Happy Earth Day 2019!
Gelsey Bennett, Farmer-to-Farmer Program Officer, Agriculture & Volunteer Programs
Today, April 22, we celebrate Earth Day. The 2019 Earth Day campaign centers on the protection of animal species. The Earth Day network notes that “All living things have an intrinsic value, and each plays a unique role in the complex web of life. We must work together to protect endangered and threatened species.”
Among those species are bees.
Bees provide economic opportunity for farmers. Beekeepers can sell the honey and use the beeswax to make value-added products like candles or lotions. Bees are not only important for their honey production, but they are also critical for the environment in their role as pollinators. Farmers benefit from bees’ pollinator role in the ecosystem, as bees pollinate 70% of crop species that feed 90% of the world’s population. Many plants—including food crops—would not survive without bees’ pollination role in the ecosystem. Bees are vital for healthy agricultural systems.
Winrock, via the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program, has fielded over 120 volunteer assignments to support beekeepers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. As Winrock dives into the implementation of the West Africa Farmer-to-Farmer program, below are some recent impacts of beekeeping assignments in the region:
- In Guinea, F2F trained the Beekeepers Federation’s trainers, who replicated the training to 32 groups (827 producers). Techniques widely shared include natural methods to keep ants away, making beeswax products and better hive management. With these technical improvements, in addition to organizational development support, the Federation was able to negotiate a new contract with pre-payment. Sales doubled in just two years.
- In Senegal, the International Center for Practical Training in Mboro-Beekeeping Division replicated training in improved beekeeping among 8,427 beekeeping community members. The training included specific modules on parasite and disease management and harvesting and processing of by-products. The Center’s successful application of improved beekeeping has led to a partnership with Grande Cote Operation-Zircon, whereby the Center will train GCOZ’s staff.
- F2F trained the Honey Producers Microenterprise of Ley Miro, Guinea, in topics related to governance and technical subjects related to the quality of honey and production of byproducts from beeswax. The organization was able to roll out five new or improved products, including soaps and clean honey, to the market. The members were also able to replicate the training to two additional organizations.
All these activities support bee populations and amplify the importance of a bee’s role in our ecosystem.
As a volunteer, what can you do to support bee populations and Mother Earth? Whether you are providing technical assistance to farmers in the field or designing an agricultural curriculum with a university, discourage the use of pesticides. The widespread use of pesticides destroys bee habitats and kills bees. Instead, encourage natural integrated pest management practice and multi-cropping practices that diversify and increase bee habitats.
 National Resources Defense Council. “Bee Facts.” 2011.