Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon

by OnePlanet
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Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Beekeeping with Indigenous People in the Amazon
Maijuna child in Sucusari. Photo by W. Martinez.
Maijuna child in Sucusari. Photo by W. Martinez.

As 2021 gets off and running, we here at OnePlanet would like to sincerely thank all of our supporters on GlobalGiving. After having our 2020 work plan unexpectedly derailed by the global pandemic, your generous donations helped us to adjust, adapt, and persevere. Thank you!

Highlights of what we safely accomplished together in the Peruvian Amazon with the Maijuna indigenous group in 2020 include:

- Pandemic Prevention and Relief Efforts: We provided lifesaving medicines, personal protective equipment (PPE), educational materials, food, and essential supplies to 175 Maijuna families to help them weather the beginning of the pandemic when things were especially dangerous, precarious and unknown. No Maijuna individuals have perished from COVID-19 to date, which is a testament to the success of the prevention and relief efforts that we implemented together with the Maijuna.

- Maijuna Federation Support: We provided critical financial and organizational support to help empower the Maijuna indigenous federation in their fight for the conservation of their ancestral lands, cultural survival, and the health and well-being of their communities. This included providing technical assistance and expertise to the Maijuna as they interfaced with governmental and non-governmental organizations, among many other things.

- Stingless Beekeeping Project: The average Maijuna family survives on less than $2 per day and our community-based stingless beekeeping project is helping to boost their income and quality of life in an environmentally and socially responsible way. After being forced to completely shut down our work in the communities for several months, we were able to safely restart this project toward the end of the year, which we couldn’t be more excited about.

We are looking to build on this work and momentum as we enter 2021. OnePlanet is more committed than ever to help support and empower the Maijuna in their fight to protect their ancestral lands, communities, and traditional culture for future generations. We will keep you updated on our work with the Maijuna in the coming months. Thank you in advance for your ongoing interest and support. All donations, big and small, make a real and tangible difference to the health and well-being of the Maijuna.

Thanks, and stay safe and healthy!

Maijuna ancestral lands. Photo by B. Griffiths.
Maijuna ancestral lands. Photo by B. Griffiths.
Honey extraction. Photo by B. Griffiths.
Honey extraction. Photo by B. Griffiths.
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Maijuna girl in Sucusari, Peru. Photo: W. Martinez
Maijuna girl in Sucusari, Peru. Photo: W. Martinez

Coronavirus is having a devastating impact on indigenous peoples throughout the Amazon. Indigenous communities are extremely vulnerable to the pandemic due to persistent inequality, discrimination, and lack of access to health care.

With a total population of only 600, the Maijuna are one of the smallest and most vulnerable indigenous groups in the Peruvian Amazon. When the pandemic first struck Peru, we sprang into action and worked with the Maijuna to keep their four communities closed, become educated on the virus and the importance of isolation, and reduce the difficulty of sheltering in place.

Our work included providing two months of food and supplies to 104 families in the four Maijuna communities (Sucusari, Nueva Vida, Puerto Huamán, and San Pablo de Totolla) to allow them to shelter in place. We also provided pandemic prevention and relief kits to each community, which included lifesaving medicines, medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE) for community members and health technicians, educational materials, and gasoline for medical emergencies. In addition to helping families in the four Maijuna communities, we also provided food and supplies to an additional 71 Maijuna families that live in the city of Iquitos as well as the towns of Mazán, El Estrecho and Tutapishco.

All of these materials and supplies helped the Maijuna get through the beginning of the pandemic when things were especially dangerous, precarious and unknown. And, although the virus has now made it to the Maijuna communities (like most other parts of the world), we are very happy to report that no Maijuna individuals have perished from COVID-19 to date, which is a testament to the success of the prevention and relief efforts that we were able to implement together with the Maijuna. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide pandemic relief and support as needed to Maijuna families and their communities.

Moving forward, our number one priority during these unprecedented and challenging times is to continue to help support the health and well-being of the Maijuna. That said, we are committed to getting back to work on our community-based stingless beekeeping project and are developing comprehensive plans with the Maijuna communities to safely and securely make this happen. Please help us to continue to support the Maijuna during these challenging times – all donations, big and small, make a real and tangible difference to the health and well-being of the Maijuna. Thanks, and stay safe and healthy!

Maijuna father and son. Photo: W. Martinez
Maijuna father and son. Photo: W. Martinez
Lightning strike in Sucusari. Photo: B. Griffiths
Lightning strike in Sucusari. Photo: B. Griffiths
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Maijuna elders are at increased risk from COVID-19
Maijuna elders are at increased risk from COVID-19

Indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon, including our partners, the Maijuna, are extremely vulnerable to the pandemic due to persistent inequality, discrimination, and lack of access to health care. Our partner communities are currently sheltering in place to avoid the introduction of COVID-19 to their ancestral lands.

OnePlanet’s immediate focus has shifted to safely delivering essential medicines, personal protective equipment, food, and supplies to Maijuna families that they would otherwise risk leaving their communities to procure. Through our pandemic relief and the Maijuna’s community-organized efforts to shelter in place, the current front-lines of sustainable development are keeping communities healthy and safe from the pandemic.

Though sheltering in place and the restriction of commerce mean that workshops and market activities are on hold, Maijuna beekeepers continue to tend their hives. The dozens of beekeeping workshops and hundreds of home visits for technical support that OnePlanet has provided in recent years have prepared the Maijuna beekeepers to independently maintain and expand their hives. The hundreds of hives tended in Maijuna communities continue to improve local access to honey and pollen, which are traditionally important medicines. Just before the pandemic, the Maijuna reached record high hive numbers and honey harvest. Due to the technical capacity of the beekeepers we have trained, the activity’s roots in Maijuna culture, and the bountiful harvest last season, the future of stingless beekeeping is incredibly bright.

As soon as it is safe, we are eager to continue advancing sustainable development in the Maijuna communities through stingless beekeeping as an alternative income source. As beekeepers master management techniques and honey production increases, the project’s next steps include building capacity in the collective business model and supporting beekeepers’ connection to retail partnerships for honey sales.

Honey extraction
Honey extraction
Maijuna stingless beehive
Maijuna stingless beehive
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Three Generations of Maijuna Beekeepers
Three Generations of Maijuna Beekeepers

The Maijuna have deep cultural connections to the stingless bees that live in their ancestral lands. That foundation is key for success as OnePlanet trains the Maijuna to raise stingless bees and sustainably harvest their honey.

For generations, the Maijuna have sought stingless bee honey for its unique flavor and medicinal properties. They have acquired extensive traditional knowledge about the dozens of species of bees producing honey in their ancestral rainforests. For many of the bees, the Maijuna are the sole keepers of knowledge about their distinguishing behaviors, habitat, the quality of their honey, and more. For example, the Maijuna identify a rare species of stingless bee sought for its high-quality wax that is useful for fishing spears and for its dense, flavorful honey.

Traditionally the Maijuna destructively harvested honey from wild hives. With support and training from OnePlanet, dozens of Maijuna families are now raising stingless bees, managing over 300 hives, selling the honey, and increasing the number of local beehives rather than destroying wild populations. Through stingless beekeeping, the Maijuna are harnessing their traditional knowledge of bees to generate a sustainable source of income.

Because the bees and their honey are already a rich part of Maijuna life – celebrated with songs, dance, a favorite treat, and of course presence in their forests – the bees are an excellent resource to transform into sustainable income. Through beekeeping, younger generations learn about their forests and culture from their grandparents, who have long known the bees but who are now, with OnePlanet training, raising them and accessing high value markets for the first time. Beekeeping offers a rich avenue for exchange between generations by placing renewed value on traditional knowledge.

The Maijuna are starting 2020 energized to build on their current successes with stingless beekeeping. They are poised to turn native stingless bees into a celebration of their culture and a key element of their sustainable livelihood. With your support, we can continue working with the Maijuna to document and teach their existing traditional knowledge of bees, support sustainable practices of raising hives, and ultimately adapt their vast knowledge base to support Maijuna families while protecting their ancestral culture and lands.  

Honey Extraction
Honey Extraction
Stingless Bees in Hive
Stingless Bees in Hive
Stingless Beehives
Stingless Beehives
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Extracting Honey
Extracting Honey

Looking back on 2019, the Maijuna beekeepers we train and support have made incredible strides and have much to celebrate.

A year ago, there were 50 stingless beehives in the community of Sucusari and 17 hives in the two Maijuna communities along the Yanayacu River where we had recently expanded our work. There are now 105 in Sucusari and 180 hives among the yearling beekeepers along the Yanayacu River!

This impressive growth demonstrates the dedication and buy-in of the Maijuna beekeepers and their growing mastery of management techniques. Perhaps an even clearer indicator that beekeeping will be a sustainable source of income in the long run is the beekeepers’ demonstration of how much they’ve learned. Beyond the number of hives, we have seen progress in their husbandry practices and outcomes; the true demonstration that they are putting our training into practice. During our November home visits with beekeepers along the Yanayacu River, for example, we saw thriving hives successfully divided by beekeepers who just six months earlier were struggling to keep their first stingless bees healthy. Those skills and mastery are now a resource that dozens of beekeepers are putting into practice as a source of sustainable income.

A little over a year ago, the Maijuna began sales of the honey produced by their managed hives. This is a forest-based product with long traditions of use among the Maijuna that now serves as a source of sustainable income. This year of sales has brought in over $2,500 USD in income to the communities. Given that the average Maijuna family earns less than $2 per day, this income is making a substantial difference in their lives. With their increasing mastery of techniques for multiplying hives, the Maijuna are poised to realize substantial growth in their harvest during the upcoming honey season!

Beekeepers putting their knowledge to work and seeing the fruits of their labor is an exciting position for the Maijuna stingless beekeeping project. Increases in hives, new beekeepers, and honey production all mean that the technical support we provide is all the more crucial to ensure the long-term success of this sustainable alternative to extractive economic activities. With your support we can continue to expand and support this sustainable income source for the Maijuna. Thank you for helping make 2019 a year to celebrate!

Family Harvesting Honey
Family Harvesting Honey
Stingless Beehive and Honey
Stingless Beehive and Honey
Beekeepers Inspecting a Hive
Beekeepers Inspecting a Hive
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Organization Information

OnePlanet

Location: Burke, VA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Michael Gilmore
President, OnePlanet
Burke, VA United States
$18,253 raised of $35,000 goal
 
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$16,747 to go
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