This village is so clean, as we walked down we could get a sense of how the people here value and take care of their surrounding environment. Every 10 to 11 meters we saw bio-degradable garbage bins to make sure no plastic and things are strewn around on the ground. It was eye-opening for us.
Richard Ranee is a resident of Nongtraw village. His family and forefathers have been living there for a long time. He started bee farming during the year 1987 and he started with just 1 beehive. Over the years he started to realize that he was able to build a good and understanding relationship with his bees. He started to respect the bees as Nature's gift. The bees also provided him his means of livelihood. By the year 1990, he was able to increase his production with 2 beehives and he was able to harvest 5 kgs 3 times a year. On the year 2000 to 2010 his production increased and he was able to add more beehives. The only downside to this was he was only able to harvest 3 kgs twice a year. Approximately he was able to harvest 25 kgs each. He shared, this is not his full-time job but he loves doing it, he loves his bees and helping them build their hives and planting trees they love. One of the reason why he loves them is that, whenever he or his family catches a cold or cough, have wounds and bruises. He would use the honey as a natural remedy and it cures them.
Richard says, " The beehives are closed with the lid to keep the bees warm duing the winter months. The bees are all gathered together since it can get cold. Only when it is time for me to harvest the honey, I take off the lid and speak to them and the bees let me take their honey. The black bees are a little tough for me to handle as they get a little rough. But the yellow ones are tame and more easy to handle. Another thing I would like to share about traditional bee-keeping is that we local folks believe that honey bees will not last or stay with a person who is dishonest and unkind."
Richard shared with us, " It is very difficult for me to find these logs in the forest. It becomes hard to increase production of honey. That is why I have included the use of modern bee boxes which was given to me by the Government to use it as an alternative and improve my honey production. Although there's a downside to it, the bees do not stay very long in the modern beebox. My bees prefer the wood logs and they can live upto 12 years in 1 wood log. For me I see it as a way to preserve the traditions of my forefathers who have always used wood logs and some day I want to pass this to my childern. Right now, I want to lead by example.After spending some time with Richard learning about him and his bees, it was time for us to head back to Shillong. And hey, I forgot to mention that we tasted this lovely wild forest honey and the taste was truely divine. Yes, we brought some back to Shillong to share his stories and experience with more folks. Meeting Richard is an experience that we will never forget, it is fasinating and at the same time it gave us a sense of purpose that we need to tell his story and share it to the rest of the world, that folks like Richard still live, bounded with traditions in Meghalaya. Even with so much commercialization going on, this was like a little piece of haven for us, and for the honey bees as well. We shaked hands and bid our goodbyes. We made our way back to Shillong, after a few more hours of climbing back 3000 steps to reach the top of the valley. Tiring but worth all the sweat and leg cramps. Hope you found this story of Richard and his art of traditional beekeeping interesting. Have you ever had any experience of visting some place and hearing local stories or tasting something unexpected? Share with us, would love to hear from you.
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