SITE VISITS: 2001-2002

KAITHI BEEKEEPING PROJECT:
Visit to Pragatisheel Madhumakhi Palan Kendra
(Kaithi Beekeeping Center)
by Jayashree Janardhan.

22 January 2002

This report has been prepared after a visit to the Kaithi Madhumakhi Kendra on 22nd January 2002. I visited the kendra along with Anil Sharma (Asha Delhi). We were later joined by Mahesh (Asha Lalpur). One of the main persons involved Vallabh Pandey was in Kaithi when we visited. His brother Nar Nahar Pandey was away and we could not meet him.

The purpose of the visit was to learn about the training going on at the center. This report focuses on the training aspects. Earlier reports are available which focus in detail on the background of this effort.

Background

The Pragatisheel Madhumakhi Palan Kendra is an effort by the Pandey brothers in creating a research, documentation and training centre at Kaithi, which is 27 kms from Varanasi city. The centre was started with the aim of imparting training in the areas of bee-keeping and cultivation and processing of medicinal and aromatic plants. The goal was to help individuals make a viable vocation towards self-reliance or "Swawlambhan".

The kendra was started on land donated out of their family property. The training being given here is based on the work done by the two brothers in perfecting techniques of bee keeping and processing of medicinal plants. The brothers have earned their livelihood this way. Vallabh Pandey left a lucrative Medical Representative job in the early 90s to begin his experiments in bee-keeping and other activities. Soon his work grew to such a level that his brother Nar Nahar joined him at Kaithi. Today these two brothers are the largest producers of honey in the Varanasi area. They also extract crude oil from the aromatic plants and supply this to the soap and insecticide industry. It is with the purpose of making their knowledge and experience reach more interested people in an organized fashion that the project was conceived.

As the center grew the same infrastructure was utilized to set up tailoring and embroidery classes for the women. Gradually as these made progress several short duration workshops of interest to the locals were added. The kendra is slowly becoming a center to provide training in multiple vocations.

In addition to Vallabh and Nar Nahar Pandey, a local graduate from the area Pradeep helps part-time for an honorarium of Rs 350 per month. He helps with the machinery and day to day maintenance work.

Infrastructure

In terms of infrastructure the kendra comprises a single large room in which classes are held. A small storage room exists with basic cooking. Bathroom facilities are also available to help residential trainees.

Bee-keeping

The bee-keeping training sessions are conducted for duration of a week at the kendra. After this the trainees are provided on-going support while they get started independently. Since February 2001, 5 sessions have been conducted. The sessions typically occur before April/May every year since the bee-keeping season begins at this time. The cost of the training is Rs 500 for residential training including food and Rs 150 for non-residential training. After the on-site training is completed the trainees receive a newsletter every couple of months detailing what activities they should carry out over the next couple of months. The brothers also provide free consultation and advice along the way.

Beekeeping requires boxes to keep the bees. These boxes made out of wood and iron have to be made carefully since the hives have to be well made. They cannot be made by hand. The boxes are expensive and cost approximately Rs 2800 per box. Boxes are available from two private and one government source in the area. They are available pre-season and at the time the bee keeping begins. The reason for the expense is also that the equipment used to make the hives is expensive and costs approximately Rs 50,000.

The last training session was conducted from Jan 5th-Jan 11th. 19 trainees attended the non-residential session which was sponsored by the "Eco Vikas Samithi". This samithi set up by the U.P. state government is a grouping of the forest department and villages adjoining the forests. The samithi has been encouraging villagers to take up beekeeping offering them subsidized boxes as well as buy back offers for the honey produced. In the last session 19 villagers from 5 forest ranges in the districts of Mirzapur and Sonbhadra participated in the training. The forest department sponsored the training costs. The trainees can also buy boxes at 60% discount. The honey they produce will be bought back at Rs 60 per kg in comparison with lower market rates of approx Rs 35 per kg. 10 of the villagers who participated were already using a traditional system of beekeeping before the training. They were happy to learn better techniques in the class. The forest department was satisfied with the training and hopes to send more people once they have more funds.

The next training session is due to begin Feb 4th-Feb 10th. 14 people have signed up for this. 4 of the participants will be from NGOs and the remaining from surrounding villages. When describing NGO training Vallabh mentioned that in the initial stages they had trouble with NGO participants. These trainees were aware of the sponsorship provided by Asha and PPI and complained about having to pay for the training. They also expected a stipend for attending the sessions! Vallabh and Nar Nahar had to set their expectations straight. They noted that sometimes people associate foreign funds with surplus and make unreasonable demands. 7 trainees who have benefited from the kendra are now involved in their own independent efforts. They are slowly beginning to see profits. The problem that is faced by many of them is the high cost of the boxes. In a few special cases Vallabh loaned a couple of additional boxes to some trainees to help them make profits sooner and help break even. I asked them if they could manufacture the boxes at lower cost at the kendra if they had the equipment and what the feasibility of such an effort would be. Vallabh mentioned that if they had the hive making equipment they could produce boxes at cost price of approximately Rs 800. They can then sell this at cost price to trainees. He however wanted to wait a while longer for the training sessions themselves to grow before thinking about such a step. Vallabh mentioned that overall he was happy with the training but wants to ensure that they get more trainees. They have been sending letters to different NGOs and also as the word has been spreading in the villages - been getting more participants. They however still feel like they want to utilize the resources available to a greater extent. Their focus for this year is on growing the number of trainees. If you are aware of groups that can benefit from this please do contact Vallabh at the email address given towards the bottom.

Tailoring & Embroidery

Tailoring classes were started at the kendra with the intention of drawing more locals into the kendra. The closest classes which existed before were 15 kms away and expensive for most locals. Tailoring has turned out to be a very popular program and 43 women have learnt a fair amount of tailoring since the classes started last February. A local lady tailor from Kaithi conducts the classes which are for a duration of 75 days (2 hours long). She receives Rs 400 per month as honorarium. The class covers 28 different types of clothing items for men, women and children. Some students take shorter two day brush-up classes to expand pre-existing skills. 80% of the students attending the classes have machines at home. Tailoring machines are common articles of "dowry" in the area. Most students come from low income families and a few from lower middle class. The students are charged Rs 21 for the basic requirements provided in the class (needle, thread, paper etc). This is in contrast to the classes available 15 kms away at Rs 250 per session. Students who are mostly women and girls bring in the cloth and take home finished products. In a few cases the girls cannot afford to bring in material and cloth is provided by the kendra. In this case the finished product is kept aside to be donated to some disaster relief area.

Many of the girls who take this class are not literate. They manage to learn the basics required to take measurements etc. Mahesh suggested that some basic literacy be taught to the girls. It appears that the existing infrastructure is perhaps sufficient to start basic literacy classes as well.

Embroidery classes are held for a duration of 45 days and the girls are charged Rs 11 to cover for the cost of the needle, thread, embroidery ring and other basics. They are taught 30 different types of stitches. There are no other embroidery classes in the area. The local instructor is paid Rs 350 per month. 4 different sessions have been held at the kendra over the past year and the average number of students per session has been 15.

Short duration workshops Based on the demand several interesting short term workshops have been held by different instructors. Most instructors have been volunteering their time with very little honorarium to cover their travel costs. For example a stuffed toy making workshop was organized for 7 days. 11 girls participated in this. Rs 11 was charged for basic material. This was very popular and there has been demand for another class. A 6 day workshop on fabric painting was held in which 24 girls participated. The instructor Sheetal came from Lucknow. Greeting card making was also taught. This has turned out to be a profitable source of income for the kendra. They received orders for cards from a local bank and an NGO. The cards sell for Rs 6. Mehendi workshops were held in which 15 girls participated. A pottery painting class was also held.

There are plans to hold workshops on food preservation, Jardozi embroidery, rakhi making and South Indian cooking. Many students are also keen on learning to use the computer. Vallabh plans to start this gradually. Almost all students are exposed to the computer when they visit the kendra and there has been growing interest in this.

Documentation

Documentation work has been going on to create information and handouts on growing and use of medicinal and aromatic herbs. Three trainees have learnt the use of these. Essential oil extraction also happens with the crude oil sold to soap/pesticide industry. Vallabh has also been participating in a cooperative farming effort at Ballia where another Asha center has been functioning.

Observations and suggestions

The kendra is functioning well in a focused way and has become a center for local vocational research and training. It serves the local needs well. The integrity of the people involved is very good and they are continuing to put resources to best possible use. I believe that this kendra can continue to grow and become a center for developing various entrepreneurial trades. Many of the students are now comfortable enough with the kendra that they are ready to teach themselves. Also trainees get exposed to multiple vocations at the same center. Suggestions for the future include the following:

1. Add literacy classes so the students receiving training can further benefit from it. This could perhaps be explored with existing infrastructure. In addition to helping the trainees this can contribute towards improving adult literacy in the area. It will also help bring more locals to the kendra.

2. Once the beekeeping training expands, consider making the boxes and selling it at cost price. This will really help trainees get started sooner. Asha should look into supporting the kendra with the required infrastructure if it is decided to make this happen.

3. Assist the center in any short term workshop requirements such as equipment for workshops on South Indian cooking.

4. Support the kendra in its attempt to start more computer classes. Vallabh wants to gradually look at this as well. We could perhaps support in different ways.

5. Contact more groups we work with and make them aware of the existence of such a center.

6. In general our long term goal should be to help develop the kendra into a multi-vocation training center since it has good potential in helping people become entrepreneurs.

Financial Details

Original Proposed Budget (Rupees over a period of 3 years)

Construction   140000
Things   40000
Computer with Printer   50000
Preliminary Publications   25000
Bee-keeping start up   20000
Honorarium @ 3000/- p.m. (1st year)   36000
Honorarium @ 3000/- p.m. (2nd year)   36000
Honorarium @ 3000/- p.m. (3rd year)   36000
TOTAL      383000

Financial Support Details ( Rupees till 31st Oct 2001)

>From PPI (1st year)   131000 >From Berkeley   40000 >From Berkeley + Seattle   140000 >From PPI (2nd year)   36000 Local contributions   3727 TOTAL350727

Expenditure (Rupees till 31st Oct 2001)

Construction - Building Materials   106876
Construction - Wages   42035
Construction - Transportation   4974
Construction - Miscellaneous   423
Things (electrical fitting, utensil, water fitting, etc.)   17495
Computer, Printer, UPS, Telephone, Internet, etc.46024
Honorarium Jan 01 - Oct 01    37350
Sewing and Embroidery Training Materials4374
Equipment for bee-keeping training   1160
Preliminary printings & photocopy   2081
Books & periodicals   442

Postage   597
Stationery   457
Telephone   408
Travel   932
Local conveyance   116
Photography   318
Repairs   218
Entertainment   312
Miscellaneous   237

TOTAL      266829
BALANCE (in hand and account)         83898

Contact Information
Vallabh & Nar Nahar Pandey,

SPASS,
Kaithi, Varanasi-   221116
Telephone numbers - (0542) 618201, 618301, 618401
Email - ashakashi@yahoo.com

Reported by Jayashree Janardhan.