ped countries like Canada due to greater use of pesticide and industrial farming practices. But, looking at our counterparts in the developing world, we’ll find that more traditional methods of sowing fields and raising bees are both eco-friendly and bee-friendly
In the community of Alto Beni, Bolivia, rural farmers often sustain their families by growing coca. That led ACDI/VOCA, an economic development organization, to set up a number of alternative income projects that would increase licit household income.
Treating honey production was a major component.
Eugenio Angles, a farmer in the poor community, immediately signed up for the training.
“Angles was devoted to raising coca,” says Glenn Blumhorst who worked as ACDI/VOCA’s Bolivia country representative for 10 years. “But, at the training, he showed that he was very interested (in beekeeping). He had a lot of commitment but no knowledge.”
Not only did Angles learn to extract, market and sell his honey, he adopted organic methods for keeping his colonies healthy. Plus, he diversified his crop to ensure the bees would thrive.
Now with close to 60 hives, the farmer has emerged as a leader. He even founded an association with 15 other beekeepers who took their product to a Miami trade show and further created business for their small community.
“Beekeeping can’t be done by 100 percent of the farmers but there’s a lot of ways to participate,” says Blumhorst. “There are the carpenters who build the hives, the farmers whose crops are pollinated and the restaurants who use the honey in their cooking.”
Through this kind of farming, not only does the community flourish, so do the bees.
Back in Canada, Mark Winston is reflective talking about the insect he studies.
“When I walk into an apiary, time slows down and I become focused. There’s something about their complex social behaviour,” he says. “They’re really a wonderful metaphor for human societies.”
Sadly, the metaphor seems to be lost on us. Instead, our farming practices in Canada and the U.S. prioritize yield over environmental stewardship.
It’s the kind of farming and community mobilization which Angles heads that Winston wants to see here. By regulating our pesticides and a returning to more diversified farming, not only can we sustain the bee populations, we can sustain ourselves.
Not doing so means we might get stung.