Rural apiarists raking in lolly by the bushel

Kathmandu, August 29:

Beekeeping has evolved as a rewarding occupation in an agro-dependent country like Nepal. Requiring only small capital, beekeeping is beneficial to health, economy, generates employment and bolsters the environment. This occupation is especially rewarding for the underprivileged, landless, low-income groups and women.

Data provided by GTZ shows there are over 50,000 rural households engaged in beekeeping. The honey industry can potentially produce 10,000 metric tonnes. If the potential is realised, resultant increase in revenue from this sector would be approximately Rs two billion per annum. Byproducts such as beeswax, propolis and royal jelly as well as pollination services by bees could contribute further to revenue generation.

“Some 4-5 years ago, we had problems regarding production of honey but now the scenario has changed. An apiarist needs only Rs 3500 for a beehive and can easily afford that as the hive generates profit within one year of establishment,” said Dr Surendra Raj Joshi, local & regional economic development coordinator at GTZ. He added, “Some 20 kg of honey can be gleaned from one hive per year. If apiarists set up enough hives they can earn a good living.”

Beekeeping is aligned with government economic agenda that emphasizes poverty reduction and employment generation. The variety of bees and floral resources offer good potential for a niche market. A huge international market also exists. Germany imports about 93,000 metric tonnes and Japan imports about 40,000 metric tonnes every year. In contrast, total production of honey in Nepal is only 1000-1500 metric tonnes, GTZ data shows.

“Beekeeping is now commercialised and can be done at any altitude. Nepali apiarists used to keep Asian bees Apis Cerena but now they have turned to the European bee Apis Mellifera, and ever since honey production has increased,” said Mahalaxmi Shrestha, Apiculturalist Network Nepal general secretary.

Federation of Nepal Beekeepers president Sanjeev Pokhrel said, “In Nepal’s context, 80-85 per cent of the people are uneducated and 50 per cent of them do not own land. Therefore, beekeeping is a viable business as it needs small investment. One can start with just one beehive and increase the hives’ number over time.”

Pokhrel added, “In remote areas, Rs 50,000-60,000 initial investment is needed but if anyone wants to do it on a large scale around Rs 20 lakhs are needed.” Federation of Nepal Beekeepers helps farmers by collecting honey from them and locating good markets for the produce.

Pokhrel said the federation has 6000 members. Dang, Nawalparasi, Chitwan and Sarlahi are the major honeycombs.