Beekeeping: Opportunity for Income Generation

Greater Kashmir

Beekeeping can become a source of self-employment generation for the unemployed youth of the valley

The murmuring hum of bees on a warm afternoon is surely part of everyone’s mental picture of a perfect summer. But that relentless hum, hypnotic perhaps to the idling human, is in reality product of machine like urge to work against the clock of the seasons, to gather enough pollen and nectar before the weather breaks and before the bloom fades.

The industry of beekeeping is well-known and it takes honeybee workers 10 million foraging trips to gather enough nectar to make 0.5 kg of honey.

The members of a single hive may make four and a half million visits to flowers in the course of one day’s work and more than one thousand workers will die every day in the summer or winter. Honey bees are social insects showing division of labour and live in colonies.

Their main source of nutrition is flower nectar and pollen. Five honey bee species are found in India which includes: Apis florae, Apis dorsata, Apis laboriosa, Apis cerana and Apis mellifera.

In Kashmir we have two types of honey bees i.e. Apis mellifera and Apis cerana. Apis mellifera is an exotic bee and has been imported from Italy to India during Nineteenth century by the scientists of PAU, Ludiana.  

Apis cerana is our own indigenous bee and is found in the mountainous regions of the valley or even in plains during the bloom periods.

The peculiarity of Apis mellifera is that it produces a large amount of honey (35-40kg/year/colony) compared to Apis cerana (20kg/year/colony) but its disadvantage is that it is very sensitive to the changing environmental conditions of the valley.

Hence during the severe cold conditions these bees are to be migrated to warmer regions like Jammu and other states of the India. However, our own bee Apis cerana is well versed to the changing environmental conditions of the valley and can accordingly adapt itself with severe cold conditions or the warmer days of the valley.

Rearing honeybees is a good source of fetching money and a large number of unemployed youth of valley can easily manage their day to day requirements by involving themselves in this business. Two types of services can be provided by the honey bees.

First is by rearing and managing them for getting a good quality of honey and export them to other states of the valley. The honey of state, particularly of Kashmir valley, is in demand from the other states as the bees collect nectar from a wide variety of plants particularly from the medicinal plants of the valley.

Second, Beekeeping also generates off-farm employment opportunities in different fields including hive carpentry, production and sale of honeybee colonies, honey trading, renting of bees for pollination, and bee-based micro enterprises of services that these bees could provide is by using them for pollination purpose.

All of us are aware that pollination is the transfer of pollen grains from anther to stigma of a flower for producing the fertile off-springs and for the continuity of a generation.

Apple being the main cash crop of the valley needs cross pollination from a compatible pollenizer variety. This cross pollination services is provided by pollinators and among them honey bees are one of the best and excellent pollinators. The importance of pollination for quality production of apple has already been written earlier in GK (24 March, 2013).  

During bloom period of the apple the honey bee colonies can be easily provided on rental basis for pollination purpose and hence can yield a good source of economy.

Suppose a person is having 50 colonies of honey bees. He could provide a colony at Rs 600 for 20 days and could easily fetch 30, 000 rupees for 20 days for pollination of apple. Same is the case with other fruits and vegetables that need cross pollination. Hence the colonies can be easily used for pollination purpose in spring as well as in summer season.  

Beekeeping is ideally suited as a means of income generation for a wide range of people with otherwise limited opportunities, including the poorest of the poor, women, and people from disadvantaged groups.

It usually needs only a very small start up investment which can be carried out in a small space close to the house, and yields profits within the first year of operation. As far as the pure natural honey is concerned, it contains more than hundred kinds of rare and useful vitamins, minerals and other ingredients. Honey has a long history of human consumption.

Allah says in the holy Quran about bees: "Build dwellings in the mountains and the trees, and also in the structures which men erect. Then eat from every kind of fruit and travel the paths of your Lord, which have been made easy for you to follow." From inside them comes a drink of varying colours, containing healing for mankind. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who reflect. (Qur’an, 16:69). 

Honey can provide a rapid source of energy and strengthens resistance to disease.

Consider the following benefits of honey:

Keeps the body active and restores energy.

Increases the digestive ability and cure digestive disease.

It cures illness such as cough, cold and diarrhea.

Helps to cure menstrual infections.

Increases the semen content in males.

Cure urinary infections.

Helps in the physical and mental development of growing children.

Makes the body and skin clean and attractive and counteracts skin wrinkles.

It can be used as a food and substitute for sugars and other sweeteners. It can be taken with cold water in summer and in hot water in winter or with warm milk.

It is clear from some above facts that getting involved in Beekeeping can yield a good source of income particularly for the unemployed and educated youth of the valley both in medicinal field as well as in the agricultural field.

By medical field I mean for providing honey to the pharmaceutical business persons of India and agriculturally for providing honey bee colonies for pollination purpose of different crops of the valley. Some selected beekeepers of our valley transport their colonies during winter to Gujarat where they are given 700-800 rupees per colony for pollination purpose for some 20 days.  

For getting involved in such business those interested need to go through a start-up training program and take suggestions from experts and for this Sher e Kashmir University of Agriculture and Science and Technology (SKUAST) is always at the disposal of those interested in beekeeping business.

Here Research and Training Centre for Pollinators, Pollinizers and Pollination Management provides the baseline information and trainings to the farmers and orchardists of the valley. SKUAST-K, Shalimar under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Dr. Tej Partap received a major research project from ICAR, New Delhi on Pollination Management Research on Apple and other fruits of the valley.

The need of the hour is to bring practical knowledge for the benefit of our unemployed and educated youth so that they become successful entrepreneurs in Bee-Keeping which can provide excellent employment opportunities.  

(Dr. Sajad Hussain Parey is a researcher in the Pollination Management Research Centre, SKUAST-K, Shalimar. Feedback at sajadzoo@gmail.com)