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Story and Photos by Diana Odar | Volunteer | Heifer Peru

José Luis, better known as “Joselo,” is 30 years old. He lives with his wife and three children in the village of Pueblo Nuevo in the rural community of San Lucas in northern Peru. After Joselo completed high school, he went to work for a mining company. The mining company, like most in South America, has serious discrimination issues and workers suffer abuse from the owners. Employees work for meager wages and receive no benefits. In early May 2013, a group of workers joined together to peacefully promote change in the company. In response, the company fired Joselo and all those who had joined him.

The community of San Lucas regularly holds meetings for community discussions and to share public announcements. Joselo attends these regularly and it was in one of these meetings that he learned about Heifer International and the Sustainable Livelihoods in the Rural Community San Lucas of Colan project.

One of the workshops offered through the project was beekeeping. “I always dreamed of being a beekeeper,” Joselo said. “I attended workshops of beekeeping management where I learned how to differentiate the larvae of queen and worker bees, the importance of the queen bee in the hive, what to do when you have two queens, as well as other components of beekeeping. The training taught me so much. I was also interested to learn that beekeeping has no negative impact on the environment. After attending the workshops I received a bee module, which consisted of a hive box and a suit.”

Prior to the workshops and receiving the bees, Joselo’s neighbors said he was crazy to be a beekeeper and that his bees could kill someone. But he didn’t let that stop him.

The northern region of Peru is currently in its dry season, which causes a drastic drop in flowering. Bees produce less honey during this time and the demand for honey is hard to meet. To address this, Heifer teaches project participants how to strategically expand their enterprises. Joselo attended a business management workshop and learned basic steps to start a business. He is now trained in bee production and as an intermediary in the honey market. As a producer, he harvests honey from his apiary, bottles it and sells it. As an intermediary, he buys honey from his beekeeping network and sells it on their behalf for a fee. Joselo also supports this network by providing beehive maintenance and making sure the bees are well.

Joselo and his family work together to create their final product: bottles of honey. They sell the honey out of their home. His family has always been united; however, he now realizes that they are closer than ever because they all work together for the honey business. His wife and small children help collect, clean, and disinfect the honey. Then they fill the bottles and sell them.

“Sometimes I’m not at home and people come to my house to buy honey, so my wife sells it to them,” Joselo said. “Then, when I come home, my children greet me at the front door with, ‘Daddy, Daddy, people bought some honey!’ When I see such excitement in my children for what I do, it motivates me.”

Joselo believes the advantages of honey production are not only monetary. “I gained a lot of knowledge through this project,” Joselo said. “It benefits more than me, though. When other beekeepers call me to help them with their bees, I come to them and I share my knowledge with them. If they need tools, I let them use mine and help them when they harvest honey.”

Joselo is proud of himself and happy to have won respect and recognition in his community and his neighborhood. “Personally, I feel I have gained the respect of my neighborhood and community,” Joselo said. “I am recognized as a beekeeper. I’m excited to see that my children, even though they are young, are motivated, too, and will continue the art and business of beekeeping for years to come.”

The Sustainable Livelihoods in the Rural Community San Lucas de Colan project is part of the Piura Umbrella project in the Colan District, Paita Province, Piura Region, in northern Peru.

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Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.