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The Buzz About Bees

Oct. 19, 2007: With partners, CI is helping to conserve key bee habitats on three continents. By protecting these areas, we are protecting the small creatures that pollinate our crops and keep our food chain intact. A donation from McDonald’s will support our efforts in South Africa and Mexico.

Africa: South Africa
In South Africa, we work with farmers, municipalities and communities to help them set aside bee habitat on their land. These landscapes contain hundreds of plant species – many pollinated by bees – that are important for horticultural, cut flower, food and medicinal extract markets. Setting aside blocks of native vegetation ensures that bees survive the cold winter months and continue to pollinate throughout the year, protecting the agricultural and tourism economy as well as biological diversity.

CI-South Africa is also working with a private diamond mining company to restore previously mined land to bee-friendly habitat. The restoration work will bring jobs to local people who have lost their jobs as mines have shut down.

Africa: Kenya
Scientists in Kenya are experimenting with ways to diversify local livelihoods by harvesting honey from stingless bees that are native to the region.

With support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), of which CI is a member, the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) has introduced special hives to communities neighboring the coastal forests of East Africa. Local farmers have also been taught how to harvest the honey, which fetches a higher market price because it is hypoallergenic. Communities then have a direct incentive to protect these forests, ensuring their long-term conservation.

Africa: Zanzibar
On the spice island of Zanzibar off mainland Tanzania’s east coast, CEPF is supporting projects that help local communities generate income through protecting their natural resources. Among many projects run by two leading charities, CARE and the Wildlife Conservation Society, people are using funds to improve beekeeping and honey harvesting techniques. As a result, they are getting greater financial returns.

“In order to have bees that make honey, you’ve got to have flowers and you’ve got to have trees,” says Kirstin Siex, project director at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “It’s a win-win situation all around.”

Central America: Mexico
With eight of 11 families of bees found in Mexico, the country exports more honey than every other nation except for China and the United States.

Beekeeping is the bread and butter of communities living within or around Mexico’s key bee habitat. This is the case at the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, roughly 2 million acres of tropical forest in southeast Mexico. More than 80 communities, many of Mayan descent, surround the reserve and make their living from raising bees.

CI and our partners are working with two beekeeping communities that own and manage forested areas bordering the reserve themselves. We are developing a manual on best practices in honey production, which will be used for training 50 honey producers in each community. There are plans to make the manual available to other villages with the hopes of eventually reaching about 1,000 producers. Our overall efforts will help raise local awareness about the vital roles bees play in ecosystems and the nutritional value of honey.

Asia: China
In parts of southwest China, bees and people are longtime friends. CI and partners are monitoring the protection of two nature reserves in the region that are prime habitat for bees and other wildlife.

For decades, communities living near the Wanglang Nature Reserve in Sichuan province have relied on the forest to meet their daily needs. But over time, the reserve has suffered from continued logging and wildlife poaching by local people. In help reduce the strain on the people and the land, the reserve is working with communities on honey-related projects, building on an old tradition of honey made from local herbs and wild bees. The honey is produced using 70 different kinds of rare traditional Chinese medicinal herbs and flowers. Because of its excellent quality, Carrefour orders the honey product every harvest season for its grocery stores across China.

A long history of cultivating honey bees continues at another nature reserve, the Gaoligongshan, in western Yunnan province. The reserve conserves important wild bee habitat, as many plants here can produce honey. With several ethnic communities in the region, the nature reserve is trying to improve honey production, which in turn, will improve local livelihoods. Scientists also estimate that coffee plantations near Gaoligongshan enjoy higher yields as a result of healthy wild bee populations.

Related Links:
> Get Involved: Take our Bee Good to the Planet Pledge!
> Feature: Vanishing Bees
> Feature: Interesting Things About Small Things
> Partner Profile: McDonald's

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The small creatures that pollinate our crops help keep our food chain intact.

© CI
Charities in Zanzibar are working to improve beekeeping and honey harvesting techniques.

© Mitsuhiko Imamori/Minden Pictures
You can help save the pollinators by taking our Bee Good to the Planet Pledge!


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