Wallamkupar Warjri: How did Zizira find him?
In 2021, Zizira embarked on our customary ‘Epic Trips’ in search for stingless bee honey.
Stingless bees are small, and these bees co-exist with Meghalaya's nature. These bees have two distinguishing characteristics: they are all tiny—less than 5 millimetres in length and they build their hives in low-lying heights such as low hanging branches or even underground. Their honey production is relatively small, too— not more than 250-500 grams of honey a year!
Though beekeepers have learned to domesticate them, they are still wild bees.
In Meghalaya, the Khasi people call them by many names: ngap ryngkai, ngap rikai, ngap rai or ngap khyndew are some names. 'Ngap' means bee in Khasi, and 'Um-ngap' is honey. Um-ngap ryngkai is expensive and is a highly sought-after mainly because of its excellent healing properties.
It was a challenge for us to find this honey but there was an opportunity looming. One of our colleagues got in touch with stingless bee beekeeper. His name is Wallamkupar Warjri.
Short background about Wallamkupar Warjri
Wallamkupar Warjri was born in East Khasi hills to a Khasi family here in Meghalaya. He has six siblings: five brothers and one sister.
Ever since he was a kid, he was never interested in studies. However, he was always so curious of nature and loved to learn from it.
This nature-driven love resulted in him dropping out of school when he was in the 12th standard. He decided to stay on an isolated plot of land that was bought by his family a long time back. The land was located in a village called Umdap, in Ri-Bhoi district, which is roughly about 60+ km from Shillong.
What inspired him to raise Stingless bees?
Wallamkupar's father worked in the Department of Soil, Govt. of Meghalaya. His father was very fond of stingless bees and has been raising them for the past ten years. He had around 5-6 boxes back then. When Wallam decided to stay in Umdap with his father, the latter decided that it was time for his son take care of the bees.
It has been four years now since he took over taking care of the farm and the bees. In the first year, he got first-hand experience from his father for raising bees and farming.
They had around 10-15 boxes when they started. Now they have over 80+ boxes.
What are the challenges he faced?
When Wallam first started, it was tough for him to multiply the hives. His bother participated in a training program for bees too. However the training was mostly forcused on regular bees and not stingless bees, and both are very different.
As a result of this scarce knowledge and lack of training, he decided to look for the solution on the internet. This was how he figured things out on his own and gained a whole new set of knowledge ranging the different types of stingless bees, how to multiply the hives without harming the bees, and the best way to harvest.
Zizira's 2nd visit in January 2022 – Sustainable living is possible
In our recent visit to Wallamkupar’s place, the whole team was awestruck by his way of living. Wallamkupar is a strong advocate of sustainable living. He built his own house with bricks which he made on his own. His home is powered by solar panels. All the electrical equipment in his house runs on solar energy, including heavy energy consumption appliances like the refrigerator and water pump.
He grows his food using multi-cropping techniques. He also cultivates different plants and trees like rubber, betel nuts leaves etc. He also has a few livestock like hens, turkey ducks etc.
Plan with Zizira
Wallam mentioned that he would love to continue raising stingless bees and multiplying the hives as long as there is a market for the honey. Although the demand for stingless bee honey is high right now in the market, Wallam cannot fulfil it alone. Therefore he also wants to help others practice this craft and encourage them to raise more stingless bees.
He has coffee plants as well and has plans to work with Zizira and Zizira’s subsidiary, 7000 Steps Coffee. He wants to learn how to process coffee and work on this skill as well.
Wallam has inspired us here at Zizira by showing that there is always a way, when your will is strong. He could easily done something easy after dropping out of school, but he chose the hard path of raising stingless bees and living a sustainable life in the middle of nowhere. Now that’s true grit and perseverance!
If this story has inspired you, do let us know by leaving a comment down below. Help us share his story with as many people as possible.