Nepal’s bee tourism can create plenty of buzz

|     Chandra Karki     |

KATHMANDU (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) – Tourists can enjoy delicious home-made honey and at the same time learn about the history, tradition and culture of beekeeping.

Beekeeping or apiculture has always been an important income generating activity in many places, particularly in the rural hill and mountain regions. And this activity could be transformed into bee tourism or ‘apitourism’, a move that could have a large impact at the village levels, bee farmers and concerned stakeholders said.

They said that Nepal’s unique apiculture with a long beekeeping tradition can be developed as a new form of tourism, to offer a new kind of holiday experience with a positive impact on people and the environment.

Tourists can enjoy delicious home-made honey and at the same time learn about the history, tradition and culture of beekeeping.

President of the Federation of Nepal Beekeepers Shiva Prasad Sharma said apiculture could be a good medium not only to generate income by selling honey but to potentially attract eco-conscious travellers.

A farmer prepares to harvest honey at a village in Lumbini. – THE KATHMANDU POST/ANN

The government has also accorded priority to promote bee tourism in selected districts where tourists visit the most. Such districts need proper transportation facilities along with traditional bee rearing and homestay facilities. But it has not been promoted effectively.

Though honey is listed as a high-value exportable product, exporting them is always a problem due to lack of accredited laboratory to check its standard, said Vice President of the federation Devi Dahal. There are also many other bee products like sweet honey drinks and candles made from beeswax which has not been promoted well.

Bee farmer in Jhapa Krishna Adhikari said Apitherapy, a new form of alternative medicine could also be promoted. It’s a homeopathy that uses the aromas from the beehive and helps in curing asthma and other respiratory problems.

“There are many villages which have the potential to become apitherapy centres,” he said. According to government statistics, honey production has been declining by 20 per cent annually due to the rampant use of pesticides.

Farmers also bemoan the lack of access to government measures such as the distribution of Chiuri (butter tree) plants – which is a rich source of nectar for bees, claiming that while they have heard of such initiatives, it has not yet materialised for many farmers.

Widespread use of pesticides has been leading to the decimation of wild bee colonies. According to former president at the federation Rajendra Prasad Gautam, the pesticides used in commercial agriculture have resulted in a significant decline in the population of wild bees.

In addition, deforestation and destruction of entire colonies during the honey harvest are other factors for the decline of bee colonies. Since bees are one of the most important insects that transfer pollen between flowers and plants, a decline in their numbers could affect food production and human livelihoods.