Beekeeping and agriculture have always been intertwined. As one of nature's most efficient pollinators, bees are vital to increasing crop yields, maintaining biodiversity, and sustaining the food pyramid. Their symbiotic relationship with farmers has made beekeeping a traditional practice in cultures worldwide.

In Nepal, beekeeping methods are passed down from generation to generation. Nepali farmers traditionally kept bees in log or wall hives. These simple designs provide a good place for bees to live and can be used for minor honey production, but present challenges for commercial bee farming. Throughout the year, beekeepers need to enter the hive to harvest honey, check the queen's health, and ensure no disease is present. In traditional designs, working within a hive without killing bees or damaging the honeycomb can be difficult. As the demand for honey grows and the need for sustainable farming practices increases, the value of modern beekeeping equipment and techniques has become clear for mountain communities.

 

Recognizing these challenges, the dZi Foundation has stepped in to provide mountain farmers with a five-day training on modern beekeeping practices. Since 2020, these trainings have shared valuable insights with beekeepers like Dhurva Raj Rai from Phedi, Khotang District.

Dhurva, who previously relied on log hives for over a decade, appreciates the advantages of top bar hives and the process of constructing them. With improved hive designs and management practices, farmers can now monitor and manage their bee colonies more effectively, reducing bee mortality rates during honey extraction. Furthermore, modern hives allow for better assessment of queen bee development, leading to higher bee populations and more proactive management. Bees can also be safely transferred from one hive to another – allowing farmers to ‘split’ their hives into two and further grow their population.

The impact of modern beekeeping extends beyond improved hive management. The increase in honey production from modern hives has led to a significant boost in farmers' income. Dhurva now has four modern hives and produces 8 to 10 kilograms of honey per hive, fetching a price of Rs. 1500 ($11 USD) per kilogram.

The high demand for honey has turned Dhurva's home into a local honey hub, attracting customers from his community and beyond. For farmers like Dhurva, the shift to modern beekeeping represents a transformative opportunity. “The income from selling honey harvest is much better compared to vegetable and fruit farming. I plan to make more top bar hives in the coming days.”

Bees in action

This year, 47 farmers participated in bee-keeping training and new equipment support. As more farmers adopt modern beekeeping techniques, there is tremendous potential to enhance the country's beekeeping industry and contribute to rural economic development. With the dZi Foundation's support, beekeepers are poised to thrive; combining traditional wisdom with new techniques to unlock the full potential of beekeeping.