Strengthening livelihoods through beekeeping

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Strengthening livelihoods through beekeeping

The term livelihood is widely used to elaborate understanding about the complexity of poverty and how people manage their resources. The livelihood concept encompasses a persons' whole life; not just the obvious things - food, income or work activities - but also less tangible things such as people's access to various resources, their skills and ideas, their standing within the community or the power they have to influence decision making. Essentially, people's capacity to make a sustainable living, their vulnerability and their resilience to negative change is shaped by the choices they are able to make based on their access to essential resources.

Bees for Development believe that apiculture is a feasible way to help people work their way out of poverty while at the same time maintaining biodiversity. Honey bees are valued for honey and beeswax production to generate income and medicines. Beekeeping gives some of the world's poorest people the opportunity to harvest commodities of international quality and value. Issues currently facing our world include poverty, climate change, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, water shortages, pollution and urban sprawl and these often have the greatest negative impact on the most vulnerable people. While beekeeping cannot cure these problems, it offers an environmentally beneficial activity that helps people to fight against them.  Apiculture and strong beekeeping associations can help to protect fragile environments, especially forest habitats so important for soil and watershed protection.

The honey bees' most important economic and ecological function, their pollination activity, is often overlooked, misunderstood or taken for granted. Lack of bees is frequently an important reason for low harvest yields. In many areas of the world, bee populations (of all types) are declining due to habitat destruction, parasites, diseases, climate change and unsustainable methods of honey hunting and beekeeping. A well planned beekeeping project can help to mitigate many of these problems.

However, the danger inherent in beekeeping projects is to underestimate the risks and complexity of beekeeping and basing investment on unrealistic expectations or inaccurate assumptions or to fail to value essential practical skills and knowledge. This leads to disappointment and loss of trust. Beekeeping project design needs to be based on a holistic understanding of people's livelihoods, the environmental requirements of the bees and the technical demands of the beekeeping activities to be implemented. The close links of beekeeping with the spiritual life in many cultures indicates humans have had a very long relationship with honey bees. Where people are most successful in beekeeping they often have a great depth of indigenous knowledge and a sincere respect, interest and love for the bees.

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