For beekeeping to be sustainable, it must be to the benefit of bees and beekeepers. In the light of reports of colony losses, the spread of pathogens and predators, and the eradication of local races of bees, we need to question whether our beekeeping practices are benefitting bees.
In recent years, as beekeepers realise that they are increasingly unable to arrest the decline in honey bee populations, some people have gone back to basics and started to question the assumptions we have made about bees. Most of these assumptions can be traced back to our desire for the products of the bee - honey and beeswax. Current methods concentrate on maximising production from managed hives, but production which is at the expense of the health and vitality of bee populations brings only short term profit to the beekeeper. At Bees for Development we therefore focus on the long term health of bee populations and local biodiversity, which in turn allow beekeepers to develop sustainable livelihoods.
Environmental sustainability demands that ecosystems are not damaged beyond their capacity to maintain their own biological processes, functions, biodiversity and natural productivity. For humans, sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Beekeeping will be sustainable when interactions between humans and bees contribute positively to resilient and healthy populations of locally-adapted indigenous bees living in the wild and in the apiaries of beekeepers.
Bees for Development contributes actively to the debate in the UK. In 2009 we brought together a number of UK-based beekeepers to set out and discuss major themes of sustainability. Our report of the day is available on our website, and our training courses offer a theoretical and practical introduction to sustainable beekeeping.
Bees for Development brings a unique global perspective to the debate. Since our estabishment in 1993 we have promoted sustainable apiculture in developing countries, and have listened to, supported and worked with beekeepers to maintain and develop locally appropriate techniques for harvesting the products of bees while conserving bee populations. Healthy, thriving bee populations allow people to collect and market products that have value everywhere.
Our approach is ecological, environmental, social and economic. The knowledge is international, but the solutions are local. You can read more about sustainable beekeeping in our Information Portal and in the Bees for Development Journal.
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