Beekeeping is an agro-based activity that is being undertaken by farmers in rural areas as an integrated framing practice. Beekeeping supplements the income generation and nutritional intake of the rural population. Though honeybees are best known for the honey they produce, their economic role in nature is to pollinate hundreds and thousands of flowering plants and assure the setting of seed or fruit. Honeybees have been offering services to society through ensured pollination in cross-pollinated crops as well as by providing honey and a variety of beehive products. Honey Bees have a vital role in sustaining plant’s bio-diversity resulting in environmental stability.
Honey bees play a very important role in pollinating various agricultural and horticultural crops and increasing their yield and improving the quality of produce. It is being increasingly realized that bees could be a less expensive input for promoting sustainable, eco-friendly agriculture and enhancing crop productivity.
Beekeeping – Importance in Rural Development
Till the mid-20th century, honeybees were equated with the production of honey and beeswax only. But in the past 3-4 decades, utilizing honeybees to pollinate a large number of agricultural and horticultural crops to increase per acre yield has become a routine practice in many developed countries. According to Agricultural Scientists value of additional yield obtained by pollination service rendered by honeybees alone is about 15-20 times more than the value of all the hive products put together.
Honey bees play a very important role in pollinating various agricultural and horticultural crops and increasing their yield and improving the quality of produce. It is being increasingly realized that bees could be a less expensive input for promoting sustainable and eco-friendly agriculture and enhancing crop productivity. The beekeeping industry has quadruple benefits:
- Providing self-employment to rural and forest-based populations;
- Production of honey, pollen, beeswax, venom, royal jelly, etc.;
- Providing employment to rural educated youths in collecting, processing, and marketing of bee beehive-products and most important;
- Cross-pollination of various agricultural and horticultural crops and improving their quality and increasing yields.
This way, beekeeping plays a vital role in sustainable agriculture and rural development.
Beekeeping – Government Initiatives
After independence, Govt. of India took a policy decision to revive various traditional village industries, and an All India Khadi and Village Industries Board (KVIB) was formed in 1954. Through coordinated efforts of well-knit organizations like Khadi and Village Industries Commissions (KVIC), State KVIBS, Beekeepers’ Co operatives, Public Institutions, etc. the beekeeping industry came on the map of village industries of India within two decades. In 1981, an All India Coordinated Research Project on Honeybee Research and Training was launched by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) involving State Agricultural Universities (SAUS).
In 1994-95, the Ministry of Agriculture, renamed as Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, took the initiative of launching a Central Sector Scheme entitled “Development of Bee keeping for Improving Crop Productivity”, during the VIII Plan. A Beekeeping Development Board also functioned under the Chairpersonship of Secretary (A & C) to coordinate the bee keeping activities. The Scheme was approved for continuation during the IX Plan. However, the scheme got subsumed under the Macro Management Scheme, with effect from October 2000. The focus on bee keeping also got diminished under such an arrangement.
The Department facilitated efforts by forming the National Bee Board in 2000. With effect from May 2005, beekeeping has been included as an activity under National Horticulture Mission. (NHM), which has now been merged into the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), for promoting cross-pollination of Horticultural Crops.
The Mission (MIDH) has been in implementation in all parts of the country. Under MIDH, among others, assistance for the following components for promoting Scientific Beekeeping under the component of ‘Pollination Support through Beekeeping is available and Mission/ Scheme is being implemented by the State Departments of Horticulture/Agriculture in the field:
National Bee Board (NBB)
The National Bee Board (NBB) was reconstituted in June, 2006 by the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare. The main objective of the National Bee Board (NBB) is the overall development of Beekeeping by promoting Scientific Beekeeping in the country to increase the productivity of crops through pollination and increase honey production for increasing the income of the Beekeepers/Farmers.
As per the aims and objectives of the National Bee Board, the Board acts as a Nodal Agency for the formulation, implementation, execution, supervision & monitoring of projects in the field of beekeeping and also an appraisal agency for appraising the Annual Action Plan/ Schemes/Projects to be implemented by theState Governments/UTS, International Agencies, private sector and other Agencies/Organizations for development of scientific beekeeping in the country.
Beekeeping Industry in India
At present, there are about 30 lakhs bee colonies in India, with an estimated annual production of around 89000 metric tonnes of Honey (2015-16) including honey from wild honey bees. India is one of the honey-exporting countries. The major markets for Indian honey are Germany, the USA, the UK, Japan, France, Italy, Spain, etc.
India produces two types of honey viz; apiary honey (of domesticated bees) and squeezed honey (of wild bees). Apis cerana and Apis mellifera are two types of bees that are being domesticated and kept in hives. In India, honey is not used in the form of food as its per capita per year consumption is about 10.00 gms.
The main benefits of beekeeping are summarized as under:
- Bees help in cross-pollination thus they increase the productivity of crops.
- Honeybee produces:
- Honey: Nutritious whole food with medicinal properties
- Bees wax: More valuable, used in the candle, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries
- Bee venom: Used for treatment of arthritis, rheumatic and pains (Apitherapy)
- Royal jelly: Nutritious, increase vigor and vitality/fertility
- Propolis: Resinous substance uses as gum
- Honey and hive products: Source of income for the rural people and also generate employment;
- Unemployed youth can start this business with minimal funds
- Generates 3.75 lakhs man-days to maintain 10,000 Bee colonies in Bee hives.
- Proper utilization of natural resources.
- Different sectors and trades benefit from a strong beekeeping industry.
- Beekeeping encourages ecological awareness.
- Beekeeping helps in increasing National income.
- Income from 100 Bee colonies is around Rs. 2.50-3.00 lakhs per annum.
- It helps in rural development and promotes the small village industry.
- Beekeeping is benign: Beekeeping generates income without destroying habitat.
Major Constraints conflicting Beekeeping are the lack of
- Lack of Scientific data on the choice of Honey Bee species for commercial Beekeeping and for
- promoting cross-pollination
- genetically superior queen bee for supply to beekeepers
- technical knowledge for efficient management of bee colonies for higher yield of honey & other bee hive products
- infrastructure at the grass root level and national level for promoting beekeeping
- awareness about yield increase in crops by Beekeeping through pollination
- laboratories for disease diagnosis /prevention, control, and analysis
- adequate laboratories for quality control of beehive products, institutional support for beekeeping in terms of bank loans, etc
- consumer awareness of honey and its products
- Poor quality control for the production of honey and other beehive products
- More emphasis on the production of honey instead of other bee products
- A non-traditional newly introduced industry
- Tribals and illiterates from forests and remote rural areas are generally involved
- Interaction of two living materials-honeybees and living plants
- The flowering of plants, secretion of nectar, and production of pollen- the sole food of honeybees, are influenced by climatic conditions.
Opportunities in Beekeeping:
India has vast potential for Beekeeping. The diversity in flora and fauna provides more opportunities for the development of the beekeeping industry. The National Commission on Agriculture had visualized the need for deploying about 150 million Bee colonies for pollinating the agricultural crops in the country. This industry does not need any sophisticated technology, high capital investment, or infrastructure. There is thus great potential and opportunities for the development of the beekeeping industry in India.
The beekeeping industry has great self-help potential for rural people, tribals, marginal and small farmers, landless labourers, etc. The great potential and opportunities in beekeeping are given as under:
- As per the cropped area under the major insects pollinated crops, about 200 million bee colonies are required in the country to enhance the yield levels of these crops at par with the yield levels of developed countries. It will provide jobs to about 215 lakh persons.
- Honey has great food value and provides cash income;
- Beeswax which is twice as much costly as honey is in great demand;
- Other products, viz., bee-collected pollen, propolis, bee venom, and royal jelly are several times costlier than honey and beeswax,
- Providing bee pollination service to farmers for increasing crop production & quality and productivity of honeybees is a double benefit service;
- Maintenance of biodiversity by pollination of flowering plants;
- Apitherapy medicine using bees’ products;
- Processing and value-added products of bee hive products; etc. Few resources are needed and Land ownership is not essential.
Beekeeping as a Source of Livelihood:
Beekeeping may be a source of livelihood for rural and tribal populations. The activity may be adopted by anybody and helpful in generating income and employment. Beekeeping has vast potential in employment generation and according to estimates, 3,00,000 man-days are generated for maintaining 10,000 bee colonies. Besides, it also creates employment opportunities in the appliances and equipment manufacturing sector. It is estimated that around 75,000 man-days are created for manufacturing enough appliances for 10,000 bee colonies.
As per economics worked out for beekeeping, the net income from 100 bee colonies varies from Rs. 2,50,000/- to Rs. 3,00,000/- annually. which is directly linked with the prevailing market prices of honey & other beehive products and Beekeeping equipment. It may be remembered that all bee products are used either as food or in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. For this reason, hygienic collection, handling, processing, storage, etc, and maintaining National and International purity standards are of prime importance.