In San Juan del Rio Coco, a municipality of Madriz about 150 miles from the capital of Managua, Jesús Perez Cruz, 54, lives and produces coffee and honey for a local cooperative, one of the three honey value chain cooperatives in northern Nicaragua funded by Heifer International.
Since he started beekeeping with an apiary of 10 hives four years ago, Jesús Perez has dedicated his life to the production of honey.
Today, thanks to the training from Heifer and along with his improved beekeeping skills, he manages 20 hives—12 of which are on an apiary in Quilalí where his sister lives.
When Heifer started training families on beekeeping in 2010, the families began to notice how the little insects were affected by certain local practices. For example, cutting back flowering plants in their areas caused the bees to fly far away to find plants to pollinate, leaving the hive for longer periods, in turn lengthening the time it would take to make honey.
Project members said this observation made them more aware of the interconnectedness of their lives with the lives of the bees and other families around them.
According to Perez, during a good flowering season, he and his sons have been collecting up to 40 and 50 drums, or barrels, of honey. However, in the less fruitful periods from August to December they are forced to move the hives at night, a process referred to as “migration” of bees, to a place with better weather and more flowering to prevent bees from migrating alone and getting lost.
Perez shares that bee migration is the main problem he has encountered in production so far because of the extra costs involved. “We have to pay rent at the places where [the hives] will stay and take a shuttle to move them,” Perez said.
However, Perez said all the project families are excited to work with Heifer’s honey value chain project and are determined to craft new solutions. Heifer provided technical skills training and beekeeping equipment—stainless steel pumps, basic extractors, spatulas, smokers, knives, strainers, brushes and protective suits—all to help them with production and other logistics so they can connect to local markets and better care for the little golden bees.
Perez said this training will help them produce more honey to not only sustain the market’s demands but also give beekeepers like himself satisfaction in improving the quality of their products. The increased quality will allow Perez to sell his honey for a better price to add to his family’s income.
The Northern Nicaragua honey value chain cooperative aims to benefit 450 beekeeper families throughout Estelí, Madriz, Jinotega and Matagalpa, starting with an inventory of 654 hives with average yield of 44 pounds per hive each year.
Story and photos by Anielka López, Communication Officer, Heifer Nicaragua