- Life Stories: Improving Livelihoods -
Sweet Dream: A New Beekeeper Finds his Queen
For Thar Ngee, a 22 year old from Kyauk Htet in Southern Shan State, being a beekeeper was the furthest thing from his imagination. Until Plan Bee arrived to town. Than an awareness raising event which got him intrigued. Lacking land of his own, beekeeping offered the perfect opportunity to run his own small business. Following a three-week training course, and later a two month mentoring program, Thar and his fellow trainees received their first batch of 35 beehives in August 2014. He has not looked back.
It has been a steep learning curve for Thar. Initially all those who had successfully completed the initial training joined into a Community Based Enterprise (CBE), which collectively owns and manages the hives. He quickly learned that beekeeping is not for everyone. Now ten out of the fifteen original members are still in the CBE, but they are now committed to long-term success. Early success was not long in coming. During his first honey-flow season, October-December 2014, Thar and his colleagues produced enough honey to carry out two honey extractions per week, resulting in five-gallon containers of pure Shan honey!
Thar knows that with beekeeping teamwork is key. The bees themselves are the best teacher of that. He insists that the remaining CBE members are committed and active. Once a week, four members take care of inspecting and handling the hives. Thar himself is very much the bee person, but his fellow CBE members carry out different role, from bookkeeping to making candles. In fact, he and another 4 colleagues are getting the hang of queen rearing, which is the key to successful bee colonies.
Thar’s CBE has 53 hives at present, with the final batch soon to be delivered by Plan Bee. His immediate goal? “I hope to make more than a hundred hives with our own strength, not with help from other sources. This way, we can increase the population of hives and to repay the cost of beehives.”
But he also has his eye now on other bee-related opportunities: pollination services can add an entirely new revenue stream. Thar explains: “One of the nearby farmers told me he got more mustard seeds and canola than in previous years.” With the continued support of Plan Bee, Thar will be able to evidence the impact of pollination of neighboring farms and thus convince local farmers to invest in pollination. The winners from this? Both, of course. “Already,” he enthuses, “they eagerly agree to put our beehives in their field. I have heard that at mango and orange farms they want to get beehives and will even they will give us transportation.”
Queen of her Bees: Mother and Beekeeper
Zarzar, a 35 year old from Htwal Thoon in Southern Shan State, has discovered her perfect vocation, one that allows her to combine her commitment to motherhood with another profession in which the female in her village now predominate: Beekeeping. Her hives, like her child, are never too far away and she arranges with family members to look after her children while she keeps an eye on her bees. Well organized, it seems, like a well-functioning hive.
Luckily for Zarzar, a Plan Bee training course was held in her village, and the training was provided at no cost which helped her enormously as she could not have afforded the fees. She is now a convert: “Beekeeping technology,” she explains, “will benefit us. It is nothing something I could learn in school or university.”
Win had studied to be an accountant, so her main role in the Community Based Enterprise (CBE), the collective of new beekeepers set up by Plan Bee in each village, is to manage the cash and register equipment and honey. Her skills also come in handy for recording beehive examinations and bookkeeping.
But Zarzar has bigger ideas: “My dream is to become a private beekeeper. I have attended also a beauty training so I want to have a beauty shop and do beekeeping at the same time. I can do it in a manageable way. My husband will work in a car workshop and he will also help me in beekeeping, I think.”
For now, as a mother of a little one, beekeeping is truly a win-win for Zarzar. She can easily juggle her two main responsibilities. She explains: “Beehives do not need all day to look after. My mother takes care of my daughter while I go to the apiary.” Zarzar will receive training through Plan Bee in how to make cosmetics from honey and other bee-related products. Those will feature in the beauty shop she hopes to establish.