Beekeeping and pollination in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region

Beekeeping and pollination in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region

Austria shares much with the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region, perhaps most obviously spectacular mountains attracting mountaineers and tourists alike. But there are other maybe lesser known but equally important similarities - including honeybees, rangelands and renewable energy. These are the areas in which the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) has supported the International Centre for Mountain Development (ICIMOD).


Over three quarters of all plants, including world food crops, rely on animal pollinators for yield and quality. Insects such as bees, flies and butterflies play a fundamental role in maintaining food security for humans. However, excessive chemical pesticide application, loss of habitat, spread of pathogens, competition from alien species, climate change and other factors have led to an alarming decline in pollinator abundance and diversity - both in the HKH region and on a global scale.


From the very beginning of ADA's and ICIMOD's strategic partnership, a joint concern for the protection of biodiversity as well as a shared understanding of the value of pollination focused on honeybees and pollinators. ADA's support to ICIMOD enabled rigorous scientific research to understand this alarming decline in pollinators in the HKH region and its impact on crop productivity. Evidence-based actions, such as introducing honeybees for pollination and training farmers in managing bee colonies, have resulted in greatly improved yields and quality of apples and other crops. The economic opportunities that opened up as a by-product have also proven beneficial, with more widespread entrepreneurship in producing honey, beeswax and pollen as primary products and as components of health products and cosmetics. Renting of honeybee colonies, production and sale of honeybee colonies, bee hives and other beekeeping equipment have also emerged as important livelihood options for the people living across the HKH.


Through ADA's support, ICIMOD's work with indigenous bees and pollinators now extends through 17 partner organizations across six countries including Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan. The investments in knowledge development, in entrepreneurship and in networks have paid off in innumerable ways: through the improved livelihoods of people living in the mountains as well as through the global influence of those scientists and policy-makers who contribute HKH-knowledge to the global discourse on the critical role of pollination across ecosystem services.


Austrian support to the HKH region began in the early 1980s and ADA has maintained a regional cooperation office in Bhutan since 1992. While cooperation there focuses on energy supply, strengthening rule of law and economic development, the Royal Government of Bhutan also draws on Austria's extensive know-how in forestry, agriculture, and tourism. From 1993, Austria began diversifying its support to the HKH region through ICIMOD. Established in 1983 through regional cooperation among the eight countries sharing the Hindu Kush Himalayan mountain range - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan - ICIMOD operates as an intergovernmental knowledge and learning center developing and sharing research, information, and innovation to empower people in the HKH.