First Person: The Sweet Taste of Modern Beekeeping

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Ilarion Celestin received support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Haitian Ministry of Environment in the framework of a project against desertification to modernize its honey production.

Celestín spoke to UN News ahead of World Bee Day, which is celebrated annually on May 20.

“Before I was a traditional beekeeper. My bees produced honey in a hollow log, but then the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations helped me move to a modern form of beekeeping with technical training and by providing me with all the equipment, including 18 hives, which he needed to be a professional beekeeper.

We learned to take good care of the bees and now they are healthier and produce more honey and the production is more hygienic.

I love honey, it tastes good, is rich in protein and is also medicinal. My bees produce four different types of honey; my favorite is the one from the flowers of the Moringa tree, which is a white honey”.

UN Haiti/Daniel Dickinson

Thanks to modern equipment and new beekeeping methods, Ilarion Celestin’s annual honey production has increased to 270 gallons.

The bees do the hard work

It’s not hard work, I check each hive twice a month and harvest the honey three times a year. It’s the bees that do the hard work.

My honey production has increased from about two gallons a year when I was keeping the bees the traditional way, to about 270 gallons, and of course my life has totally changed as a result.

I can earn a lot of money. A gallon sells for about $50, so it’s a pretty good deal. The FAO tells us that there is a great demand for honey and perhaps in the future my product will be exported abroad. Right now, I’m selling it locally and in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Now I can afford to send my children to school, build my house and buy a cow.

More and more people are interested in becoming beekeepers, especially since the earthquake in August 2021. I have been trained by the FAO to teach local people and they come to my farm to see how I run my business, so I am running a lot of training sessions. training and I feel good about sharing my knowledge and experience with others. Now there are about 60 beekeepers producing in this area.

These new beekeepers realize that not even an earthquake can interrupt the honey production of the bees, although some of the farmers in my association lost some bees when their hives fell during the earthquake in August last year and of course , there is also the danger of landslides. But overall, it’s a good job for the future.

UN Haiti/Daniel Dickinson

Ilarion Celestin attends to his hives in Bonbon (Haiti).

The challenge of climate change

The main challenge we face is climate change. When we have a drought, the flowers on the trees don’t grow well and there is less water, so the bees have to travel farther to collect nectar and drink water, which means they produce less honey. So I’m starting to plant trees and make sure they have enough water. In this way, I am also supporting the recovery of local forests, which is good for my community, as there is less erosion of the soils that farmers use to grow crops and there is greater biodiversity.
This is good work and it is very sustainable and I am very proud of my honey.”

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