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Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping

by Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Empower Coffee Farming Families through Beekeeping
Las Diez Rosas with visitors
Las Diez Rosas with visitors

When we last checked in with our beekeeping project, they were just ending their honey harvest. Since then, beekeepers from our two partner cooperatives, Aj Tikonel Kab and Las Diez Rosas, have been busy keeping their hives healthy during the present rainy season. The bees need protection from the rain and enough food for the winter. Come October when the rain stops, the hives will be in good shape to start collecting pollen and honey!

Las Diez Rosas, our most recent beekeeping cooperative, which is led by ten women in Huehuetenango, had special visitors in early August. Pueblo a Pueblo’s annual Peacework team of six students from Ohio State University came to build beehive boxes for the cooperative. The team built ten boxes and also spent time getting to know the cooperative members and learning how beekeeping is strengthening the economic security of their families.

One member of Las Diez Rosas commented, “I want the Peacework team to know that although they may feel like they didn’t do much, their dedication and help meant so much to us.” According to Ana Cabrera, Pueblo a Pueblo’s Beekeeping Project Manager, “with these boxes, Las Diez Rosas will be able to expand their apiary -- an important next step for the cooperative.”

This past honey harvest, Las Diez Rosas did not produce enough honey to sell at the market, due to weakened hives. Now, with more beehive boxes, along with the training that the cooperative has been receiving from Pueblo a Pueblo’s bee expert Genaro Simalaj, Las Diez Rosas will be well prepared for a successful next honey season!

Peacework team visiting the apiary
Peacework team visiting the apiary
Peacework building beehive boxes
Peacework building beehive boxes
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Beekeepers in Huehuetenango checking their hives
Beekeepers in Huehuetenango checking their hives

This year’s honey harvest is finally in, but our beekeeping projects are already preparing for the coming year. And although some groups have finished training, others are continuing to build their skills.

The three beekeeping groups that make up the Aj Tikonel Kab beekeepers association have officially graduated from Pueblo a Pueblo project trainings and are now operating on their own. They have the training and knowledge to properly monitor their hives and continue to sell and market their product. Now, Pueblo a Pueblo’s role is to provide technical support when needed.

Having collected their harvest and processed their honey, the Aj Tikonel Kab beekeepers are in the process of marketing their products. They have been exploring new markets around the lake to sell their honey in local stores, hotels, and in specialty fairs for artisanal and organic products. Most recently, they participated in a national event for small honey producers in Solola, the state departmental capital.

Meanwhile, the year-old group of 10 women beekeepers in La Libertad, Huehuetenango have continued with trainings and have collected their first harvest. But, because of the cold temperatures in the highlands this past winter, there was a shortage of worker bees to gather the honey, leaving the hives weakened. Also, the beekeepers had just begun their trainings and were not yet equipped with the knowledge to effectively evaluate hive health. So this year, the hives did not produce enough honey to sell, and the women are sharing the 40-lb harvest among their families.

Since the cold season, however, the women of La Libertad have completed several more trainings. They now have the skills and knowledge to monitor their hives. For example, they know what to look for when checking hive health, and they can diagnose any problems that arise to either fix the problem themselves or ask Pueblo a Pueblo for technical advice.

The most recent training in Huehuetenango was conducted in April, when the women learned how to harvest and process the honey. They also learned how to divide hives to effectively grow their apiary.

Pueblo a Pueblo’s beekeeping expert, Genaro, made a return visit to Huehuetenango in May to check on the hives and to meet with the beekeepers. He also ensured that the hives were doing well after dividing them in April, and he worked with the women to prepare the hives for the upcoming rainy season.

Now that the rainy season has begun, they will not be collecting their next harvest until the fall. In the meantime, the hives are strong and the beekeepers will continue to learn more skills!

Aj Tikonel Kab beekeepers selling honey at markets
Aj Tikonel Kab beekeepers selling honey at markets
Genaro training beekeepers in Huehuetenango
Genaro training beekeepers in Huehuetenango
Beekeepers thanking a Mayan God for their harvest
Beekeepers thanking a Mayan God for their harvest
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Aj Tikonel Kab Beekeepers
Aj Tikonel Kab Beekeepers

Our beekeeping project has seen a successful few months! Since the beginning of the dry season in November, our Aj Tikonel Kab beekeepers have been able to harvest multiple rounds of honey. The harvest is finishing up this month just as the rainy season approaches, and their honey can be found all around town and around the lake!

This year also marks the end of formal training for our Aj Tikonel Kab beekeepers, as they transition to an autonomous group. They have completed the entire training cycle, and from this point forward Pueblo a Pueblo will provide only supplemental support. Project Manager Ana Cabrera explained that the next step for Pueblo a Pueblo’s relationship with Aj Tikonel Kab is “determining what support they need and how we can best provide the support they need to become independent and thrive.”

Our partnership with the women beekeepers at La Cooperativa Crédito Esquipulas in Huehuetenango has also been progressing well.  The women are acquiring more and more beekeeping skills. So far they have completed four practical trainings, with the most recent training in January. This training session reviewed the lessons the women learned in the fall.  We helped them check on the health of the hives to evaluate what they had been doing well and what could be improved. Additionally, they learned how to prepare for different weather conditions and laid the groundwork for their first harvest. The next session in two weeks will cover all the necessary skills for harvesting and processing the honey for sale.

Ana reports that the women are “more confident in their work with the bees and their hives. They are excited about getting their first harvest at the end of April!”

An Aj Tikonel Kab beekeeper opens up the hives
An Aj Tikonel Kab beekeeper opens up the hives
Beekeepers in Huehuetenango
Beekeepers in Huehuetenango
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One of our beekeepers, suited up
One of our beekeepers, suited up

Our new beekeeping partnership in Huehuetenango has made big strides, and is flourishing! Since we last checked in with you, the group of women has completed three hands-on trainings. After conquering the learning curve, they are progressing quickly and on their way to becoming successful, self-sustaining beekeepers!

The first practical training was in mid-October, when the women helped to construct and install 10 hives in their apiary. Unfortunately, the week after there was a huge rainstorm (an offshoot of Hurricane Patricia) that made travel to Huehuetenango dangerous and meant the next training had to be postponed. Although none of the hives were damaged, we lost two of our queens during this stressful time. However, we were left with 8 healthy hives, and the women remained positive and resilient. Despite the initial hurdles, the trainings were able to continue!

During the second practical training, the beekeepers had their first chance to apply the theories they had learned in earlier sessions. They learned how to open the hives to check their health, how to recognize problems, and what to do in response to different situations. The women were also able to strengthen their theoretical knowledge with more trainings focusing on the beekeeper’s yearly calendar, including seasonal risks, weather to take advantage of, and tasks they should be completing at different times. These were all complemented by visits to the apiaries for practical training.

Three weeks later, in mid-November, Pueblo a Pueblo staff traveled to Huehuetenango for a third training that focused on preparing for harvest season. The beekeepers learned to construct “honey super boxes,” which are affixed on top of the base hive to provide extra space for the growing bee population to collect and store honey. For now, the woman have only installed the super boxes on the three strongest hives. Now that they have been trained in the process, they will install the rest when they see the other hives are ready. They expect to see their first harvest in March!

So far, the trainings have been very successful. Beekeeping Project Manage, Michelle Sims, says the women have been fast, fearless learners:

“They’re really great. They’re not scared at all. That’s sometimes an issue we have to deal with, women being scared to go in and not wanting to get close to the bees. But these women are not scared at all. They’re very confident going in, and the participation from them is great. They’re very excited about it. So it’s great working with them.”

The next training is in January, when the women will review concepts and learn more about maintaining the health of the hives as they prepare for harvest. We’re excited to see the fruits of their labors this spring!

The new beekeepers with Pueblo a Pueblo staff
The new beekeepers with Pueblo a Pueblo staff
Learning to make food for the bees!
Learning to make food for the bees!
Hands on work checking the health of the hives
Hands on work checking the health of the hives
Fearless new beekeepers investigate the hives!
Fearless new beekeepers investigate the hives!
Building honey superboxes
Building honey superboxes
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Honey collected in last year's harvest!
Honey collected in last year's harvest!

As the rainy season slowly comes to an end and flowers begin to bloom, honey harvest season is in the air! During last year’s harvest, the two communities we supported in our  Beekeeping Project, Pompojila and Totolya, collectively produced an incredible 750 lbs of honey! This November is the next anticipated harvest season, and with the expansion of apiaries in the Pompojila and Panimaquip communities, we are expecting similar, if not increased, results. Typically, honey is harvested about two or three times a year – depending on how quickly the bees fill up their hives.

Project Manager, Michelle Sims, has been looking forward to the coming harvest:

“Harvest season is the most exciting time of the year because the beekeepers finally see a payoff for the consistent work they have put in towards maintaining the hives in good health all year long-- and that payoff is in hundreds of pounds of honey! Plus, there's nothing more delicious than fresh honey.”

As of now, Aj Tikonel Kab’s honey is being sold in Santiago Atitlan, San Lucas and Panajachel – with plans to expand marketing and sales to other parts of Guatemala.

Additionally, the Beekeeping Project in the Huehuetenango site is set to begin in just a few days! Ten bee hives were installed last week. The bees are given about a week to fly around and adapt to their new home environment before Pueblo a Pueblo staff return for a week-long training with the women from La Cooperativa Crédito Esquipulas.

With the honey harvest right around the corner and the greatly anticipated project expansion in Huehuetenango underway, we could not be happier to see the fruits (or honey, rather) of our labor!

Genaro training beekeepers in Panimaquip
Genaro training beekeepers in Panimaquip
Investigating sites for the Huehuetenango apiary
Investigating sites for the Huehuetenango apiary
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Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.

Location: Neenah, WI - USA
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Twitter: @Pueblo_a_Pueblo
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Boston, MA United States
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