Nature’s Gift of Bees: Part III

December 19, 2012

This is the final entry in a three-part series that I was inspired to write after reflecting on all we at Bee America had to be grateful for since we started to company—our honeybees, our customers and everyone who has helped us along our journey.

In this third and final article on how honeybees provide sustenance to people and positively impact the environment in ways that may not be immediately obvious, I’ll share how the simple gift of bees can be self-sustaining in developing countries. In part one of the series (11/29/12), I discussed the contributions honeybees made in helping pilgrims settle in America. In my second article (12/06/12), I focused on efforts in Kentucky to reclaim surface mining land and revitalize the Appalachian economy and the role honeybees play in this promising undertaking. In this blog post, I wanted to highlight the efforts Heifer International is making toward helping families in developing countries become self-sustaining by supplying them with bees and the necessary equipment and training to take care of them. These bees can help to almost double the yield of fruit and vegetable crop production as well as provide a source of family income through the sale of honey, comb and beeswax.

One of the cornerstones of Heifer International’s philosophy that is the most appealing is the concept of “Passing on the Gift”. Passing on the Gift is where families who received Heifer gifts become donors themselves and share these gifts with others families in need. As people distribute the offspring of their animals or in the case of honeybees, new queens and their hives—along with their experience and caretaking skills—more and more individuals around the world become empowered and increasingly hopeful about their futures. According to Heifer International, “Passing on the Gift creates a living cycle of sustainability that develops community and enhances self-esteem by allowing project partners to become donors.”

Here’s an excerpt from a recent Heifer International blog post, which describes how honeybees are changing the lives of Guatemalan coffee farmers. It’s just one example of how honeybees are helping to increase incomes and improve lives in rural communities around the world.

Feliciana Martin, 26, is a small-scale coffee farmer. Martin lives in Guatemala's northern department of Huehuetenango in the remote village of Tuiboch, near the municipality of Todos Santos Cuchumatan. She sells about 300 pounds of high grade, pergamino coffee to Asociacion de Cooperacion al Dearrollo Integral de Huehuetenango (ACODIHUE), the local co-op. However, the harvest season is only four months, January to April, so she has no income for the remainder of the year. Green Mountain Coffee and Heifer International are partnering with Martin and other families to build sustainable, self-reliant communities. The project that they started in this area of Guatemala included bees to pollinate the coffee and produce honey.

The bees Martin received have been hard at work, and she said she expects to get a noticeable increase, about 10 percent, in her coffee harvest next year. She has also been able to collect and sell honey, providing her with additional income. Coffee honey is believed to taste better than regular honey, so she is able to charge about 10 percent more.

Her bees were delivered in February to coincide with the flowering season, and Martin was able to harvest twice in March and April, and once in May. She collected 60 pounds of honey, and next year, she plans to double the number of hives she owns, and complete her pass-on requirement. She has many plans for the future.

“I will have more bees and the knowledge to take care of those bees,” Martin said. “More bees will mean more honey." Martin dreams of a better life for her daughter…

Our own children, Zoe (10 years), Zack and Zeke (8 year old twins)—affectionately referred to by family and friends as the “3Zs”—came to me one morning earlier this month and announced that they wanted to help decide how Bee America made its annual holiday giving decisions this year. I was surprised as this announcement came while they were compiling their own Christmas wish lists, and I didn’t think anything could distract them from this happy pursuit. Well, I was wrong. While their wish lists were long (and in Santa’s opinion, too ambitious), they started talking amongst themselves about gift giving and the idea that they would like to have some input on what we at Bee America could do to help others. They definitely wanted it to involve honeybees and honey, so we started looking around for options. We knew about Heifer International and checked to see if they might offer any opportunities. When we discovered we could give the gift of honeybees to help families become more self-sustaining, it was a natural fit for Bee America. So in honor of our 3Zs, Bee America has made a donation this holiday season to Heifer International to buy honeybees for multiple families around the world.


About Heifer International:

Heifer International's mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth. By giving families a hand-up, not just a hand-out, we empower them to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope.

With gifts of livestock and training, Heifer projects help families improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways. We refer to the animals as "living loans" because in exchange for their livestock and training, families agree to give one of its animal's offspring to another family in need. It's called Passing on the Gift—a cornerstone of our mission that creates an ever-expanding network of hope and peace.