Friday, June 29, 2012

A Gift of Bees

     The promotion of beekeeping in third world countries to combat poverty has become increasingly popular.  In many countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America beekeeping has become a practical solution to reduce poverty.  Beekeeping requires little space, minimal initial cost and maintenance costs and offers much needed income from the sales of honey, beeswax and pollen.  In addition increased pollination from the introduction of these bees can substantially increase fruit and vegetable yields as well as pollinating native plants.  For most beekeeping has become a supplement to the family income but for an increasing number it has become a major part of the village economy.  Below is a plan by the National Agricultural Advisory Service of Uganda to improve beekeeping amongst rural women to reduce poverty.

     Initially the top bar hive was the popular choice in poor countries because of the ease and low cost of construction.  

Top Bar Hive

However, with the assistance of programs like Heifer International traditional Langstroth hives which have a more practical commercial application are becoming more popular.  There are many philanthropic beekeeping assistance programs like "Bees for Development" which is more of an information source for third world countries, "Self Help Africa", "ICIMOD" and "Global Hand".  While I am sure most of these programs are very good in terms of the benefits they provide I chose to financially support Heifer International because of their close to 70 years of providing practical, sustainable relief in the form of livestock (bees, heifers, sheep, pigs, chickens ..... and trees and plants for erosion control).  While probably not the choice of a vegetarian Heifer International has substantially benefited over 65 million people through the gift of livestock.  Founded by Dan West, a midwestern farmer who had a revelation while giving out rations of milk to hungry children during the Spanish Civil War, "These children don't need a cup, they need a cow". In l944 he sent 17 heifers from York, Pennsylvania to Peurto Rican families whose malnourished children had never tasted milk.   "Why heifers? These are young cows that haven't yet given birth – making them perfect not only for supplying a continued source of milk, but also for supplying a continued source of support. That's because each family receiving a heifer agrees to "pass on the gift" and donate the female offspring to another family, so that the gift of food is never-ending."  An early example of the concept to "Pay it Forward".  This simple idea of giving families a source of food rather than short-term relief caught on and has continued for more than 65 years. 
     Through beekeeping projects around the world, Heifer International helps smallholder farmers become entrepreneurs and increase their incomes. This video takes you to Honduras where farmers tend their hives, harvest the honey and bottle it for distribution.

     To find out more about Heifer International and their beekeeping assistance program go to Heifer International.


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