Beekeeping With Youth


Bees and other pollinators are essential for our existence, sustaining agriculture and biodiversity worldwide. With over 20,000 species of bees and various other wild pollinators, they face challenges from human activities, such as habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. Bees have been reared by humans since time immemorial and beekeeping is the practise of rearing honey bees in hives for pollination support in crops and production of honey and other hive products like beeswax, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom, which are commercially marketable and in huge demand for various industrial uses. Beekeeping offers immense scope for self-employment and indirect employment.
It can facilitate the establishment of both small scale cottage industries and large scale commercially viable enterprise. In addition to 4 basic inputs seed, fertilizer & pesticides, water and machinery, honeybees are considered as 5th Input for agriculture which regulates the efficacy of other four inputs. Value of additional yield obtained due to bee pollination alone is 15-20 times more than the value of honey & bees wax / hive products put together. In various agricultural and horticultural crops, Honey bee pollination also improves the quality of produce. The potential of beekeeping has not yet been fully realized due to lack of basic knowledge regarding production, processing technology of bee products and same is required to transferred among the bee-keepers and farmers.
The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (32-17 to 37-05 N latitude and 72-40 to 80-30 E Longitude) having all the agro-climatic zones ranging from low altitude sub tropical, intermediate and temperate represents one of the most important beekeeping areas in India. the government of India is promoting beekeeping through various organizations like Khadi and Village Industries Board (KVIB), KVIC (Khadi Village Industries Commission), Beekeepers’ Cooperatives and Public Institutions, All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Honey bee and pollinators, and recently NBHM (National beekeeping and Honey Mission). Right now approximately there are about 3.5 million bee colonies in India, which produce 1,25,000 tonnes of honey annually. India is one of the honey-exporting countries. The major markets for Indian honey are Germany, the USA, the UK, Japan, France, Italy and Spain.
The Union Territory is richly endowed with diverse forest resources which play an important role in preserving the fragile ecosystem of the region and serve as catchments for important Himalayan rivers. Forest area of the state is 20,230 sq km which is about 47% of its geographical area. Besides the area covered under social forestry is around 1.04 L ha. Per capita forests and tree cover in the state is about 0.15 ha which almost double of the national average of 0.07 ha. About 40% of the forest area is either dense or very dense and rest falls in the category of open forest. The 60% of the total forest area falls in Jammu region and the rest in Kashmir. Good percentage of forest covers and negligible use of pesticides in cropped land offers the state with vast scope for beekeeping towards producing organic honey and pollen for the world market.
In Jammu and Kashmir, there are about 3,500 bee keepers having more that 1.65 lakh bee colonies producing over 2700 tonnes of honey every year. In a modest rate of 3 Colonies per ha for pollination purpose, the state requires a minimum of 6,45,000 colonies to produce field/ fruits crops. But against this requirement, the state has just 50,000 bee- Colonies -a gap of more than 12 times the required numbers. This shows that at present there are just 0.2 colonies / ha against the minimum requirement of 3-5 Colonies/ha. With the appropriate flora, space and demand, the state bee- keeping industry has the potential to flourish and generate employment opportunities easily pursued in the rural settlements. The Doda, Ramban, Banihal, Kishtwar and Udhampur Districts of Jammu region are the most potential and suitable areas of beekeeping.
Honey bees may provide livelihood or a source of income for many beekeepers all over the world. This could happen through the services provided by the bees (mainly pollination service, apitherapy and apitourism), or directly through the bee products. The last include: alive bees to guarantee always new queen bees or bee packs, honey, pollen, wax, propolis, royal jelly and venom. Bee products may be used as food for humans, feed for animals, cosmetics, medicines used in conventional medicine (mainly vaccination), or in apitherapy, or other like manifold products, carpentry, attractant, sweeteners, etc. Disappearing pollinators can mean losing some of the nutritious food we need for a healthy diet.
The decline of pollinators could have disastrous effects for our future of food. Their absence would jeopardize the three-quarters of the world’s crops that depend at least in part on pollination, including apples, avocadoes, pears and pumpkins. And enhancing pollination isn’t just about mitigating disaster – with improved management, pollination has the potential to increase agricultural yields and quality. Pollinators also play a crucial role in maintaining and enhancing biodiversity thus improving the resilience of plants to climate change and other environmental threats. In recognition of the pivotal role that youth can play in addressing challenges bees and other pollinators are facing, World Bee Day 2024 focuses on the theme “Bee engaged with Youth.” This theme highlights the importance of involving young people in beekeeping and pollinator conservation efforts, recognizing them as the future stewards of our environment.
This year’s campaign aims to raise awareness among youth and other stakeholders about the essential role of bees and other pollinators in agriculture, ecological balance, and biodiversity preservation. By engaging young people in beekeeping activities, educational initiatives, and advocacy efforts, we can inspire a new generation of environmental leaders and empower them to make a positive impact on the world. By observing World Bee Day each year, we can raise awareness on the essential role bees and other pollinators play in keeping people and the planet healthy, and on the many challenges they face today. We have been celebrating this day since 2018, thanks to the efforts of the Government of Slovenia with the support of Apimondia, that led the UN General Assembly to declare 20 May as World Bee Day. The date for this observance was chosen as it was the day Anton Janša, a pioneer of modern apiculture, was born. Janša came from a family of beekeepers in Slovenia, where beekeeping is an important agricultural activity with a long-standing tradition. Today bees, pollinators, and many other insects are declining in abundance. This day provides an opportunity for all of us – whether we work for governments, organizations or civil society or are concerned citizens – to promote actions that will protect and enhance pollinators and their habitats, improve their abundance and diversity, and support the sustainable development of beekeeping. Fostering more diverse agricultural systems and reducing reliance on toxic chemicals can facilitate increased pollination. This approach can improve food quality and quantity, benefiting both human populations and the ecosystem.
(The writer is AICRP Honeybee and Pollinators, Division of Entomology, SKUAST Jammu).

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