Go closer to the lush golden fields that extend as far as the eye can see and you realise what makes Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district buzz. The fields in this leading mustard-producing district are flooded with the iconic yellow flower, with hundreds of bees hovering over the petals. Yes, this region is the second-largest producer of honey in the country, generating 1,200 tonnes annually from 3,200 beekeepers, most of them young with none or marginal land holdings.
While beekeeping as an agri-based livelihood requires low inputs and yields high profits, it requires training and the willingness to migrate to cooler climes in search of other crops and plantations in the summer months.
For the farmer, the expansion of apiculture (honeybees carrying out cross-pollination of yellow mustard flowers) has more than one advantage — it helps in increasing the crop yield by as much as 20 to 25 per cent and the entire family can get into the beekeeping business. However, this was not what farmers believed in the late 1990s when beekeeping was introduced in the region. It was the brainchild of Lupin Human Welfare & Research Foundation when it went in search of non-farm occupations for rural India.
“We chose Bharatpur district for development as it was equidistant from Delhi as well as the State capital Jaipur,” says Sita Ram Gupta, the Executive Director who joined the project way back in 1989. An initiative of pharmaceutical major Lupin’s Chairman Dr Desh Bandhu Gupta to give back to society, the Foundation, he recalls, negotiated social and political hiccups in the various livelihood programmes it started, seeing success in many and failure in some.