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First Person: Sweet taste of modern beekeeping

Ilarion Celestin, was supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization and Haiti’s Ministry of Environment as part of a project against desertification to modernize his production of honey He spoke to UN News ahead of World Bee Day marked annually on 20 May.

“I used to be a traditional beekeeper. My bees made honey in a hollow tree trunk, but then the Food and Agriculture Organization supported me to transition to a modern form of beekeeping with technical training and all the equipment, including 18 hives, I needed to be a professional beekeeper. 

We learnt how to look after the bees properly and now they are healthier and producing more honey and the production is more hygienic.

I love honey it is good to taste and is rich in proteins and is also medicinal. My bees make four different types of honey; my favourite is from the flowers of the Moringa tree, which is a white honey.

With modern beekeeping equipment and methods,  Ilarion Celestin's annual honey yield has increased to 270 gallons.

UN Haiti/Daniel Dickinson
With modern beekeeping equipment and methods, Ilarion Celestin’s annual honey yield has increased to 270 gallons.

Bees do the hard work

It’s not a tough job, 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 yield of honey has increased from around two gallons a year when I tended bees in the traditional way, to around 270 gallons and of course, my life has totally changed as a result. 

I can make very good money. One gallon sells for around $50, so it’s a good business. FAO tells us there is a big demand for honey and maybe in the future, my produce will be exported overseas. Right now, I sell it locally and in the capital Port-au-Prince. 

I can now afford to send me children to school, build my house and have bought a cow.

More people are becoming interested in becoming beekeepers, especially since the earthquake in August 2021. I was trained by FAO to teach local people and they come to my farm to see how I run my business, so I am leading many training sessions and I feel good to share my knowledge and experience with others. There are now about 60 beekeepers now producing in this area.

These new beekeepers realize that even an earthquake is unlikely to disrupt bees making honey, although some of the farmers in my association did lose some bees when their hives fell over during the quake in August last year and of course there is also the danger of landslides. But, overall, this is a good job for the future.

Famers are supporting the reforestation of land in Haiti by planting trees.

WFP Haiti/Theresa Piorr
Famers are supporting the reforestation of land in Haiti by planting trees.

Climate change challenge

The main challenge we face is climate change. When we have a drought the flowers on trees do not grow well and there is less water, so the bees have to travel further to gather nectar and drink water, which means they produce less honey. 

So, I’m beginning to plant trees and to 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 which farmers use to cultivate crops and there is increased biodiversity.

This a good job and is very sustainable and I am very proud of my honey.”

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