Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala

by Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
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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Training in La Libertad for new beekeeping group
Training in La Libertad for new beekeeping group

Recently, Pueblo a Pueblo’s Beekeeping project solidified a new partnership with a women’s coffee cooperative in La Libertad, a small community outside of Huehuetenango. This group of coffee farmers is part of La Cooperativa Crédito Esquipulas, a larger organization that works on savings and loans for local farmers and businesses in Guatemala. Despite the diversity in their services, this will be La Cooperativa’s first endeavor into beekeeping!

However, this new beekeeping group will look somewhat different from our three existing projects in Atitlan. First, our existing farmers work together as an association to market and sell their honey, sharing the profits among themselves. The new group, however, will market and sell their honey through the cooperative.

Secondly, whereas half of our current beekeepers are women, our partnership with La Cooperativa Crédito Esquipulas will consist entirely of women, thus continuing our mission to support gender initiatives in rural Guatemala.  

Earlier this month our project technicians conducted their first visit with the new cohort of beekeepers. During this visit they formally met the new members, introduced the basics of beekeeping, and developed a timeline for future trainings and apiary installations.

Michelle Sims, the project manager for Pueblo a Pueblo’s beekeeping project is very excited about this new expansion and looks forward to “initiating honey production within La Cooperativa Crédito Esquipulas and hopefully expanding this opportunity to other members of the cooperative as well." We at Pueblo a Pueblo, hold the same hope as Michelle and are excited to see how our new partnership evolves!

Genaro teaching the basics of beekeeping
Genaro teaching the basics of beekeeping
Our newest beekeeping members!
Our newest beekeeping members!
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Our beekeepers collecting sweet honey!
Our beekeepers collecting sweet honey!

Though the looming rainy season signifies the end of the honey harvest, there’s still plenty of buzz surrounding the Beekeeping project at Pueblo a Pueblo.

Aj Tikonel Kab’, the local association of beekeepers, produced over 600 pounds of honey since the season started in December. As a comparison, last year’s honey harvest yielded only 250 pounds.

The reasons for this rapid growth are two-fold. First, a new participating group of coffee producers from Totolya added their harvested honey to the total product.  Second, the association members from Pampojila used their income from last year’s harvest to invest in expanding their apiary from ten hives to 25!

The association’s new goal is to produce enough honey to sell year round and it seems attainable as next year will bring even more growth with the introduction of a third group of honey producers from Panimaquip.  

Recently, a group hailing from St. Paul Episcopal Church in Bellingham, Washington visited the project and apiaries. The group, composed of 18 volunteers, was in Santiago Atitlan for a week and provided hands-on support to various projects at Pueblo a Pueblo. One of the most important activities they completed was the construction of ten bee hive boxes for our program participants.

These hive boxes are essential for honey production. Depending on their placement, the boxes can either be used as spaces for bee reproduction, where the brood (bee eggs) are held, or as “honey super boxes”, where they serve as places for bees to store new honey. Either way, these ten new boxes will ensure the beekeepers a head start going into next year’s honey season.

As this year’s harvest winds down, the association will focus on looking for new buyers and expanding their sales market but, above all, they’ll be keeping the bees healthy and maintaining the colonies so they’ll be ready for another productive honey season next year!

New bee hive boxes standing proudly in Panimaquip
New bee hive boxes standing proudly in Panimaquip
Beekeepers working hard to retrieve honey
Beekeepers working hard to retrieve honey
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Beekeepers meeting for end-of-the-year celebration
Beekeepers meeting for end-of-the-year celebration

Dry season is here and the honey harvest has begun! In 2015 Pueblo a Pueblo’s Beekeeping project is partnering with coffee farmers from three different communities to create a sustainable economic livelihood. The veteran group is from a small village called Pampojila. They started with us in 2013 as our pilot program and are currently processing honey from their second harvest. Since the start of the season, Pampojila’s farmers have yielded over 120 pounds of honey and expect to double this amount by the end of March.

They are also assisting coffee farmers from the Totolya community, who has already produced 40 pounds of sweet honey in their first harvest season!  Both groups are mentoring the newest community to join our producer association. These “newbies,” from the village of Panamaquip, are currently refining their technical skillset and installing their own hives and apiary equipment in anticipation for next season.  

Although the groups work as separately in their own communities, they come together as a cooperative association under the name of Aj Tikonel Kab’ to sell their products. They also joined together in December to celebrate the New Year, discuss their advances and challenges, and develop their vision and goals for 2015.  

Working together as an association can be difficult because it involves mutual investment in equipment and knowledge sharing but Michelle Sims, Pueblo a Pueblo’s Project Manager, shared the benefits it has for beekeepers. “There’s strength in numbers,” she said.  “They’ll be able to work and learn together, produce more together, and eventually sell more honey together.”

All three community participants are glad to be working together and are excited to see the fruits of their labor from a truly cooperative and collaborative project. They now have new skills and improved livelihoods to support their families and their future.  

Beekeepers discussing 2015 goals
Beekeepers discussing 2015 goals
Training in Panamaquip
Training in Panamaquip
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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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