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  January 08, 2012


In The Name of ALLAH The Almighty

Overview of Bee Keeping in Chitral District

Beekeeping has been carried out across many generations in Chitral especially some 20 years back Southern Chitral was the main source of honey that was used for medicinal purposes. The main reason for this was that Southern Chitral is comparatively warm then the other parts of the district, secondly, it is covered by natural forest that provide natural habitat for bee species and thirdly, flora is available for 6-8 months. It plays a critical role in the livelihoods of the rural communities in different ways i.e., one, it is an income generating activity; two, medicinal value of honey and other hive products is invaluable; three, it supports agricultural activities through facilitating critical processes for example cross pollination and improves crop and seed yield; four, it facilitates healthy linkages between biodiversity (insects and plants) towards sustainable livelihoods and it has role in conservation as well. It is also a low-investment and low-input enterprise that directly generates economic gains for the participating members and integrates well with agriculture that forms the main economic activity for communities living in the rural areas. Another advantage of bee keeping is that it can be practiced by men, women, and youth and it is a crucial sub-sector that if developed properly will contribute towards poverty reduction and enhancing the quality of life. The sub-sector has a great potential for enhancing income in rural areas to support sustainable development, especially considering the varied players and activities along the broader chain. Despite the above and numerous other probable advantages that can be realized from beekeeping, the sub-sector remains largely unorganized and underdeveloped in this remote area of the world. This is because beekeeping is still carried as a part time activity mostly at household level with scattered hives. As such most beekeeping farmers have not fully valued its potential and translate it in to commercial enterprise capable of generating income not for themselves but for the larger communities living in surroundings.

The honey bee farmers try to get maximum production out of their honey boxes by moving them around the valleys according to the flora season which moves from south to north. The production of honey can be increased many fold if the producers at the valley level team up with each other in the form of association and move their boxes around the valleys and learn from each otherís experiences. But the problem is that honey bee farming has remained a specialized activity among group of farmers in a specific location in Chitral. There is a need to replicate these successful models in the other valleys of Chitral where there are huge potentials for honey bee farming.

The total production of natural honey from Chitral was 4 tons for the year 2007 and it was produced from around 350 boxes. During the survey it was found that a box can produce 30kg of honey in a year but it depends on the favorable climatic condition. If the season is favorable the production is good but if the season is not favorable there is even no production at all.

The honey produced in Chitral is sold in the local market through retail outlets in the villages and main bazaar of Chitral and there were no arrangements for bulk trading of honey to down country. Farmers told that they only produce enough quantities to meet local demand, as they donít have opportunities to sell the excess production. In the year 2007, MOGH Limited did a pilot of wholesaling the honey from Chitral to Hashoo Foundation Islamabad. Initially 948kg of honey was sold to Hashoo Foundation on cost basis just to check the market situation and based on that Hashoo Foundation placed an order for 8 tons for the year 2008. Keeping in view the market response the farmers increased the production capacity from 350 boxes to 500 boxes. But the year 2008 remained very bad for farmers as the season was not favorable for the honey bees. Even with the increased production capacity the total production of honey for the year 2008 remained less than 2 tons and out of that MOGH Limited could source only 400kg for Hashoo Foundation, as the farmers were not willing to sell their honey for prices agreed with between MOGH Limited and Hashoo Foundation. The above situation shows that there still exists a huge supply and demand gap for the natural honey of Chitral hence creating opportunities for women entrepreneurs to enter into this business. With all the varieties of honey available in the market there is still a potential for Chitrali honey as it is natural and tasty. People use honey not only as a food item but natural honey also holds a great deal of medicinal value for the health conscious consumers. To introduce and sell Chitrali honey in the general consumer market there is need to fix realistic and competitive prices so that it is compatible with other honey products in the market.
There are two types of species which are kept in Chitral.
1. Apis cerena (local bee or wild bee)
2. Apis malifera (European species, artificial)

Apis cerena
The history of wild bee or mountainous bee is so old that it is difficult to know about its origins. In early year people used honey as a curing of different dieses when there were no medicines, people still prefers local honey on colonial honey. The wild bees are found in southern area of Chitral where natural forests are in abundance, the area consists of Domun Gool, Ursoon and Kalash valley in lower Chitral. The wild bees mostly use old pine trees and caves for making hives.

Apis melifera
The European species was introduced in Chitral 1990, for the first time. Since then these species have spread widely across the valley and become a good source of income and employments. Now a dayís thousands of people are associated with bee farming and running a good business. Though the business is thriving still there are difficulties associated with this business.

Bee keeping associated Issues
The bee keepers face the following problems.
1. Lack of capacity and skills
One of the most common problems is that about 90% bee keepers are untrained and lacking required technical skill. Due this factor alone, they cannot yield good production and unable to get profits from this sector.

2. Climatic Uncertainties.
The climatic condition does have adverse affect on bee farming. In winter season snow falls in every part of the district while the upper valley buried under the white icy cover throughout the winter season. The temperature goes down to minus curtailing the business activities. The bee colonies are one of the worst affected and most of them are destroyed completely.
3. Lack of government interest for this sector.
The bee farming like many other sectors has yet to get government attention. The bee keepers are working without the government protection in case of natural calamity or destruction to their production. They are not provided any facility which could provide them sense of government protection.
4. Lack of capitals with bee keepers.
The people who are attached with this sector are mostly poor folk with limited resources. They always face financial crunch and short of capital to boost their business.
5. No guaranty of honey quality.
The lack of laborites for testing the production is big impediment.
6. Without brand name.
7. Poor planning.
8. Diseases attack.
9. Limited number of flowers for nectars and pollens.
10. Lack of market identification.
11. Short blooming season.

Role of NGOs in promotion of Bee Keeping:
The contribution of AKRSP in Bee Keeping
The role of Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, (AKRSP) has been very significant in bee keeping in Chitral. It is the pioneer rural support organisation and has been working in Northern Areas and Chitral for Socio-Economic development of the rural communities through its multi-sectoral activities, in partnership with the local village-based institutions (Village and Women Organizations), in Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhaw (KPK) for the last 26 years. Since its inception, AKRSP has been contributing to Social Development through formation and capacity building of grassroots level community organizations, Natural Resource Management, Infrastructure Development and Gender and Development in the project area. In addition, initially, Micro Enterprise Development through capacity building of micro entrepreneurs, and later on, systematically identifying market based opportunities for rural communities has always been on the top priority of AKRSPís participatory development approach. The main role of AKRSP in entrepreneurship development is, therefore, to develop interventions which facilitate processes that one, improve the position of potential small scale entrepreneurs; two, promote the establishment of market linkages and public-private partnership and three, influence policy making and governance to favor economic led by the private sector.

It is in this light that beekeeping has been identified as a low investment and high returns enterprise with enormous potential to assist local communities in generating income for their livelihoods thus justifying AKRSPs interest in the beekeeping sub-sector. The sub sector of honey bee keeping that AKRSP not only identified but also build the capacities of small producers to such extent that now pure organic honey is available in the district throughout the year. However, value addition, identification and access to larger market are still an issue for the small producers of the District. To combat with this situation AKRSP signed a partnership agreement with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Nepal. The main objectives of the project is to increase the income of mountain men and women by promoting the value chains of honey bee products and pollination services through the building of human and institutional capacities and regional cooperation.

Hashoo Foundation
The Hashoo Foundation is new entrant in the field to promotion of bee keeping sector to empower women in Chitral. The Women Empowerment through Honey Bee Farming Project was initiated in 2007 to empower women in the Northern areas of Pakistan by expanding home-based entrepreneurship opportunities for them. The rationale for choosing honey bee farming was that it was already being practiced in the area, albeit on small scale without ample marketing opportunities. Further, the area affords an abundance of flora which is used by bees for production of honey. Our field teams conducted extensive consultations with the local communities, especially women and they welcomed the initiative. The project addresses the discrepancy between the income earned by male and female beekeepers by educating women in beekeeping and linking them to profitable markets. Furthermore, the project improves the status of women in their communities, as they become more integrated in the decision- making process within male-dominated societies the project is based on a system of social barter, designed to promote social change. HF agrees to buy the women beekeepers' honey and successfully links them to the lucrative markets in Pakistan, provided that the families agree to send their children to quality schools, have regular health check-ups and improve nutrition at home. The buying price is negotiated with the producers each year and it takes into consideration factors like opportunity cost, bulk-purchase, packaging cost and final sale price. The honey buyers include PIA, Serena Hotels, Supermarkets, PC Hotels and Marriott Hotels. The project has allowed its beneficiaries to increase their income, hence, bringing a positive change in their standard and quality of life.
The project has served as a sustainable social-business model which uses a multi-sector approach and promotes women as the means of their own economies. Women that participated in the project have gone on to hold key leadership positions within the local Honey Bee Associations. They say that now they feel more socially integrated in a male-dominated enterprise, primarily because the project addressed the discrepancy between male and female beekeepers.

Shahid Iqbal
Msc Economics
Hazara university Mansehra



mail @ chitraltimes@gmail.com

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