For the people of Dophuchen (Dorokha) in Samtse, the return of a native who has worked in a beekeeping cooperative in Bumthang was the source of inspiration for them to take up modern beekeeping.
The residents, who practiced traditional beekeeping, have now become members of a beekeeping group and have started practicing modern methods.
Romnath Acharja, 34 of Maneygaon village is the man who has introduced modern beekeeping to the locality. He returned home in 2012 to shoulder family responsibilities after his brother has passed away.</p> <p> By then, he already had six years of working experience at the beekeepers’ cooperative in Bumthang and four years of beekeeping practice on his own.
"It was the only skill I had when I returned home,” he said. “So I started on a trial.”
Romnath Acharja said that he actually only started to look for support in the third year of the trial.
“From the Dorokha livestock office to the Agriculture Research Development Centre in Jakar, I sought help.
Support from the Queen’s Project for the Dophuchen Beekeeping Group"
The Queen’s Project came to support us and we formed the Dophuchen Beekeeping Group (DBG).”
It has been two years since the farmers have been getting support from the project.
From training to subsidies and motivations, the Queen’s Project has also funded the new beekeeping centre and its equipment. About 100 new hives would also be provided soon.
Romnath Acharja, DBG’s chairman said that farmers came to observe his beehives and were eager to learn.
“This encouraged me to take the initiative to a new level and that is how I started to look for support,” he said.
Beekeeping requires little land but can potentially yield good income
He said that beekeeping is a full-fledged activity now. “Beekeeping is the only farming activity where small amounts of land could be used effectively to earn a good income.”
About half an hour’s walk from the DBG center, Krishna Bahadur Rai, 36 has two modern hives. As a member of the group, he has been training for the past year.
He said that his family does not own much land, thus beekeeping is the best way to make a livelihood.
Krishna Bahadur Rai, the secretary of DBG and Romanth Acharja train other interested farmers.
Under the three gewogs of Dophuchen, Dorokha gewog has 37 farmers trained in beekeeping while Denchukha has 32 and Dumtey has 27 farmers. The members have about 200 modern hives in total.
In the last one year, Krishna Bahadur Rai has supplied about 20kg of natural honey to the group. The DBG members say that the Queen’s Project has boosted their confidence and inspired them to take beekeeping to new heights.
Strong demand for Bhutanese honey
The project also buys all the honey from DBG. It gives subsidies to members such as the modern hive box, which costs around Nu 2,800 but is provided at a subsidized rate of Nu 500.
The group generated 470kg of natural honey in 2017. About 320kg were supplied to the project, while the rest were sold in the local market. The farmers are paid Nu 500 a kg by the group. The group buys the honey at any time of the year so that farmers could have cash whenever they required.
Another member, Chemnath Timsina said that the market demand for honey is huge but the group is still not producing enough. “I want to keep at least 300 modern hives,” he said.
Meanwhile, honey is harvested thrice in a year, according to the DBG members. It is harvested from January-February, June to July and from September-October.
In the first phase of the harvest time in January-February this year, the group collected 62kg of honey. The DBG members said that they have collected about 72kg of honey in the current phase, adding that the collection is set to continue until the end of July.
Amazing by-products of honey which are much sought after in the market
Romnath Acharja said that the group can potentially extract at least 1,000kg of honey this year. Other by-products such as wax, royal jelly, pollen, and propolis are also in healthy demand in the market.
The DBG chairman said that he is trying to market all these products so that farmers can stand to enjoy more benefits.
“Farmers are already earning through the sale of honey wax, which is used to construct artificial comb for the bees,” he said.
“At times we receive calls from people of sightings of swarms,” Romnath Acharja said. “Ants and hornets are also a problem, but they can be managed.”
The vegetation in Dophuchen is favorable and there is no need to feed the bees, Romnath Acharja said.
DBG has also started to train members in queen breeding. This method of breeding domesticates the bees and this means easy management.
“We can choose the larvae from the best performing hives and convert them to queen bees,” Romnath Acharja said, adding that this would help the new hives perform better.
Challenges facing modern beekeeping in Dophuchen
However, as beekeeping is not new in Dophuchen, the transition to modern beekeeping remains a challenge, according to the chairman.
“There are countless traditional beekeepers,” he said, adding that both members and non-members still follow the traditional method.
“My aim is to do away with the traditional method completely.”