In 2017, the UN General Assembly declared 20 May as World Bee Day. This was done in order to raise public awareness of the bees’ extinction. Bee populations in the world are declining at a rapid rate. Causes of their decline include air pollution, the use of pesticides and chemicals in agricultural fields, and bee diseases. If the process continues at the same pace, it will lead to significant reductions in crop yields and in the efficiency of agricultural production.
Our story is about how the bee population is increasing in Belarus, and how beekeeping helps the Belarusians return to their roots and find their calling.
The team of Innovative Technologies Workshop came up with the idea of promoting beekeeping and horticulture in the Brahin district a few years ago. “For the population in the Brahin district (the southernmost point of Belarus), gardening and beekeeping were historically popular activities. However, after the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the garden district gradually lost its position. The residents of the district avoided long-term investments due to the high probability of resettlement. When it became possible to return to the traditional way of life, the question about the availability of financial opportunities appeared,” said Vladimir Alexandronets, Director of the Innovative Technologies Workshop.
The socially oriented initiative “Brahin Honeycomb: Helping Rural Businesses, Helping People” was developed at the intersection of the traditional and the new, and supported by the Project“Support to Economic Development at the Local Level in the Republic of Belarus”. Bees and a garden are two interconnected eco-systems that directly affect each other and produce a synergistic effect. In order to make this synergy work, the Initiative supported local farmers in planting a garden orchard and setting up small-scale facilities for producing apple chips and dried fruits, and a line for bottling and packaging honey and bee products.
The Initiative also included the development of a special online platform with an online educational centre and an electronic storefront.
Beekeeping and horticulture educational video courses were created for novice beekeepers. The first video course covers the construction of hives, colony biology, prevention and treatment of bee diseases, necessary for beekeeping equipment, and bee products. The second video course is designed for aspiring gardeners. The course provides insights into the layout of the garden plot, the choice of seedlings and soil preparation, planting technologies, harvesting and storing crops, and much more. Beekeepers and gardeners can sell their products using the electronic storefront.
Results of the initiative “Brahin Honeycomb: Helping Rural Businesses, Helping People” in 2020-2021:
20 local residents gained skills for working in a bee apiary and a production line for bottling honey, gardening and the production of apple products;
50 local residents received advice and took part in workshops on restoring apple orchards and orchard management;
90 people completed online courses on horticulture and beekeeping;
6 new jobs for people from socially vulnerable groups were created;
A new 1,500 apple tree orchard was planted;
12 garden plantations were improved.
The small-scale production facilities for fruit chips and the honey bottling line are demonstration sites where local residents can be provided with training and appropriate services.
A community of gardening and beekeeping enthusiasts is being built through outreach and education activities. Both novice and experienced local beekeepers and gardeners have the opportunity to share ideas and support each other.
“It's nice to know that the Initiative contributes to addressing the global challenge to preserve and increase the bee population. In 2021, the partners of the Initiative increased the number of their bee colonies by 1.5 times. The Initiative is also important for the district economy: residents can earn extra income, and for some residents it is a chance to make a career change and become gardeners and beekeepers,” said Vladimir Aleksandronets, Coordinator of the Initiative.The socially oriented initiative “Brahin Honeycomb: Helping Rural Businesses, Helping People” is being implemented under the Project “Support to Economic Development at the Local Level in the Republic of Belarus” funded by the European Union and implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Belarus.