“If bees disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
The bee population is at risk worldwide. In India the numbers of indigenous bees in rural and urban areas are dwindling to critically low levels, and the majority of city dwellers are unaware of the importance of bees.
Addressing this problem, Under the Mango Tree(UTMT) was initiated. UTMT is a social enterprise that promotes beekeeping to increase agricultural productivity, enhance incomes and improve livelihoods of marginal farmers in India. UTMT utilizes the power of market forces to provide poor farmers with a lucrative income stream by training them to use bees to diversify their revenue sources and by establishing market access for the honey produced. The all-natural honey collected retains its unique flavours influenced by flora nectar gathered by bees and is packaged and sold directly to consumers. Under The Mango Tree intends to create India’s first national fair trade brand of gourmet, single-origin honey.
The Story of UTMT
There was no “eureka moment” that catalyzed Under The Mango Tree. Rather, combining the realities that prevail in rural India with the objective of diversifying livelihoods and improving rural incomes lead to Under The Mango Tree. During Vijaya Pastala’s work with rural farmers over the course of two decades, she helped them search out potential livelihood options, develop village-based business plans and gave them the confidence and training to organize themselves and explore micro-finance options for better business options. However, the biggest problem was finding sustainable and long-term markets that empowered, rather than exploited, these farmers. Thus, Vijaya was determined to find a viable solution to markets that desired quality organic certified, all-natural products but had a limited and inconsistent chain of suppliers.
A key problem for a primary Indian producer is access to markets. The current value chain for agricultural commodities – from plough to the plate – is long and tenuous, with many intermediaries. Farm gate prices available to Indian farmers are often only 25% of the retail price. Finding remunerative markets is an acute problem for small farmers. Agriculture supports more than half of India’s population.
One key problem she confronted was that small beekeeping societies across India produced various flavors of honey that never reached urban markets. While India’s diverse flora led to production of orange blossom, cardamom, litchi, sweet clover and various regional honeys, the urban consumer was only given a single kind of uniform tasting honey. Furthermore, the typical value chain for agricultural commodities–from plough to plate–is long, arduous and unprofitable: farm gate prices available to Indian farmers are often only 25% of the retail price. As bees play a crucial role as pollinators in increasing agricultural productivity, a powerful idea began to take shape: what if farmers were trained to add bee boxes on farms to facilitate cross-pollination and provided markets to sell the honey collected?
Under The Mango Tree is committed to sustainability. Sustainability means many things : from investing in long-term relationships with their partners–-farmer, customer & supplier–-to ensuring their practices benefit the environment, evidenced by their pledge to work with the indigenous bee, the Apis cerana indica.
UTMT has a symbiotically linked hybrid institutional structure, which guarantees a sustainable source of revenue and ethical & caring business practices to our farmers.
UTMT has also launched urban beekeeping, with many objectives including: