Attention for beekeeping, bees and other pollinators at World Bee Day-event in Rome

The 20th of May has been declared by the UN to be World Bee Day (WBD). At the second observance of WBD, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), together with the Republic of Slovenia and Apimondia (the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations) organized a celebrational event at the headquarters of FAO in Rome. Parallel to this session there was also an observance at the UN headquarters in New York. The objective of the event was to ‘focus public attention on the role of beekeeping, bees and other pollinators in increasing food security and fighting hunger and poverty, as well as in providing key ecosystem services for agriculture’. Martijn Thijssen of Promote Pollinators was invited to speak in the panel of the event in Rome.

The session was opened by Mr. Bukar Tijani (Assistant Director-General of the FAO), Ms. Aleksandra Pivec (Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Food of the Republic of Slovenia), and Mr. Boštjan Noč (the president of the Slovenian Beekeeping Association). They all emphasized the importance of bees in terms of food security, and of economic, cultural and societal values. They called upon the international society to jointly protect bees and pollinators in general.

This was followed by a series of 6 short presentations on various topics which was moderated by Mr. Peter Kozmus, Vice President of Apimondia.

Ms. Cleofas Rodriguez Cervancia is an emeritus professor of entomology from the Philippines that has worked with the reintroduction of pollinators in an area that was heavily affected by a hurricane. After passage of the hurricane, farmers noticed that different crops and fruit trees in general would grow well, but would not produce anymore. This turned out to be caused by the absence of pollinators. They had all been destroyed by the hurricane. In an experiment Ms. Cervancia collected indigenous pollinators on islands that had not been inflicted by the hurricane. Within a year the agricultural production had increased significantly.

Ms. Damjana Grobelšek of the Slovenian Beekeeping Academy shared about ‘her’ academy and the activities it develops. The Beekeeping Academy is an official institute within the Slovenian academic world and is situated in Ljubljana. Slovenia has a strong culture on beekeeping with extensive practices and guidelines. The Beekeeping Academy teaches about these practices and by this ensures the continuation of the culture. They also assist other countries with beekeeping practices. A good example of this is Bangladesh where they help the women of small farmer households in establishing small businesses with honey production.

Ms. Cristina Gorasjki Visconti of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women spoke about the importance of bees for small businesses, particularly for women. As beekeeping can often be done in the direct vicinity of the households and can be developed in combination with other tasks, it is particularly relevant for women. Women often are in a position that they cannot leave their household.

Mr. David Mukomana (Organo Seven Limited, Zimbabwe) and Mr. Philemon Josephat Kiemi (Beekeeping Villages Initiative, Tanzania) showed the successes of their small-scale enterprises that have large effects on the lives of many individuals. Through their small-scale enterprises, many young people now can make a living by producing honey.

Finally, Martijn Thijssen presented Promote Pollinators and reflected on possible synergies with the work of FAO through the IPI. He concluded that the most obvious synergies are to be found in the sharing of good practices of policies and cooperation on the development of guidelines by FAO. Martijn was also asked to reflect on the needs of national governments when it comes to better protection of pollinators. Martijn emphasized that the current practice (with its negative impacts on pollinators) is there for a reason. It will not change if we don’t cope with these reasons which are often to be found in the competitiveness of the current practices in an international business world, as well as with knowledge about the effects of current practices and good practices that do not harm pollinators. If we want to give better practices a chance then they will need a level -or better, fair- playing field with the current ones. This can only be organized at an international level. Thus we need organizations like FAO and OESO to work on this.