|Regenerative Agriculture Technologies for the Hill Farmers of Nepal: An Information Kit (IIRR, 1992, 210 p.)|
|Natural resources and their enhancement|
As a bee-human relationship already exists in most regions of Nepal, the objective of any beekeeping development effort is to introduce new and more efficient methods. Small-scale beekeeping projects sometimes introduce modern beehives (moveable-frame hives) to traditional beekeepers without readily available inputs, follow-up or technical assistance. This can result in a relatively high investment in equipment in anticipation of a high return, but the technical ability to operate this equipment and realize its potential is lacking.
For most farmers, the shift from traditional to modern beekeeping is difficult. Therefore, an intermediate technology has been developed in which moveable-comb hives arc used. This type of hive has a series of bars across the top which allow for attachment of the comb.
In the hilly regions of Nepal, bees are kept in fixed-comb hives near or inside the house. These fixed-comb hives are simply man- made cavities, mostly hollowed-out logs (log-hives) or cavities made in the stone and mud walls (wall-hives).
In these hive-types, the bees attach the combs directly to the top and sides of the hive. Combs are removed from these hives only by cutting them out and it is not practical to replace them.
DISADVANTAGES OF TRADITIONAL (FIXEDCOMB) HIVES
· It is impossible to remove and replace combs; thus examination of the colony condition and hive manipulations is impossible.
· Swarming is often common because of limited space.
· Brood is often lost in harvesting honey.
· Honey quality is usually low because it comes from old combs or is mixed with pollen and"high brood.
In modern or "high tech" beekeeping, moveable-frame hives are used to obtain maximum honey production. In these hives, the bees construct combs in frames. These hives are constructed so that there is a bee space between each of the frames and between the frames and the box holding them. Such intricate construction demands relatively good quality wood and an expertise in carpentry. Thus they are expensive. Furthenmore, for their optimum return, they require comb foundation and a honey extractor. These are expensive pieces of equipment and are often difficult to obtain.
Economically speaking, a cheaper and simpler system would be better. Such an alternative may not allow for some sophisticated management options, but this does not matter if the beekeeper does not know of or use such management techniques. This is the essence of appropriate technology.
The intermediate technology beekeeping system uses moveable-comb hives and provides a relatively simple system. It is more within the economic and technical reach of most small-scale projects, while still allowing the user to employ the most current beekeeping knowledge.
This beekeeping system gives the user more control over the construction of the hive and limits the need for other equipment. Intermediate technology hives give small farmers an affordable opportunity to learn about bees and beekeeping and to develop the needed expertise and capital to make use of a moveable-frame system at a later date.
ADVANTAGES OF INTERMEDIATE (MOVEABLE-COMB) HIVES
a) Compared to traditional (fixed comb) hives:
· The combs are removable and can be replaced without destroying them. Swarming can be controlled and colonies can be increased with simple queen-rearing methods.
· Honey can be harvested from new comb containing no brood. Thus, little damage is done to the colony and higher quality honey can be produced.
b) Compared to modern (moveable frame) hives:
· Easier construction than modem hives because they have fewer parts which have critical dimensions (of size).
· Materials for construction are readily available to the small farmer. Thus, they are cheaper and more economical than modern frame hives.
Intermediate hives can be constructed from many materials, including straw, bamboo, mud-plastered baskets, metal or wood. Wood is the best material for the top bars. The width of the top bars (29-30 mm) is the only critical dimension in this type of hive
Ideally, the sides of the moveable-comb hive should slope about 120 degrees. This slope basically follows the curve of a naturally built comb; therefore, it minimizes comb attachment to the sides of the hive. This makes it easier to remove the combs without breakage.
Previously, one type of intermediate hive (Gordon Temple Top-Bar Hive) was introduced by UNICEF in several parts of Nepal. This hive was not successful because it was too long in size and small colonies did not stay inside. Rather than using a smaller hive, a divider should be made which divides the hive in two parts. The divider is basically a wooden plank in the shape of the hive which is attached to a top bar. The size of the hive can shell be adjusted according to the size of the colony by moving the divider.
PLACE OF INTERMEDIATE TECHNOLOGY IN BEEKEEPING EXTENSION
The use of an intermediate technology system in a beekeeping development program is not incompatible with "high-tech" beekeeping. Both have their place. It is the job of the program planner to determine the nature of the bee-human relationship and the cultural and economic realities of the area. From this, the planner can suggest the type of equipment to use in the program. In some areas, the use of both types may be justified. The beekeepers themselves should make the final decision.
It is important to note that neither intermediate moveable-comb hives nor modern frame-hives themselves guarantee higher honey production as compared to traditional beehives. The secret of higher honey production lies in the fact that these improved hives allow certain management techniques (which are not possible with traditional hives.) Therefore, training and follow-up activities are the key focus points of any beekeeping project.