Beekeeping Benefits Survivors of Trafficking in Nepal
Naomi M. Savillen

The problem of trafficking in Nepal and Maiti's efforts to tackle it In Nepal one of the most serious social problems is the trafficking of women and girls into brothels in India and elsewhere. (Peter to add statistics). Many girls suffer appalling abuse whilst incarcerated in brothels and often become infected with HIV. To make matters worse, when girls are rescued or return from India into Nepal many are not accepted back into their communities, especially those with HIV. This leaves them without family support, unmarriageable, homeless and with nowhere to go. Such girls are in severe risk of being sold again into sex slavery.

Maiti Nepal (today funded largely by a British charity called Maiti Children's Trust), has been working to tackle trafficking and related problems since 1993. Maiti runs transit homes and prevention camps to protect girls in danger of being trafficked, border check posts to stop pimps taking girls across the borders of Nepal into India, and a rehabilitation and protection centre for longer term housing and education of girls who have no safe place to go. In addition to all this in Jhapa district, on the Eastern Border of Nepal with West Bengal, India, Maiti also runs a hospice for the longer term care of girls with various chronic health problems especially those with HIV and aids. Here around 25 women and girls live together as a small community farming an area of land. The hospice is also home to about 13 children, some offspring of girls who did not survive the ordeal and some who are there with their own mothers. All the children are well cared for and the survivors benefit greatly from having children to love and take care of. 

How beekeeping can help survivors of trafficking
In such a community as the Maiti Hospice the potential benefits of beekeeping are tremendous as the objectives given below show. Recognising this, Maiti Children's Trust approached Bees Abroad with a request for funding and a new £14,000 3-year project is being undertaken under the guidance and technical supervision of the author.

The objectives of the Maiti Beekeeping Project are as follows:

  1. Produce honey and pollen for use as nutritional supplements for children, girls and women at the Maiti Nepal hospice.
  2. Enable Maiti workers and residents at the hospice to use bee products for primary health care and as medicine. (This includes 'apitherapy' or use of honey, pollen, beeswax and bee venom for various ailments and in first aid.)
  3. Improve production and quality of insect pollinated food crops at the hospice through bee pollination.
  4. Empower Maiti survivors of trafficking by providing them with skill development and income generating possibilities and also by helping them to overcome fear of working with bees, which contributes to general confidence building.
  5. Generate income (through sale of beeswax products, honey, excess fruit and vegetables etc.) for more sustainable financial management of the hospice.
  6. Through employment of female beekeeping and agricultural specialists from hill areas of West Nepal and coordination with other women's organisations such as The Women's Foundation, generate linkages between Maiti Nepal's hospice and other Nepali women in order to spread Maiti's messages against trafficking to remote parts of the country and decrease the isolation of hospice residents.

Use of appropriate technology - focus of the training activities
The project is working through use of local natural and human resources with minimal technical input from the (British) author. An appropriate technology hive made from bamboo, cow-dung and mud, is under test. This was developed in Bangladesh by Mogens Jensen and is currently in use in Tamil Nadu, South India. The hive is specially designed for tropical Apis cerana bees, which are prone to absconding. The hive can be opened from below so that general colony condition and presence of swarm cells can be assessed at a glance without the need for removal of top-bars. Wooden top-bars are also fitted so that comb inspection and selective honey harvesting are also possible. Since beeswax is useful for production of medicinal skin preparations, harvest of beeswax from top-bars is desirable. 

During May 2001 a training course in hive building was given to the hospice girls and some interested members of the wider beekeeping community in Jhapa (see photos ? and ?). Currently two of these hives are colonised by bees in the hospice and its neighbouring area and during the autumn honey flow as many as possible of the15 hives already made will be colonised. During the honey flow a young woman beekeeping trainer from the remote district of Jumla will visit the hospice and provide the girls there with further theoretical and practical training in beekeeping. She and other beekeeping specialists will also provide several follow-up visits over a period of 3 years. In order to provide technical support in between technical visits, one male and one female beekeeping trainer from Jhapa district will also be trained. Most of their training will take the form of shadowing beekeeping specialists during their technical visits and where necessary more advanced technical training courses (e.g. queen rearing) will be arranged.

Innovative application of apitherapy
Once honey and beeswax are being produced and the girls at the hospice are confident at handling bees, training in basic apitherapy will be given by the author. Careful use of bee venom should enable the girls to treat arthritis, menstrual back pain and other problems for themselves and application of raw honey for all types infections and sores should reduce dependence upon antibiotics. Antibiotics usually further weaken already severely compromised immune systems of HIV positive patients and their over-use in inappropriate dosages is a perennial problem throughout the developing world. Preparation of pollen-honey supplements for chronically ill survivors and malnourished children will also help to strengthen them to resist further illness and to gain weight.

By the end of this 3-year programme, Maiti Children's Trust and Bees Abroad hope to have enabled some of the world's most disadvantaged people to taste the sweet benefits of beekeeping and to have contributed to sustainable financing of the Maiti Hospice. 

The author would like to thank Bees Abroad and Maiti Children's Trust for providing financial support for this project, Peter Bashford of Maiti Children's Trust for invaluable support, Nicola Gilbert for helping to make connections between UK and Nepal, Narayan Acharya, Amar Bista and Ganga Pande for help with field work, Anuradha Koirala chairwoman of Maiti Nepal and Govinda Ghimire (regional in-charge) for permission to work at the Kakarbhita hospice and all the staff and residents of hospice itself for their enthusiasm and hard work.