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This tiny insect works hard for struggling families. They produce sweet honey to eat, beeswax that can be turned into goods like candles, and they also help pollinate crops to increase yields.

Dorel Butuza and his family live in the village of Buzas in Romania and are participants in Heifer's Honey Production for Poor Communities in Central Transylvania Project. Dorel used to work for a construction company more than 60 miles away from home, leaving his wife, Anamaria, to care for their six children. When he lost his job, he became skilled at picking mushrooms, forest fruits and even snails, which he sells to earn extra income. Dorel said, "Our main problem relates to income security, and we want to invest as much as possible in beekeeping." 

This family has fulfilled their obligation and has already Passed on the Gift of five beehives. "We managed to have 17 hives, but unfortunately in 2010, some bee families just flew away. The weather was rainy and the bees had low production. We barely managed to feed them during the winter," said Anamaria with sadness in her voice.

The family is a positive example for all project participants, and although 2010 was the year with the smallest production of honey in the history of Romanian apiculture, they are convinced their bees will bring them the much needed income. Anamaria said, "Since we received the bees, we no longer use sugar, and the children love honey spread over bread. My husband and I are convinced the honey production will provide us a secure income. The secret is to take good care of the bees." Dorel is already a licensed beekeeper, and Anamaria will soon receive her diploma. 

For centuries, honey was widely used for its medicinal qualities, and families in many parts of the world still eat honey to aid in suffering of allergies and respiratory illnesses. Honey is antibacterial and antimicrobial, which makes storage easier since it doesn't require refrigeration. Honey is also high in antioxidants, with levels similar to strawberries, spinach and apples.

Larger Crop Yields
Because beehives take up little space, farmers can plant more crops in their fields. When hives are placed strategically, the bees go to work pollinating the plants. With bees, farmers see their harvests of some fruits and vegetables double or triple.

In countries like Honduras and Poland, the gift of bees has provided families motivation to become entrepreneurs. After collecting and processing honey, farmers sell it to friends and neighbors for a higher price than what they'd see at markets. Farmers also rent out their hives to other farmers who need the bees to help pollinate their crops, which brings in even more money.

This holiday season, give the gift of honeybees to your niece, who's the sweetest kid you know, and let her know that together we're helping increase incomes and improve lives. Read more about bees on Heifer Blog.


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.