(Domingo Enoc Toma Lopez, a coffee farmer and beekeeper, models a Maya Ixil veil above.)
Beekeeping for families in Maya Ixil, Guatemala
Isabella de la Cruz Medina displays her certificate after completing her beekeeping training with Maya Ixil Cooperative. She is among 13 young people who have joined the cooperative’s beekeeping program and also works as a promoter. (Maya Ixil was recently featured in an NPR story on how communities are adapting to COVID19 and supporting families.)
Nineteen-year-old Isabella de la Cruz Medina first caught the “beekeeping bug” three years ago while helping her father, Maya Ixil’s beekeeping specialist and Food 4 Farmers’ beekeeping program coordinator. She’s now part of a group of young people trained and working as program promoters, while managing 10 hives of her own. Isabella is also studying to become an agricultural extension officer, and has set an ambitious goal of owning 60 bee hives.
Beekeeping gear can be very expensive for beginning beekeepers, so Food 4 Farmers’ partner Maya Ixil in Guatemala has hired two young people to sew protective suits, and build racks and boxes for hives. This new venture not only employs young people who have few opportunities for employment in the community; it also makes beekeeping more accessible to coffee-farming families. Maya Ixil beekeepers can now buy necessary equipment for half of the market price and the two young people have ramped up their business. Every two months, they are able to produce and sell 20 jackets and veils, 10 overalls, 100 racks and 10 bee boxes, while also working as community promoters training new beekeepers.
Justo’s family has struggled to recover since 2013 when coffee rust decimated their coffee production. Then in 2018 a landslide wiped out much of their farm. Justo’s father – a participant in the Food 4 Farmers beekeeping program – headed north to seek work to support the family. As the oldest child, Justo took over his father’s hives and now manages their small farm. He talks with his dad every week by phone, to get advice on managing the bees and the farm, where they now grow cardamom, coffee and food for the family. It’s been tough, but Justo is determined to make everything work while his dad is away. “When I took over the bees, we had just four hives and now I have 18. My dream is to eventually have 100 hives to help provide for my family,” he says.