2016: a year of expectations for Supportive Beekeeping
Rainfall volumes at the start of the year favor honey production among the Project’s member beekeepers
“Expectations are great!” It is with this enthusiasm that José Antônio Monteiro, president of COOPERAPIS (Beekeepers Coop of the Ribeirão Preto Region) and another 20 cooperative members started 2016. The reason came from above. “The volume of rainfall in the last few months will drive our honey production this year,” he says in celebration.
In addition to the many impacts on the water supply, the drought of 2015 also affected honey production among the country’s beekeepers. “Without rain, the eucalyptus doesn’t flower, and without flowers to pollinate, the bees don’t produce honey,” explains Arnaldo Maurício Correa Neto, a beekeeping consultant who provides support to AAPILEME (Beekeepers Association of Leme and the Leme Region), a new International Paper Institute partner in the Supportive Beekeeping program.
However, the consultant shares a warning. “Excessive rain can also hinder production. The ideal climate is a mix of moderate rainfall and sun, favoring flowering of plants, production of nectar by flowers and pollination by the bees.”
IIP project beekeepers are quite familiar with the damages from a lack of rain. While honey production in 2014 was 40,523 tons, 2015 ended with just 8.4 tons, even with twice as many beehive boxes. “It was a worrisome year for us. But we think that we will achieve great results in 2016,” says Monteiro. And there is good reason why. This year, around 1000 hives were set up in the eucalyptus forest that serves the Luiz Antônio unit. “Because the eucalyptus flowers from December to May, we are able to get between two to three ‘harvests,'” he estimates.
Outside of this period when the eucalyptus flowers, beekeepers make their living by harvesting wild honey, where beehive boxes are set up in native forest or in other types of crop, such as in orange orchards, for instance. International Paper is also able to make contributions here, since it maintains around 20% of its eucalyptus plantations as native forest. “Without the IP partnership, we wouldn’t survive in the region,” says José Antônio Monteiro.
According to Arnaldo Maurício Correa Neto, these partnerships with major companies are fundamental for these beekeeping groups. “Few companies have established beekeeping programs like IP. These partnerships with large companies foster formation of associations and coops among local beekeepers, who gain strength and government incentives. In the state of São Paulo, beekeepers that are not part of these groups will not survive,” says Arnaldo.
The Supportive Beekeeping Project currently has partnerships with two beekeeping groups that work in the forests in the regions of Mogi Guaçu and Luiz Antônio, benefitting around 25 people, including coops and employees.
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