No bees, no honey; no work, no money…
As Bill and I were heading off to Cambodia to work with Rose Charities projects in Phnom Penh, Josephine de Freitas put a bee in my bonnet about looking into beekeeping while we were there, lamenting that on her last visit to Cambodia she had noticed that Cambodians frequently burn the hives to take the honey and larvae. I promised to look into it.
As luck would have it my son’s roommate’s sister, Bryn, runs a large honey operation (8000 hives) in Alberta with her husband, Hendrick. I contacted her to ask if she would be willing/able to help set this up. She replied immediately to tell me that they would be very interested and had, in fact, been to Sudan on a similar mission.
Armed with this encouragement I launched a search for a suitable partner and venue a few weeks after our arrival in Phnom Penh. A six-hour bus ride took me to Siem Reap (happy for an excuse to spend more time in this lovely town located in eastern Cambodia, close to Angkor Wat); however, my meeting with a charismatic, if somewhat eccentric, beekeeper, Danny Jump, was discouraging. Stung but resolute, I bumbled along. Some research on the Internet proved more fruitful. An Atlanta-based NGO, Helping Hands, which supports a Children’s Centre in Battambang for the families of poor villagers and local farmers, had tried to get a beekeeping project going a few years ago but ran out of funds. An email exchange with Christine Wagner at Helping Hands confirmed that they still had a buzz on for this project.
The next step was finding out exactly what is involved in beekeeping. An email to the British Columbia Honey Producers Association elicited a prompt and positive response from John Gibeau at the Honeybee Centre in Surrey. John is with the Bee World Project, a not-for-profit organization that sends commercially-trained beekeepers to third world countries to teach beekeeping. They already have a presence in Cambodia and are interested in expanding into Battambang.
Back in Canada we met with John. I will confess I was getting a bit nervous by now. Everything was moving very quickly and we had no idea how much money it was going to take to launch this project. You can imagine my elation when John said that Bee World had a budget and would sponsor all expenses! Since then he has been busy as a bee organizing kits, funding and a rekkie of the area to ensure the success of the project.
One final piece of the puzzle had to fit: I mentioned to John my communications with Bryn and Hendrick and asked if they could be part of this project, given their interest and support. It transpires that John knows them well (it is a small world) and, if all goes according to plan, Bryn and Hendrick will be taking their three children to Battambang for three months this winter to introduce beekeeping to the local farmers. Plans are for 30 farmers to have 10 to 15 hives each.
The bees will be saved, they will work their magic on the local agriculture, the honey will provide nutrition for the villagers and the farmers will enjoy some much needed extra income … Bee-at that!
Special Thanks to the Honey Bee Centre in Vancouver!
This project has been handed over to the Bee World Project. But we are always looking for opportunities to start community initiatives and we are starting a bee project in Zambia. Please donate now to help us start our next community project! Or follow us on facebook or twitter to hear about project updates.