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
Tarkis Harvesting Honey
Tarkis Harvesting Honey

Since its inauguration several years ago, our stingless beekeeping project has been successful in developing a sustainable source of income that engages all segments of Maijuna society: men, women, and children. Because men are traditionally the recipients of income generated through hunting, fishing, and the sale of agricultural products, women often have few opportunities to earn their own income or take ownership of projects in their communities.

We are incredibly excited to see more and more women embracing stingless beekeeping, demonstrating their mastery of management practices and reaping the rewards of their efforts through honey sales. Already, a number of women in the two Maijuna communities that began stingless beekeeping this year are distinguishing themselves as leading beekeepers. Melba, a female beekeeper in the community of Nueva Vida, impressed her fellow community members during one of our beekeeping workshops last month when she explained to her peers how she successfully managed a problematic hive. Melba taking center-stage and confidently sharing her experience stands out as just one of many moments that highlight how beekeeping engages and empowers women as leaders in community sustainability efforts.

In the past year, we have supported the Maijuna through their first season of honey harvests and sales. Honey sold through our stingless beekeeping project is already acting as a source of women’s economic and personal empowerment in Maijuna lands. In the community of Puerto Huamán, Tarkis and her 12-year-old daughter, Jewerlit, are managing nine hives together. Last month, I watched as Jewerlit independently performed a complex hive division, showing her knowledge and mastery of the craft. The mother and daughter beekeeping duo recently sold their first bottles of honey for a premium price and they are poised to harvest much more this upcoming honey season!

We are energized to see how the beekeeping process and products are developing a platform for Maijuna women to share their experiences, learn about, and take ownership of a craft born from traditional culture and resources in their ancestral lands. Please help us support Maijuna women and their families by continuing to make beekeeping a sustainable and empowering income source for all members of Maijuna society.

Grandmother Beekeeping with Granddaughters
Grandmother Beekeeping with Granddaughters
Jewerlit Explaining How to Divide a Hive
Jewerlit Explaining How to Divide a Hive
Melba Demonstrating Proper Beekeeping Techniques
Melba Demonstrating Proper Beekeeping Techniques
Tarkis Dividing a Hive
Tarkis Dividing a Hive
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Maijuna Stingless Beekeeper
Maijuna Stingless Beekeeper

There are many different ways that we can measure the success of our stingless beekeeping project in Maijuna lands. More quantitative ways are to track the number of families involved, hives tended, and the amount of honey sold. Right now, there are 50 Maijuna families tending over 135 stingless beehives in our three partner communities. And, the Maijuna beekeepers have been harvesting and selling honey from their stingless beehives at a premium price to visitors of a nearby ecotourism lodge (see last month’s update). Given that no families were tending stingless bees in the Maijuna communities before the start of our project, these numbers highlight the incredible strides that we have made to date with this community-based project.

However, there are other more intangible ways to measure project success that we have come to appreciate more and more. For example, we just got back from one of the Maijuna communities that we more recently expanded our project into, and we observed beekeepers from different families working collaboratively and proactively together. Independent of our visits, they have been doing hive divisions and revisions together as well as milling wood and building bee boxes collectively. Working together, collaborating effectively, being proactive, and building a sense of community amongst the beekeepers involved – these are all things that we have been working hard to cultivate and develop through our work with the communities. They may be more intangible and harder to measure but they are equally as important in achieving project success.

The successes of this project, both tangible and intangible, would not have been possible without the generous donations of supporters like you. Your continued support will help us to build on our successes to date and will help us to continue to empower the Maijuna to achieve their vision for a more sustainable future. Thanks so much for your continued support – your generosity has helped to make this exciting project possible!

Stingless Beehive Entrance
Stingless Beehive Entrance
Stingless Beehive
Stingless Beehive
Extracting Stingless Bee Honey
Extracting Stingless Bee Honey
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Duglas -- A Star Student and Beekeeper
Duglas -- A Star Student and Beekeeper

I just returned from Peru and am more energized than ever about our stingless beekeeping project given the incredible progress that I observed in Maijuna lands. The biggest surprise was a new meliponario (the name in Spanish for an area with several stingless bee hives) that one of our star Maijuna beekeepers has set up. Duglas (pictured here), the owner of the meliponario, has always been one of our star students but he is really pushing himself to reach new heights. With 30 hives in total, he now owns the largest meliponario in Maijuna lands and has really set the bar for the other Maijuna stingless beekeepers to shoot for.

Over the past 5 months alone, he has harvested and sold 150 2-oz bottles of stingless bee honey. Based on the premium pricing structure that we established with an ecotourism lodge (ExplorNapo Lodge) in the area, this has earned him $450 in total (each 2-oz bottle of honey is worth $3, which is ten times what they would earn on the regional market). Given that the average annual household income in Maijuna lands was only $500 at the start of our project, Duglas has almost doubled his annual income in less than half the year! Duglas and his wife Lesley have a 4-month-old baby and this newfound income is helping them to pay for monthly boat trips for their baby’s medical checkups. This is real sustainable income, helping real people!

Please help us support the other Maijuna beekeepers to reach the heights that Duglas has achieved. New families are looking to join the beekeeping project and funding travel costs to their communities to train and support them is only $250. Any level of support helps and we cannot thank you enough for your continued support!

Meliponario Sign Made by Duglas
Meliponario Sign Made by Duglas
Duglas's Meliponario
Duglas's Meliponario
Stingless Beehive
Stingless Beehive
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Learning Beekeeping Techniques
Learning Beekeeping Techniques

This year, one of our main goals has been to expand the reach of our stingless beekeeping project in Maijuna lands and we have been hard at work making this happen. When we started this project over 2 years ago, we wanted to be very deliberate and thoughtful about how, when, and where to grow. Many well-intentioned sustainable development projects fail around the world because they try to grow too big, too fast. Taking these lessons to heart, we only wanted to expand our project once we had strong proof of concept and buy-in from the Maijuna. Seeing both things on-the-ground made us confident that we were more than ready to expand into two more Maijuna communities.

Before expanding into these two communities, we engaged in thoughtful discussion and planning with community elders and leaders to make sure that they were fully onboard with the project and knew what to expect. Since developing common goals and expectations, our team has held several community-level workshops in both communities focused on teaching proper husbandry and management techniques as well as the biology and ecology of stingless bees. We have also been engaged in family-level work, which has consisted of working closely with interested beekeepers and their families to help them setup and maintain their hives. There is still much work to be done and many more community-level workshops and family-level sessions to conduct but we are incredibly excited by our progress to date. In these two communities, over 70 individuals from ages 7 to 78 have been actively engaged in the project and these budding beekeepers are now tending over 24 hives. Before starting work in these communities, no one was tending stingless bees and there were no hives in the communities. We truly think the sky’s the limit based on this strong start!

We are incredibly excited about how this year has unfolded and we know that the Maijuna are too. Seeing the interest, passion, and dedication of the new Maijuna beekeepers has not only been fun to see but it has also been inspiring and energizing. Please help us achieve the Maijuna’s vision for a more sustainable future by continuing to support our stingless beekeeping project. As we move into the holiday season, we can think of nothing better or more meaningful than to sponsor a hive of native stingless bees ($50) or a week-long beekeeping workshop ($1,000) in the name of a loved one. Any level of support helps and we cannot thank you enough for your continued support!

New Beekeeper with Hive
New Beekeeper with Hive
New Beekeepers Inspecting Hive
New Beekeepers Inspecting Hive
New Beekeeper with Hive
New Beekeeper with Hive
Learning Beekeeping Techniques
Learning Beekeeping Techniques
Opening a Hive
Opening a Hive
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Maijuna beekeeper with visitors
Maijuna beekeeper with visitors

Over the past year, we have been working closely with the Maijuna as well as other partners (Amazon Explorama Lodges and Amazon Rainforest Workshops) to develop educational programs for visitors to Maijuna lands. These educational programs are geared toward university and high school groups from the US as well as ecotourists with an emphasis on conservation and sustainable development projects in Maijuna lands. A focal point of these programs is the stingless beekeeping project and we have trained the Maijuna to effectively teach visitors about the biology and ecology of Amazonian stingless bees as well as the details of the project.

These hands-on bee programs culminate in opening hives and doing a honey tasting which is always the highlight of the visitor experience. We can think of no better way to learn about native stingless bees than to have a firsthand peek and taste directly from the hive. And, the first question that people always ask after tasting the honey is: “Can I buy some?” In response to these requests, we have been working with the Maijuna to develop a marketing and sales strategy that earns them a premium price for their honey. For a 2-oz bottle of stingless bee honey the Maijuna earn $3 selling it directly to visitors, which is ten times what they would earn on the regional market! Our goal is to ramp up direct visitor sales as well as honey production in the coming months.

And, by the way, we have structured things so all visitors to the Maijuna community pay an entrance fee to take part in the educational programs and their visit culminates in a craft fair where Maijuna artisans sell traditional crafts to visitors. Over the past three months alone, 6 university/high school groups consisting of 130 students in total as well as over 150 ecotourists visited the Maijuna bringing in even more sustainable income to the community. All of this is helping to boost the income of the Maijuna which is critical since each family has traditionally earned less than $2 per day.

The Maijuna beekeepers are incredibly excited about the future of the project and we hope that you are too! New families are looking to join the beekeeping project and funding travel costs to their communities to train and support them is only $250. Thanks so much for your continued support and we promise that we will continue to keep you updated as this project progresses!

Bottles of honey
Bottles of honey
Stingless bee hive
Stingless bee hive
Stingless bees
Stingless bees
Maijuna baskets for sale to visitors
Maijuna baskets for sale to visitors
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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
 
227 donations
$16,747 to go
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