The beekeepersThe decline and mass death of bees aren't recent phenomena, but they've become quite alarming lately. In just two days in 2023, at least 100 million bees suddenly perished in Brazil. The indiscriminate use of pesticides is considered one of the primary suspects.
Bees play a crucial role in pollinating around 70% of food crops, and their demise jeopardizes global agriculture and food security. Moreover, they are vital for pollinating forests, and their disappearance may trigger the demise of entire ecosystems.
Since 2018, a group of female farmers from the Pernambuco forest zone has been blending genetic enhancement techniques with agroecological ancestral wisdom to discover sustainable methods of nurturing and safeguarding bees.
Their endeavor began upon their arrival at the Ximenes settlement in Barreiros, Pernambuco state, in northeastern Brazil. They had been displaced from their homes due to the expansion of the Suape port area farther north.
The new settlement provided by the government was surrounded by an extensive sugar cane plantation. The soil was infertile, there were no paved roads, schools, or health centers in the area, and housing was precarious. The region was often flooded by the local river.
With limited options for cultivation, the women sought assistance from the local university to learn beekeeping. Collaborating with the Federal Rural University of Pernambuco, they became the first female beekeepers in the region, a job that until then had been performed only by men. The university provided them with protective suits, and beehives, and taught them genetic enhancement techniques to produce high-quality pesticide-free honey.
With the money obtained from honey, they gained a new profession and financial independence. Combining the money from honey sales, the women promoted a new sustainable dynamic in the community. To attract more bees, they began planting native crops around their homes using techniques passed down by their ancestors, transforming their backyards into agroecological oases with flowers, trees, and crops.
Today, from their once unproductive lands, bloom flowers, fruits, vegetables, and about 1 ton of high-quality honey per year. This highlights how modern practices like bee genetic improvement, combined with ancestral land care, can generate income in vulnerable communities and restore ecosystems on the planet.