Wednesday, November 25, 2009
June 6, 2007
Honey Trails in the Blue Mountains
The Introduction to my new book... Honey Trails by Kunal Sharma
The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR) is a massive physical, ecological and cultural complex merging some of the most forested regions of the three states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka into a single ecological block. NBR is spread over eight districts - Nilgiris, Coimbatore and Erode in Tamil Nadu, Palakkad, Malappuram and Wyanad in Kerala, and Coorg and Mysore in Karnataka (Daniel, 1996).
The Biosphere Reserve is home to major honey-producing zones in the overall context of South India, with massive honey cliffs or ‘bee nesting’ trees present in large numbers. Forest sanctuaries have been accorded a high degree of protection resulting in abundance of floral and faunal species and a subsequent enduring tradition of honey harvesting. The dense forests and steep escarpments that abound in the Western Ghats provide a natural resting place for the Giant Rock Bees and ancestral dwellings of adivasis. These bee habitats are critical for the survival of the diversity of these forests having ecological, economic and socio-cultural foundations for adivasi groups.
The honey hunters of the NBR are renowned for their skill of collection from highly treacherous settings. Several adivasi groups hunt honey and each have certain methods peculiar to them. The Aalu Kurumbas in the eastern and southern parts of the Nilgiris and in Attapady are renowned for scaling cliffs more than 500 feet in height while the Kasavas and Irulas are adept in harvesting large quantities from giant trees. The Kattunaicken is an expert hunter in and around Mudumalai and Muthanga forests just as the Jenu Kurubas are eminent in Nagarhole and Mysore regions. In addition, the Cholanaicken is renowned for his legendary skills in New Amarambalam using basic equipments to scale high trees and cliffs. (Keystone, 2006)
The close link of bees to adivasi people is synonymous to linking ecology with livelihoods. This study has thrown open several aspects of forests, people and governance. Issues related to declining bee populations, NTFPs, traders and the thin boundaries between `legal and illegal’, came to us in different forms – in different places. This book explores these issues and presents facts as were seen during the travels to these areas.
After a decade of work in the field of conservation and development with adivasi people of the Nilgiris, this programme gave our team an opportunity to explore the whole Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR). This has meant an exposure to different adivasi communities, different forest types and environs. This knowledge has made the team aware that their work is `still not over’ and there are several issues that need to be addressed. Our work and perspectives have since then grown and extended to different parts of the NBR, especially in parts of Sathyamangalam Taluk, Nilambur and Wyanad.
Working in the larger Nilgiri region for several years now, we realized that the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, though intensively studied, is largely not clearly understood. Aspects of the forest, of the people, of the degradations occurring in many parts and of the uniqueness of the region are hardly presented coherently.
With our experiences from the study, it was a keenly felt opinion of the team members that the project should move ahead and primed for visibility for larger sections of the society and interested readers. The natural progression was a publication that would in effect, comprise surveys undertaken during the programme, our travails and outputs into a single unit for a varied viewership. The book thus, is a study on a unique and ecologically fragile region of the nation and an examination of the lives of the indigenous people who live here, in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The book puts forward the interlaying complexities involving bees, forests and various stakeholders. Besides primary findings, this book integrates information from secondary sources and from discussions with different people of the region. The book introduces in detail, the whole region of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, encompassing the issues it faces and present state of affairs of its indigenous population, called `adivasis’ or ‘indigenous people’ throughout this publication.
The book is divided into two distinct sections. The first part describes the entire Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve with respect to the study. The second part of the book details out the regions within the large Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and focuses on their specific issues.
The importance of this region in terms of biodiversity is elaborated in the first chapter in section A of the book. The second and third chapters cover the diverse people and forests of this region. Honey collection in the NBR is a traditional activity of the adivasis. From pre-historic times to barter to its commercialization, honey plays an important role in the lives of people. A comprehensive perspective of honey collection, its different traditions, the methods, techniques & resource use and the contemporary issues of market, pricing and quality are covered in the fourth and fifth chapters. The sixth chapter presents Keystone’s experiences and summarises the issues related to honey, people, market, forests and trade in the overall context of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It also provides some ideas for the future from our perspective and addresses some crucial development and conservation concerns.
The main issues facing the region are covered in detail by a representative subregion. This also elaborates the forests and people of that subregion and its ecological history. Each subregion within the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve therefore gets its focus. This method integrates the various aspects of the region and is like a `ready reckoner’ for issues related to people, biodiversity & related livelihoods, changes within the society and the surrounding environment.
The final chapter discusses all these issues in its broadest perspective, drawing from the intricate aspects of honey and related issues and suggesting efforts for the future. This will also act like a guide for idividuals and other organizations in the area to plan their work around the issues described. The perspective from the adivasi point of view is different vis-à-vis that of other populations and stakeholders in the region. A large extent of forest land and its implications for the ecology are some of the issues discussed in this concluding chapter. This also throws up policy implications for this ecologically sensitive area and calls for improved measures for management of the land and its people.
The book, in its present form strives to be informative, easy to read and thought provoking. It is aimed at policy makers, forest managers, adivasi organisations, NGOs and other role players of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It is also useful for students and researchers of environment and livelihood studies.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The concept of keystone emerges from the nest-building behaviour of some birds in nature. These permanent nest structures serve as habitat for several life forms. Such keystone species become crucial in providing opportunities for other associated beings to grow and evolve. Thus, Keystone Foundation is born out of a simple ecological principle of the interdependence of natural systems.
Keystone Foundation has completed nearly fifteen years in the Nilgiris, working with indigenous communities on eco-development initiatives.
“Our Mission is to enhance the Quality of Life and the Environment with Indigenous Communities using Eco-development Approaches”
To work on issues of Natural Resources and Rural Development, with Indigenous People in mountainous and adjoining regions, addressing the challenges of conservation, livelihoods and enterprise development, through appropriate – knowledge & action, technologies, socio-economic innovations and institutions.
The beginning was made when four core members of Keystone, set out on a state-wide survey of apiculture in Tamil Nadu, in 1994. Trudging miles of mountain paths and dusty roads with backpacks, this field survey gave a precious opportunity to look at the situation of 11 indigenous communities across 15 hill ranges in Tamil Nadu.
The details of honey hunting techniques, forest vines used, associated traditions and rituals, social systems and economic dependence on such an activity, were a fascinating eye-opener. More importantly, they reflected on changes in land use, dwindling forest cover, introduction of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and other degradation, posing a growing challenge. Exploring and addressing adivasi issues of development and a natural resource from a local perspective was the key to our discovering a different approach.
Previous work in honey gathering with the Paliyan adivasi community in the Palni Hills during 1990-1993, suggested that this traditional activity could be an effective entry point to work with indigenous communities centred on natural resources and livelihoods. The survey brought the team to the lower Nilgiris, where a number of hunter-gatherer communities practise honey hunting and subsistence agriculture. A potential area for future work and learning materialised and Nilgiris, as a region, was chosen to begin work.
- Apiculture – Honey hunting and Beekeeping – exploring the role and linkage of honeybees and traditional communities in rural development and culture. Understanding the role of bees as biodiversity indicators and pollination agents of wild and cultivated plants.
Obamas Welcome Guests With Curry At State Dinner
WASHINGTON — The first state dinner of the Obama White House had it all: Oscar-winning entertainers, Hollywood moguls, a knockout guest chef and even a wardrobe malfunction.
Traditional evening gowns vied with saris of vibrant colors Tuesday night at the high-glitz dinner in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. There were turbans and bindis as well as diamonds and brocades.
"Everyone looks great; we're feeling great," White House social secretary Desiree Rogers told a phalanx of cameras as she arrived, betraying no hint of nerves at the biggest social event of the Obama presidency.
First lady Michelle Obama had been a little more forthcoming earlier in the day when she described the trick to pulling off the event as sort of like being a swan: calm and serene above the water but "paddling like mad, going crazy underneath."
The 338-person guest list was a mix of wonky Washington, Hollywood A-listers, prominent figures from the Indian community in the U.S., and Obama friends, family and campaign donors.
Attorney General Eric Holder patted his pocket as he arrived and said his kids had prepped him with all sorts of questions for tablemate Steven Spielberg. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, asked who she was most looking forward to chatting with, ventured, "I'd have to name four." Then didn't.
Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania had to scramble when his ensemble went rogue at just the wrong moment: His cummerbund dropped to the floor just as he and his wife stopped to pose before a scrum of about 40 reporters and photographers.
Alfre Woodard and Blair Underwood provided the celebrity quotient, but neither could come up with a connection to India. Underwood said he was there because of Woodard. She said she was there because she's on the president's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
Dinner guests were treated to an eye-catching scheme of green and purple, from the green curry surrounding the prawns to the purple floral arrangements paying homage to the peacock, India's national bird.
Pumpkin was on the menu, too, with Tuesday's dinner coming just two days before Thanksgiving.
Hours before guests arrived and in keeping with tradition, Mrs. Obama previewed the glamorous table settings in the State Dining Room. That's often the venue for such dinners, but not this time.
Instead, in an effort to show Singh how much the U.S. values relations with his country, the Obamas decided to serve dinner in a huge white tent on the South Lawn, with views of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial through clear panels.
It wasn't your everyday tent: This one had chandeliers suspended from the ceiling and beige carpet on the floor.
President Barack Obama, in his dinner toast, said the setting conjured images of India, where special events are "often celebrated under the cover of a beautiful tent." Singh, in turn, told the president he was overwhelmed by the Obamas' hospitality and said the president's election last year had been an inspiration to millions of Indians.
Magnolia branches native to both India and the U.S. adorned the tent's inside walls, along with ivy and nandina foliage.
Guests were seated 10 apiece at round tables draped in green apple-colored cloths and napkins, offset by the sparkle of gold-colored flatware and china, including service and dinner plates from the Eisenhower, Clinton and George W. Bush settings.
Floral arrangements of hydrangeas, roses and sweet peas in plum, purple and fuschia evoked India's state bird.
Mrs. Obama brought in award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit, a Scandinavian restaurant in New York City, to help White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford and her staff prepare the largely vegetarian meal. Singh is a vegetarian.
Samuelsson said being chosen to help whip up dinner was both "overwhelming and humbling."
The culinary offerings included potato and eggplant salad, arugula from the White House garden, red lentil soup and roasted potato dumplings or green curry prawns. Pumpkin pie tart and pear tatin were for dessert; the pears were poached in honey from the White House beehive.
The after-dinner entertainment opened with the National Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Marvin Hamlisch, playing "Summon the Heroes," by composer John Williams. The lineup also included award-winning singer-actress Jennifer Hudson and jazz vocalist and composer Kurt Elling, both from the Obamas' hometown of Chicago, and Indian musician and singer A.R. Rahman. Rahman won two Academy Awards for the music in "Slumdog Millionaire."
Among the other guests: Hollywood moguls David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Guests with ties to India included spiritual adviser Deepak Chopra, director M. Night Shyamalan and PepsiCo chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi. Katie Couric of CBS News, Brian Williams of NBC News, Robin Roberts of ABC News and CNN Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta were among the media representatives invited. Oprah Winfrey was not on the list, but her best friend, Gayle King, was among the guests. Also there Obama friends Eric Whitaker and Martin Nesbitt, along with Obama's half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her husband, Konrad; and Marian Robinson, the first lady's mother.
Every aspect of Tuesday's events was fraught with meaning and symbolism, from the flower colors to Mrs. Obama's clothing designers.
For the dinner, Mrs. Obama wore a sleeveless, gold and cream colored sheath dress with an overlay of silver and matching shawl by Indian-born designer Naeem Khan. At the State Dining Room event earlier in the day, the first lady wore a skirt by Rachel Roy, who is Indian.
The dinner also was a debut of sorts for florist Laura Dowling, who's been on the job less than a month.
Associated Press writer Nancy Benac contributed to this report.
Under the Mango Tree is an ethical, organic certified company which provides long-term market linkages between rural producers and urban consumers searching for pure, fairly-traded, organic certified agriculture and forest produce.
Established by Vijaya Pastala, and built on the foundation that human and economic security is achieved, UTMT partners and supports rural farmers, producer networks and communities across India, working in organic certified and non-chemical managed agriculture and forest produce based on sustainable farming and fair trade practices.
While the front-end of UTMT, the company is a market-focused, customer-centric, and profit-driven business enterprise, the UTMT Trust provides back-end support to this social enterprise through technical and capacity building, credit linkages and institutional development support that strives to improve the quality of life of primary producer families.
The Hive, a UTMT endeavor promotes community-based beekeeping. Its main objective is to support, train and partner with beekeepers across the country in the production and marketing of high quality single flora gourmet honey that is available seasonally across India.
from petal to pallete...presenting India's monoflora honeys.
The Hive, an Under The Mango Tree endeavor promotes community-based beekeeping – “bees for poverty reduction” as a solution to India's natural resource problem, specifically decline in agriculture production with a view to increasing incomes and improving livelihoods.
Under this initiative UTMT supports, trains and partners with beekeepers across the country in the production and marketing of high quality single flora gourmet honey that is available seasonally across the country.
Just discovered this website: http://beesinart.com/index.html
Welcome to Bees in Art
The world’s first art gallery devoted to Honey bees, Bumble bees and other Hymenoptera depicted in art.
Bees in Art is a sister gallery to The Land Gallery and exhibits artwork by leading artists whose fascination with bees and other Hymenoptera has inspired them.
We exhibit and sell cards, drawings, mixed media, paintings, photographs and prints in our unique and extensive online Bees in Art gallery. All work here can be purchased securely online today. Our aim is to offer you important and quality artwork by leading artists, with good investment value and at the best prices.
Bees in Art is curated by Andrew Tyzack, graduate of The Royal College of Art, London, UK and third generation beekeeper. Andrew runs several beehives and paints in the East Riding of Yorkshire, UK.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Keep It Cool. A new study shows that heat can produce a potentially toxic substance in high-fructose corn syrup that can kill honeybees and may also have human health implications. Some commercial beekeepers feed the sweetener, which is also widely used in soft drinks and processed foods, to bees to increase reproduction and honey production. As temperatures rose, the researchers found, levels of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) in products made with high-fructose corn syrup also increased, jumping at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The researchers noted that that other studies have linked HMF to DNA damage in humans.
Science in Pictures: Honeybees