Map of targeted cashew orchards
We hope you are doing great in the pandemic. As the pandemic rules and regulations started to minimizing, we started our work in full power. Just like worker bees, our researchers started to forage in our field site to find new and healthy foraging sites for pollinators. The way honey bees search for healthy and nectaring flowers, we started our search to find new, healthy, and organic cashew and mango orchards from our study site.
In this era of development and dirty competition, the majority of farmers have started to use chemical fertilizers in their farms to get more and more yield. Also, they use genetically modified, hybrid cashew and mango verity in their farms. The situation is becoming more drastic as they are gradually increasing their farms/orchards by clearing surrounding forests areas. All these activities are causing a serious threat to the regional pollinator species. On the other hand, we have succeeded to discover new farms with a native variety of cashew trees. The owner of these lands/farms still believes in the “The Old Is Gold” philosophy.
During our expedition we came across 3 local people from our study site. All these 3 people own around 17 acres of farmland having around 500+ native cashew verity plants. Without wasting any time, we have conducted biodiversity and social surveys in and around these farmlands. The results were fascinating. From these field visits, we managed to record around 25 species of birds, around 20 species of insects (including Honey bees and Stingless bees) from the orchards as well as from the surrounding forest area. Also, we managed to record 32 species of different plants, 23 Herb species and 10 shrub species, and 18 climber species from the surrounding forest of these cashew orchards. This diversity is nothing but an indicator that shows the importance and health of these cashew orchards and their surrounding forest area.
Further, using AERF’s secondary data & available literature we tried to prepare a seasonal flowering plant list from this region. This list is useful for our future interventions in this area. The detailed list is attached with this report.
At AERF, we always try to come up with different ideas and initiatives for the sustainable development and growth of local communities by conserving regional biodiversity. One such initiative is the “Fair for Life” (FFL) certification program. This certification focuses upon the sustainable collection of produce from Private Orchards/Farmlands/Plantations. Also, it encourages providing many social and financial benefits to all the stakeholders of the projects. AERF- under its for-profit wing Nature Connect India Pvt. Ltd. has identified 4 different cashew orchards and other private forest patches to be brought under the FFL certification - for the collection of resources from these areas.
While conducting biodiversity surveys of these sites the idea of starting honey bee conservation studies cropped up in the mind of the team members. During the meetings with these private landowners, we pitched this idea, to which they readily agreed. Now, the main activities that will be conducted under this new initiative are :
1) Conduct surveys to identify patches where foraging grounds for bees could be created.
2) Planting a mixed variety of native and seasonal flower species to attract the bees throughout the year. Monsoon is the perfect time to plant these species. Now that the rains are not strong enough, the planted flower species will not get washed away.
3) Providing training to the owners to maintain these bee foraging grounds.
Once the rains stop and the flowers start to bloom, the bees will get attracted to these foraging grounds. This will serve two purposes:
1) These foraging grounds are located in the cashew and mango orchards. Come December, the flowering on these trees will begin to show. The bees that are attracted to the foraging grounds will also help in pollination on the cashew/mango trees.
2) We plan to run a pilot program by training these orchard owners on Bee Keeping. We will train them to capture the queen bee, how to set up the bee boxes, and how to extract the honey once the box is ready. Further, we will sign agreements with our Bee Champions to purchase the honey from them at a fair price, at the same time bringing the honey supply chain under FFL Certification.
We at AERF, are always thinking about sustainable conservation and community empowerment. Many of you all have supported us in the past and that has helped us to continue this fight against time and nature. We look forward to more support from all you nature enthusiasts who believe in us!
Filed researcher collecting dataAttachments: