Zaid Sa’ad has a degree in media and communications, but has always been a farmer and beekeeper in Al Qurnah, Iraq.
“Our community has a relationship with our land that is hard to describe; our fathers and grandfathers were also farmers,” he said. “Our work and life cycle on these farms are interdependent.”
Planting awareness on the importance of farms in the predominantly poor area was his goal. So, he set up Facebook and WhatsApp groups on beekeeping and farming, and with occupational safety and health training from the International Labour Organization (ILO), he is spreading the word on social media and transferring the knowledge to local farmers.
“Our work in agriculture promotes economic opportunities, security and self-reliance,” he said. “It allows us to be independent.”
Gulhayo Khaydarova, from Durmon, Uzbekistan, has been in beekeeping for 14 years, and the honey her bees produce, is famous throughout the village. She said the traditions and secrets of beekeeping are passed down from generation to generation.
But, last winter’s plummeting temperatures killed off most of her bees. Even the most experienced beekeepers can suffer this loss.
To compensate for her losses, the UN food agency (FAO) provided her family with modern beekeeping equipment and 20 new hives.
Today, she has increased honey production, providing a more sustainable livelihood for her household.
Breaking gender barriers
“Bees are extremely intelligent insects,” said Ligia Elena Moreno Veliz, from La Fé, Venezuela. Once afraid of the pollinators, through an FAO scholarship, she now runs a thriving business specializing in queen bee breeding and is passing on knowledge to others.
She also broke a glass ceiling. Today, while only four of the community’s 30 beekeepers are women, the taboo is now gone, she said.
Meanwhile, climate change is worrisome, she added. Climate instability, inconsistency in tree blooms and pollution cause bees to have new patterns of behaviour, adapting to the changes in flowering times.
To address this challenge, Ligia Elena and her co-workers have planted new trees to attract bees again.
“Beekeeping is my way of life,” she said. “It is the livelihood of my family and an activity that I hope my daughters will continue to do in the future.”
Betty Ayikoru, from Arua district in Uganda, is mother of four, a farmer, local councillor, and a beekeeper.
“That’s how I make a living,” she said.
She works with Honey Pride Arua, a social enterprise founded by Sam Aderubo and supported by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).
Like many others, her life has improved thanks to skills training, and the sustainable market provided by the business.
Now, more than 1,700 farmers keep their bees in apiaries and at harvest time, they sell to Honey Pride.
“By engaging farmers, we are giving them alternative employment,” Mr. Aderubo said. “If beekeeping is taken to a level where farmers understand it as a business, it’s going to improve their livelihoods.”
Ensuring bee health is a goal of the UN food agency, especially in light of threats against them, including unsustainable agriculture, pesticide abuse, and intensive monoculture production.
Pollination is essential for the maintenance of plant biodiversity, the survival of the world’s ecosystems, with about 75 percent of crops – which produce fruits and other seeds for human consumption – depending, at least in part, on pollinators, including bees, FAO said.
Pollinator-friendly practices include crop rotation and diversity, reducing the use of pesticides, and restoring and protecting their habitat. Even the adoption of precision agriculture tools and innovation can protect bees, the agency said.
To help to better protect the pollinators, the agency hosted and co-organized on Thursday the second International Symposium on Biosecurity in Beekeeping, bringing participants up to date on the latest developments in bee biosecurity and the initiatives that the international organizations involved are applying in different areas of the world to ensure bee health.
Celebrating bees worldwide
“World Bee Day has contributed significantly to raising awareness of the importance of bees and other pollinators and to promoting international cooperation to protect them,” said Nataša Pirc Musar, President of the Republic of Slovenia.
Her country initiated the establishment of a World Bee Day in 2016 at an FAO regional conference for Europe and co-created more than 300 pollinator projects with partners on all continents, she said.
For its part, the UN marked World Bee Day with an FAO-hosted global ceremony emphasizing the importance of these hard-working pollinators.
Under the theme of pollinator-friendly agricultural production, the event drew attention to the threats endangering these insects and the need to address them.
On Monday, an event at UN Headquarters will showcase best practices and innovative projects with a view to raising awareness of bees’ contributions to environmental and social resilience.
“Protecting bees and other pollinators is essential to guarantee agricultural production, food security, ecosystems restoration, and plant health,” FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said.
As beekeeper Ms. Moreno Veliz said, “bees are extremely intelligent insects. They are beautiful animals.”
What do you know about bees?
Take FAO’s quiz right here and find out more below:
- FAO plays a leading role in facilitating and coordinating the International Pollinators Initiative and is committed to promoting policies that support biological plant pest control and limit pesticide use through the Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture, aiming to build greater habitat diversity in agricultural and urban environments.
- Three out of four crops across the globe producing fruits or seeds for human use as food depend, at least in part, on pollinators.
- Safeguarding bees safeguards biodiversity, as most pollinators are wild, including over 20 000 species of bees.
- Pollinator-dependent food products contribute to healthy diets and nutrition.
- Improving pollinator density and diversity boosts crop yields – pollinators affect 35 per cent of global agricultural land, supporting the production of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide.
- Nearly 75 per cent of the world’s crops producing fruits and seeds for human use depend, at least in part, on pollinators.