Anjaan Rai carefully holds up a honeycomb with joy and appreciation. His eyes light up as he admires the golden honey glistening in the sunlight. “I was always interested in beekeeping, but I used to be scared of honeybees,” he recalls. His gentle and respectful hands comb through the bees, inspecting each one and looking for the queen. Despite the buzz of activity around him, he remains calm and confident now that he knows how to handle the hive without causing harm or distress.

Anjaan is one of many farmers in Bung, Solukhumbu District, who received beekeeping training from dZi’s Agriculture Program.

Anjaan Rai, dZi's partner farmer holding a bee comb
Anjan Rai proudly displaying a honeycomb from one of his thriving hives

In the mountainous regions where dZi works, partner communities often rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. However, with limited resources and few alternative income options, it can be challenging for rural mountain farmers to earn enough money to meet their basic needs.  That’s why beekeeping has emerged as a promising alternative source of income – offering a viable solution for remote communities seeking financial security.

Traditional Beehives

Beekeeping has long been a tradition in our partner communities, where hollowed-out logs and wall recesses serve as humble hives. These simple structures - closed with wooden stoppers plastered in cow dung and mud - require no special techniques or accuracy, are familiar homes for native bees, and are affordable to construct. However, these traditional beehives also come with their fair share of disadvantages.

When harvesting honey from these traditional logs, there is an increased risk of losing the queen, and tasks like thorough inspection of colonies, uniting and dividing bees, and queen rearing are nearly impossible. Moreover, honey extracted from these hives often contains bee body parts, hive debris, and dirt, leading to faster fermentation and lower market value. Despite their simplicity, traditional beehives have their limitations.

dZi’s Beekeeping Training

Farmers posing for photo holding certificates after completing Beekeeping training
Farmers in Dobhane, Bhojpur district, after their successful completion of beekeeping training

dZi's Agriculture Program, led by our skilled and passionate Agriculture Program Officer, Satananda Upadhayay, has been providing beekeeping training to subsistence farmers in remote mountainous regions. Through years of research and publications on honeybees, Satananda has taught thousands of farmers how to keep their own hives and manage honeybee colonies.

Visiting our partner communities, Satananda discovered that the rich biodiversity and ideal climate make them perfect for modern beekeeping techniques. Moreover, the farmers themselves were keen to learn modern beekeeping techniques that, with a bit more investment upfront, could increase the quality and value of their honey. Over the past few years, we have provided beekeeping training to 211 farmers – building their capacity to manage colonies, use honeybees for pollination, and harvest and process honey.

In addition to training, we equip these farmers with the skills to construct modern "top bar" hives. These hives are designed to produce high-yield, quality honey, with features such as easy inspection, low or very low absconding, and low disease rates, overcoming the flaws of traditional hives. Our aim is to empower these farmers to generate a sustainable income through beekeeping while also improving their overall agricultural productivity.

For farmers like Anjaan, beekeeping has been a game-changer. With the skills he acquired through dZi's beekeeping training, Anjaan has become a master honey producer. Each bottle of golden nectar he harvests from his beehives fetches him $12 - $16. He can produce around five bottles in a year from just one hive, and the demand for his high-quality honey is steadily growing. The income generated from honey sales has made a world of difference in Anjaan's life. With just one bottle of honey, he can now buy a month's worth of rice for his family.

Beyond honey

dZi has gone beyond just honey production and trained our farmers to diversify their beekeeping products, unlocking the full economic and environmental potentials of this sustainable livelihood option. Our Agriculture Technician, Ishwor Basnet, proudly shares that farmers have started extracting valuable resources like wax from the honeycombs, adding another stream of income to their beekeeping enterprise.

Satananda teaching to extract a candle from the remnants of combs
Satananda teaching to extract a candle from the remnants of combs on the training

Notably, beekeeping also has a positive impact on the environment. Studies have shown that bee pollination can increase the production of fruits and cash crops by as much as 15 to 40 percent. This benefits not only the beekeeper but also other farmers in the area who rely on these crops for their livelihoods. Moreover, beekeeping is an environmentally benign livelihood option that requires minimal resources and can be quickly restarted after a crisis. The transferability of skills from one generation to the next ensures the continuity and sustainability of this livelihood option, further contributing to the social and economic well-being of rural areas.

Through the provision of training, equipment, and ongoing support, dZi aims to break the cycle of poverty and help farmers take control of their own livelihoods. Beekeeping is not only seen as a way to preserve a traditional practice but also as a means to empower farmers to embrace modern techniques and build a better future. Anjaan Rai is one success story, as he has become a master honey producer and his income from honey sales has made a significant difference in his family's life. Anjaan dreams of expanding his beekeeping venture and is seeking funding and support to do so. Inspired by his success, dZi, and our community members are excited to start more beekeeping projects.

Anjaan Rai in action as he carefully examines his buzzing bee colonies: