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  HOME | Central America

Beekeeping, Alternative to Unemployment and Social Crisis in Nicaragua

SOMOTO, Nicaragua – Honeybees have become the sweet allies of many peasants in northern Nicaragua, who have gotten involved in beekeeping as a way to make ends meet in their impoverished country beset by economic crisis and where each day the unemployment rate inches up even further.

That is the case with Cristina Lanuza, 32, who lives in the town of Somoto in Madriz province, bordering on Honduras, and decided to make a foray into the activity, which she calls “rather profitable.”

“Beekeeping is a great opportunity. In my case, it’s done well (for me) because I’m a single mother and it’s helped me bring in income ... get ahead and become a reference point for other young people,” Lanuza told EFE.

She is one of 44 members of the Multisectoral Cooperative for Young Rural Entrepreneurs of Madriz (Conjeruma), an organization providing training to interested people on how to get started in the beekeeping business.

The initial capital needed to get going is about $1,500, with which a person can buy five hives, a safety suit, smoker, a spatula and a minimal amount of other equipment.

Before investing, Lanuza said, “the first thing you need to do is identify the area in which to set up the apiary,” or the hives.

“We look at the area, the water sources, the slope of the land,” she said.

Lanuza has one apiary with 16 hives, each of which has a population fluctuating between 60,000 and 80,000 bees.

Each hive provides about 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of honey per year, and it must be strained or purified, packaged and sold under the Cooperative’s label and under its own brandname: “Chelsea Honey.”

The production of honey provides earnings of between $296 and $415 per harvest, which is above the average minimum salary in Nicaragua.

The honey is harvested between four and eight times per year, depending on the weather conditions, which are influenced by the blooming of assorted flowers on which the bees survive.

In Nicaragua there are some 6,000 beekeepers, of whom 300 are in Madriz province, according to Nestor Lopez, the project coordinator for the Friends of the Earth Spain (AdTE) environmental organization.

Lopez said that apiculture “is a business that helps complement the activities of families and generates income.”

It’s a promising business activity in Nicaracua, with much room for growth, given that beekeeping is being pursued at only about half its prospective capacity so far, he added.

The beekeepers not only take advantage of the honey they extract from the hives, but they have also learned a number of tricks about where to place the hives so that their bees can gather the most pollen from flowers in the area.

According to the peasants involved in beekeeping, the pollen improves people’s digestion, energizes them, contributes to keeping down inflammation of the prostate, among other benefits, and so they sell it alone or mixed in with the honey.

In addition, they also extract the wax with which the bees build their honeycombs and use it to make soap and candles.

“Everything involved in beekeeping comes from the environment, since the bees are tasked with pollinating more than 80 percent of the crops,” Lopez said.

In Somoto, located 218 km (135 mi.) north of Managua, beekeepers have planted about 40,000 plants as a way to help preserve local water sources and keep the proper temperature inside the hives, Lopez said.

Friends of the Earth and other organizations have been working in northern Nicaragua for five years with funding from the European Union to provide technical assistance to local beekeepers.

According to figures from the state-run Cetrex export center, in 2018 Nicaragua exported about 547 tons of honey, mainly to the United States and Europe, generating $2.26 million in earnings.

 

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