Historical Background

Beekeeping in Bhutan dated back to 1960s and 1970s when several attempts were made by the government to introduce beekeeping which had no concrete achievement. It was private venture by Mr. Fritz Maurer, in 1986, who introduce European honeybee (Apis Melliferal) in Bumthang valley. Based on the experienced gain from the private beekeeping, the Royal Government of Bhutan in collaboration with the donor aid from Helvetas, initiated the sound base in 1987 for introducing beekeeping in Bumthang. The Joint RGoB-Helvatas Beekeeping Development Project (BDP) launched for a period from 1987 to 1992, focused on establishment of successful apiary based in Bumthang district and training of the breeders and technicians on bee husbandry. The project had the following objectives:

  • Improve pollination of fruit and other crops
  • Produce sufficient honey for domestic demand and for possible export in later stages
  • Generate income to the farmers and for other persons interested in beekeeping
  • Produce indigenous medicine and ointments out of wax, propolis and jelly
  • Establishment of beekeepers association of Bhutan

During the period from 1987 to 1989, the project established apiary and developed manuals for trainings on bee keeping. A technician was trained in beekeeping in Canada. Since 1990, the trained technician took over as the project manager. The import of bee hives from India was stopped and queen breeding for hive multiplication started within the project. The second bee keeping technician was trained in Canada in 1991.

Having established the sound base with apiary and training of breeders and technicians, the second phase of the project was launched since 1994 for the period from 1994 to 1997 with similar objectives as in the first phase. By the year 1994, the project had 248 colonies of bee hives. Apart from beekeeping by the project for economic as well as breeding and training purposes, the private beekeepers in Bumthang reached a total of 16 farmers by the mid of 1997(Choden & Namgay 1997)

From the period 1994 to 1997, the project focused on the following main activities:

  • Multiplication of the colonies and increasing bee hive owned by the project.
  • Breeding and multiplication of quality queen
  • Training of interested farmers for beekeeping
  • Purchase o land and construction of building to house association’s office, processing unit and storage of honey and other equipment
  • Formulation of rules and regulations to function as independent beekeepers organization and make a base for institutional building
  • Slow the reduction in the financial support so as to generate own internal operation and running cost
  • Production, processing, packing and marketing of honey in the domestic market

Having gained experienced over bee keeping by substantial numbers of farmers, the functionally independent “ Beekeepers’ association of Bhutan”(BCOB) was officially founded on 21st July 1997, with board comprising elected chair, secretary, cashier and two other members as committee. The joint RGoB-Helvatas phasing out assistance were continued till the year 2000. The independent association today produces, processes and markets honey providing considerable income to the rural households in Bumthang district for farmers that have taken up bee keeping as their farming. The processed honey is marketed by the association within the country.

Further with the cooperative (Amendment) Act of Bhutan, 2009 being in place, the association established themselves as farmers’ cooperative and registered themselves with the government on 3rd February as “Beekeepers Cooperative of Bhutan”. As of now the cooperative has 32 members out of which 26 are active for honey production, harvest and marketing.