SC/ST families to get honeybee colonies under KAU project to promote beekeeping as livelihood support
Cardamom farmers in Idukki may soon turn to a tiny winged ally to improve the yield from their plantations. The planters stand to benefit from a project to be launched by the Kerala Agricultural University in the hill district to promote beekeeping as livelihood support.
Proposed under the Idukki package, the project is expected to enhance the yield in 41,593 hectares of cardamom plantations through improved pollination by honeybees, Vice-Chancellor P.Rajendran told The Hindu .
S.Devanesan, principal scientist attached to the All India Coordinated Research Project on Honeybees at the College of Agriculture, Vellayani, said the pilot project would be implemented at Vandanmedu. “As many as 30 SC/ST families will be provided with honeybee colonies and equipment for beekeeping as well as scientific inputs for enhancing cardamom yield. The colonies will be multiplied and sold to other beneficiaries of the project in Idukki for sustainable beekeeping.”
A study by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) in Udumbanchola taluk in Idukki earlier this year had revealed that indiscriminate application of pesticides had converted the cardamom plantations into a ‘no insect land,’ affecting pollination and bringing down the yield.
It estimates that organic farming and apiculture could result in a 30 to 50 per cent increase in cardamom yield through better pollination.
The KSBB is gearing up to promote apiculture in an organically cultivated cardamom estate. It estimates that the spicy honey from cardamom will fetch a good market for farmers.
The KAU is working on another project to disseminate advanced technologies in commercial meliponiculture using stingless bees to provide an alternative livelihood for the tribes of Palakkad. “There is ample scope to take up meliponiculture for empowerment of women across the State. Such units can be recommended for old-age homes, orphanages and schools,” says Dr.Rajendran.
The university is preparing to take up a project named Oro Veettilum Oru Cherutheneecha Koodu, under which each household will be provided with a colony of stingless honeybees.
“Kerala has about 600,000 Indian bee colonies. There is potential to rear an additional 49 lakh colonies in rubber plantations, a rich source of nectar for the bees. The State’s forest cover spanning an area of 10,81,509 ha can also provide pollen and nectar,” Dr.Rajendran said.
The university has drawn up plans to supply disease-free healthy Indian bee colonies by utilising the mass multiplication technology standardised at the Vellayani centre.
“A beekeeper starting with 10 colonies can generate an income of Rs.1,20,000 through the sale of colonies or Rs.2,00,000 through the sale of honey” explains Dr. Devanesan. The Vellayani centre has developed a honey-based fat-free energy drink with a shelf life of 30 days and is preparing to transfer the technology for mass production.