Modern beekeeping methods help pull southwestern township out of poverty

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Publish Time: 2019-05-15 Author: By Li Qiao From: Global Times

Bee barrels are arranged on a wall of a local resident's yard in Yangla township, Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Southwest China's Yunnan Province. Photo: Li Qiao/GT

○ Special geographical conditions have hindered economic development of Yangla township

○ The independent living environment and traditional cultivation style make Yangla township a rare paradise for bees in China. However, traditional apiculture has not brought locals large incomes

○ Modern apiculture industry supports poverty alleviation in Yangla township

Dolma, a 53-year-old mother from the Tibetan ethnic group in Yangla township of the Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, who lived in poverty for decades, now lives a better life through beekeeping and supports her daughter who is in graduate school.

"I started beekeeping in 2012 with only two barrels of bees. Now, I have raised more than 20 barrels, which bring more than 10,000 yuan ($1,453) to the annual income of my family. Apiculture is very profitable. The more bees I keep, the more I earn," Dolma told the Global Times. 

Dolma is raising a child on her own, so every bit of extra money means a lot to their family. She used to go up in the mountain to dig for caterpillar fungus and matsutake, and brought in some income selling them. However, those revenues are decreasing. At Dolma's age, she can't work as hard as she did in her youth.

Beekeeping requires comparatively less manpower and is much easier, Dolma explained.

Dolma is not the only resident in Yangla who has taken up beekeeping. The modern apiculture industry supports poverty alleviation efforts in Yangla township.

History of poverty

Yangla means "yak horn tip" in Tibetan, a name reflecting the area's terrain.

It is located in the northeast of Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and is the only township in the region where members of the Tibetan ethnic minority group live in Yunnan Province bordering the Tibet Autonomous Region and Sichuan Province. 

Because of its high altitude, Yangla township is mainly suitable for planting highland barley and corn, which are crops of low economic value, and developing characteristic industries is difficult, Du Fachun, a professor at Yunnan Agricultural University (YAU) who studies poverty alleviation in Yangla, told the Global Times.

These special geographical conditions hinder the economic development of Yangla. Transportation to and from Yangla is extremely difficult.

Zhou Danyin, a professor at the Eastern Honeybee Research Institute under YAU, told the Global Times that honey is a specialty product in the Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and offers people a way to escape poverty.

Yangla is rich in nectar-producing plants. Local farmers use traditional farming methods that rely less on pesticide. As a result, the nectariferous plants here are mostly wild and almost uncontaminated. The eastern honeybee, a hardy species with a comparatively low risk of contracting diseases, is the dominant bee species in the area, Zhou said. 

The relatively independent living environment and traditional cultivation style that characterizes beekeeping in this area make Yangla a rare paradise for bees in China, as there is no exogenous gene invasion and no pollution from chemical pesticides. This forms a strong foundation for the production of high-quality bee products, Zhou said.

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