It’s a busy bee operation. The Forest department, with the UNDP-GEF-EGREE (United Nations Development Programme-Global Environment Facility-East Godavari River Estuarine Ecosystem) Foundation, has launched a multi-purpose operation to increase honeybee population in the Coringa mangroves here. It will train women in villages abutting the mangroves in bee keeping, ensuring their livelihood and reducing dependency on the mangrove forest in a phased manner.
Unlike the Sundarbans in West Bengal and Bhitarkanika mangroves in Odisha, Coringa has been lagging in terms of honey production owing to deforestation coupled with the use of pesticides in the abutting farms and fish tanks.
Money in honey
According to statistics, the largest mangrove Sundarbans produce about 1.1 lakh kg of honey every year, while the third largest mangrove Bhitarkanika extract 30,000 kg. Coringa, the second largest mangrove in the country, is seeing an alarming decrease in the honeybee population. A study by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation on honey production in Coringa mangroves about four years ago has found that ‘aegiceras corniculatum,’ popularly known as ‘black mangroves’ andGuggilam in Telugu, is the source of quality nectar in Coringa, but the trees are felled for firewood.
While Sundarbans and Bhitarkanika are away from the farm fields, Coringa is amidst agriculture fields and fish tanks, where the honeybees are getting affected by pesticides use.
“Bee keeping has been highly successful in the Sundarban mangroves and has helped in diversifying livelihood options for the locals. Since the activity requires minimum efforts after establishment and it can go alongside other livelihood activities, we are encouraging women from the villages to take up the activity,” said Ananth Shankar, DFO (Wildlife), and additional CEO of EGREE Foundation.