Have you heard the buzz about Plan Bee?
Multi-donor trust fund LIFT (Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund) in partnership with Tag International Development are in the process of, “delivering a bee-keeping project that empowers and improves the livelihoods, nutrition and food security for thousands of vulnerable people, with particular focus on vulnerable women and landless households in Myanmar. The project introduces advanced beekeeping training and equipment across 20 villages in Southern Shan State, while enhancing local capacity to bring the honey and its by-products to local and international markets.” (http://www.lift-fund.org/).
Known as Plan Bee, “the project has introduced a range of innovations, including new types of beehives and training and equipment for the artificial insemination of queen bees, vital for progress of the beekeeping sector.” (http://www.lift-fund.org/).
Those keen to learn more about the project may wish to visit the Plan Bee Visitor Centre, which can be found on the picturesque banks of Pone Taloke Lake in Pindaya. Opened last year, its purpose is to provide equipment and expertise to beekeepers, whilst at the same time serving as an education centre for both locals and tourists.
Although the setup inside is basic, visitors will find detailed diagrams, a range of beekeeping equipment and a plethora of interesting facts about bees on display. For example, did you know that:
- The average honeybee will produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime?
- Worker honeybees are all female. Males do not know how to feed themselves and their only reason for being in the hive is to reproduce with the queen.
- Honeybees are the only insects that produce something that humans eat. It is also the only food that never goes bad because its sugar content is too high.
- Honeybees never sleep.
- Bees are responsible for 80% of pollination that occurs. The next time you eating any fruit or vegetables, thank a bee!
Plan Bee’s visitor centre also stocks a massive selection of locally produced honey, beeswax candles and balm. Any profit made from the sale of these products then goes directly to the beekeepers in question.
Perhaps the best thing about a visit to Plan Bee Visitor Centre is the chance to taste the honey in the lakeside view cafe area at the back. For a small price, Tour Mandalay were served six taster dishes, each containing a different variety of honey and a side plate of honeycomb. We then ordered a freshly made cup of honey and ginger tea to wash it down.
Although not available at present, there are talks about Plan Bee setting up “hands-on” beekeeping experiences with the local farmers. Not only would this provide a much deeper educational experience, but it would also help to generate additional income through tour fees. Tour Mandalay will of course keep you posted on this.
When Tour Mandalay inspected, we drove straight to Plan Bee’s Visitor Centre from Heho Airport after arriving on the first flight from Mandalay. The journey of approximately one hour will take you along windy country roads surrounded by glorious natural vistas. In total we spent approximately one hour in Plan Bee’s visitor centre, which included a brief tour and the honey tasting experience mentioned above. Depending on the time you finish, you then have the option of eating lunch at a local restaurant, or paying a visit to the famous cave complex. From here we drove onwards to Nyaung Shwe in time for a quick bottle of wine at Red Mountain Vineyard. With a journey time of just over one and a half hours, this provided us with the perfect opportunity to blast out some local music – Sai Htee Sein’s “Shan Yo Ma” ended up being a particular favourite on the day .
Overall, Tour Mandalay really enjoyed our experience at Plan Bee Visitor Centre. Not only did it provide a unique insight into one of the world’s oldest and most important industries, but it also helped to explain more about the benefits this long term initiative will have on the local communities in question. For those not looking to stay overnight in Pindaya it might seem a bit out of the way, but it’s still more than workable. In fact, by including a visit to Plan Bee, you’re more likely to get away from the typical tourist trail and see a side of Shan State most wouldn’t otherwise experience. It was also a great opportunity to load up on quality souvenirs – in fact, we hope they’ve stocked up again as the team at Tour Mandalay went on a shopping frenzy.
Keen to learn more about how this project has made a difference to local lives? Please be sure to read the following blog entries featured on Tag’s website.