Most of us probably have mixed feelings about bees: we love the taste of honey, but we know the pain of being stung. Meanwhile, increasingly, we will have heard that they are good for the planet – something which is particularly celebrated on 20 May – World Bee Day! In fact, as the reality of climate change and the scale of its unwanted impacts have moved front-and-centre in our lives, the magic of bees suddenly becomes an ever-clearer symbol of how we need to change our thinking.
Bees point us in the right direction for how we need to act. Here is a creature that ensures we have a whole variety of plants; that our crops and trees bear us food; and give us one of the most delicious, nutritious, and medicinal foods we know, which can also provide people with livelihoods. Just as they say the elephant is the flagship of the world’s amazing wildlife, so the humble bee is a deserving flag-bearer for a ‘climate-smart’ world.
Our local partners in rural communities in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe truly recognise the value of bees. When asked about how bees and bee-keeping can transform daily life, a farmer supported by All We Can’s local partner in Zimbabwe poetically reflected that:
Bees are a lifesaver
They breed honey
The honey that sweetens tea
The honey that cures ailments, the cough syrup
The honey that earns money
The money that transforms life
Bee farmers are able to send children to school
The honey that produces graduates
The honey that safeguards our food security
The honey that builds pollination security
The pollination of wildflowers and also the pollination of agricultural crops.
And yet the bees are not selfish
They collaborate, coordinate, and cooperate for the good of not just themselves but also humanity.
Hence our duty to protect and preserve them.
All We Can and its local partners enable communities to benefit from bee’s potential in two main ways. First, through restoring degraded lands back to trees and grasslands which attracts the bees back in plentiful numbers; and secondly through providing material and training for constructing and managing improved beehive designs, which significantly increase honey production at a modest cost. For example, Asefa, a beekeeper from Amhara, Ethiopia, saw his honey income increase four-fold from 800 to 3270 Birr (approximately £16 to £65) when he switched; which is the equivalent of rising from below the poverty line to above it. Asefa can now afford to send his children to school – meaning that they have the opportunity to embrace their full potential too.
Bees are more than just a hardworking insect – they’re key for helping people and planet thrive. When we embrace what bees can offer, we move closer to a world in which every person’s potential is fulfilled.
You can find out more about All We Can’s work in Zimabwe, Ethiopia, and across the globe here.