Wangdue is in the process of constructing the first honey processing unit at Phobji gewog centre to help farmers of Phobji and Gangtey to extract honey in a clean way.
The processing unit is expected to be completed by June this year. About 15 households in the two gewogs are expected benefit from the project.
Wangdue’s livestock production officer, Karma Wangchuk, said that the foundation for the processing unit has been completed and that the constructions of the unit would start soon.
The dzongkhag has also formed a group consisting of 15 members to help with the marketing of the honey produced.
Karma Wangchuk said that the group would save money. “After every three years, the members will divide the interest generated from the saving and interest from the sale of honey and by-products.”
The dzongkhag plans to expand the group.
Beekeeping in Wangdue was started in March 2017 with the introduction of three hives of Apis melifera to 10 farmers of Phobji gewog, five farmers from Gantey gewog, and a farmer from Dangchu gewog.
Karma Wangchuk said that five more households were supplied with three hives each. Three hives each of Apis cerena (local bee) was also supplied to 10 farmers of Gase Tshogom gewog. “The gewogs were chosen as pilot gewogs. If beekeeping becomes a successful venture, it will be replicated to other gewogs too.”
Karma Wangchuk added that the supply of the hives would also help the farmers diversify their source of income as Phobji and Gangtey farmers solely depend on potato. “It is a lucrative business for those farmers with less land for other business ventures that require land.”
Since the farming was started, more than 800 kilograms of honey were harvested from the Apis melifera hives in June 2017.
Member of the bee group, Sangay Dorji from Gangphel chiwog under Gangtey gewog, said that in about two and half months, he harvested about 12 kilograms of honey. He sold the honey at Nu 380 per 500 gram.
He said that although he could earn a profit in summer and more people were coming forward for beekeeping, there was hardly any profit during the winter. “Due to lack of food during winter, we have to feed the bees sugar.”
Another bee farmer from Gangtey, Tshering Gyeltshen, also sharing the same concern, said that of the five households supplied with bee hives in his gewog, only his is running.
Karma Wangchuk said that the survival rates of the bees are very low during winter, partly because of the cold weather, but mostly because of the lack of management of the hives during winter.
He said that the bee hives should be kept warm during winter by covering it with materials such as rags.
Farmers, he said, were trained in the management of the bees before the introduction of the hives.
Farmers of Gase Tshogom were trained to make improved bee hives and the dzongkhag plans to conduct such training at Phobji and Gangtey.
“This will help farmers spend less in buying hives. Queen rearing will be done so that the farmers need not have to buy queens,” Karma Wangchuk said.
Karma Cheki | Wangdue