takes up to several hours, depending on where the colony is situated. Bee boxes are kept close to the lands of the beekeepers for pollination purposes.
In India, over 9,600 government-registered entities, societies and individuals depend on bees to make their livelihood. There are between 13 million and 15 million registered beehives in India.
In Kashmir, beekeeping dates as far back as the 15 Century. Lockdown initially crippled apiarists and the bee industry in this region, but the Indian government revised guidelines and eased the transport of bee boxes in states like Uttarakhand where there are almost 7,000 active beekeepers.
The pandemic lockdowns have brought much hardship to many people, so it is good to see that in this instance the lockdowns have helped many people to have a better life with more prosperity and high quality food.