For 24-year-old Anuprita Patankar,the idea of understanding the finer nuances of apiculture was born out of a very basic need to supplement her family income. We own a farm on the outskirts of the city and learning to care for our own bees would benefit the family business, she says.
After the monsoon,she hopes to collect a bee box from the Central Bee Research and Training Institute (CBRTI). She believes that gathering and selling honey too will be beneficial for them.
Patankar is just one amongst the over 150 youngsters who have participated in the short five-day training courses in apiculture organised by the CBRTI. While their major participant force are farmers,coming from all over Maharashtra,and even beyond,more and more younger students are participating in the courses for both environmental and monetary reasons. In June 2011,only 17 participants registered for the course while in June 2012,the Institute’s last session,as many as 58 registered for the course. This is an indication of greater interest in CBRTI’s training courses. Of the seven sessions held since January this year,there were a total of 211 participants,of which 135 were under 25.
The research team at CBRTI attributes the large number of younger participants,most of whom are students of agriculture,to greater interest in more ecological farming practices. Bee pollination is essential to many of India’s crops,especially vegetables. However,the amount of bees has declined over the decades owing to heavy deforestation,use of pesticides and even outright misperceptions of bees (in some regions,people believe bees kill plants,and so kill the bees themselves), said MT Wakode.
Ideally,the nation should have 80 lakh bees for sufficient pollination of its crops,but currently has only about 25 lakh. Younger students,understanding the mounting strains on agriculture due to population rise and environmental change,are looking toward more sustainable ways to increase crop yield, added Wakode.
Students,however,are attracted to the courses for many reasons. They may choose to care for their own bees in the hopes of healthier family farms or gardens. Many want to gain practical skill in association with courses they have taken at their school. Others see it as a money making opportunity by selling bee products such as honey,wax and royal jelly. It is the only industry that doesn’t require capital,land,and won’t consume time, said Wakode.
Understandably,the course poses a challenge for most first-timers. I was scared to hold the bees, said Shipra Unde,Zoology student at Wadia College. But I was told that the bees won’t sting. I never got stung.
Unde took the training course because she wanted to apply the theoretical knowledge she had learned during a course on bees at school. By the end of the five days,she had overcome her fear and hopes to have her own bees one day to care for a flower garden.