In Bumthang, the members of the Beekeepers’ Association of Bhutan are busy harvesting honey around this time of the year. This is the first harvest of the year. The second lot of honey will be harvested in September.
The association is expecting 15 tonnes of honey this year, two tonnes more than last year.
The association buys honey from its members at Nu 250 a kilogram. After packaging, it is sold for Nu 165 for 500 grams and Nu 95 for 275 grams.
The association has 35 members, of which 50 percent are Bumthang residents.
Tek Bahadur, the chairperson of the association, said beekeeping has become popular over the years. He said a lot of people have started showing interest to join the association.
A member pays a registration fee of Nu 800 when joining the association and an annual membership contribution of Nu 500.
Tek Bahadur said the association enrols new members only if they are willing to adopt the new method of beekeeping.
The traditional method of keeping bees in hollowed logs and walls leads to killing of bees while extracting honey because it requires pulling out all the hives whether they contain honey. Modern beekeeping, on the other hand, causes little threat to bees while harvesting honey.
The association bears transportation cost of honey to the association’s office
Tul, a member of the association, started beekeeping in 1993. He said it is easy, lucrative and only a part-time job. He does not have to give much time to beekeeping. So, he can concentrate on other works. Annually, he earns about Nu 80,000 from honey.
Beekeeping started in Bhutan in 1990 with the help of Helvetas. And in 1998, Helvetas started the Beekeepers’ Association of Bhutan with the provision of equipment, grant, and training.
The head of Breeding and Management Research Programme of RNR-RDC Centre in Bumthang, Dawa L Sherpa, said now farmers of Sarpang, Tsirang, Dagana, Samtse, Samdrupjongkhar, Trongsa and Bumthang increasingly keep bees. But most of them still follow the traditional way. He added that farmers are being trained in the modern method. In order to encourage the modern method of beekeeping, the association makes sure that its new members are trained in it.
After a survey conducted by the Department of Livestock in 2007, beekeepers in Sarpang were organised into a group and given training in modern way of beekeeping.
In 2009, another group of beekeepers from Tsirang and Dagana were trained. This year, the training is expected to go to Samtse.