On this World Bee Day, we want to highlight the work of Meli-Bees. We spoke with Founder Ana Rosa de Lima on reconnecting beekeeping ancestral knowledge practices in Brazil’s Amazon.
Special Report by Cristina Ramirez Doval
Founded in 2020, Meli-Bees focuses on the most endangered areas in the Amazon and teaches communities about working with stingless bees, a species that can only be found in tropical and subtropical regions.
Stingless bees are important because of their role as pollinators – by pollinating certain plant species in these rural areas of the Amazon, communities can benefit immensely.
Beekeeping helps people achieve food sovereignty and also make a profit by selling the produce.
In an interview with Meli-Bees director Ana Rosa de Lima, Amazon natives possess ancestral knowledge about beekeeping and other sustainable practices -such as agriculture- that require working with Nature’s cycles.
Due to the advancement of urban and industrial life near their region, the newer generations seem to have forgotten about this or have just lost interest.
“The communities nowadays think that the only thing of value is going to school and getting a job in the city, they don’t think this knowledge is of value because that is what they have been taught to think”, explained de Lima.
This is where Meli-Bees comes in, a nonprofit that works with municipalities Açailândia, Araguaína, Marabá, Baião, Parauapebas, TI Kayapó, TI Mãe María, TI Araribóia and The Legal Amazon in bringing awareness to the best practices for beekeeping.
Currently, Meli-Bees is still in the education and social campaigns phase of their work. However, their long term plan is to teach these practices to the habitants in the region that are unable to find a job in urbanized areas.
“We intend to sell the products of the crops that the bees pollinate, we will help them (the communities) support the commercialization part,” Lima said.
Many of the contributors that are teaching with the organization have already benefited from beekeeping themselves, having sold products such as honey and lotions.
Women are more aware of how much they can gain from these practices.
Since their roles in the community are tied to house chores and childcare, their jobs as beekeepers have allowed them to multitask.
While working in the Amazon and speaking to the locals, de Lima was told that the men in the villages usually leave the home and work industrial jobs. The women stay in the area, and do the work that needs to be done around the house, and outside, such as washing clothes.
Some have always tended to crops but now, even more are doing it due to individual beekeeping in the area.
By allowing bees to pollinate plants, more women are tending to crops and finding useful means for the ones that they can spare.
It is a profitable business model, it encourages them to be independent, creating their own source of income without having to leave their homes in the Amazon forest.
Another way Meli-Bees is creating momentum for bee’s preservation is by supporting local groups already established by women in the area, such as the Quilombola women group. With a similar mission to the one Meli-Bees has, this group of females want to bring back ancestral knowledge -specifically from Black communities- about sustainable practices.
Today’s generation of Amazon habitants simply did not know about working with stingless bees so that they could harvest more crops.
De Lima noted that while they were teaching these younger generations, one of them decided to ask his grandfather how beekeeping needed to be done, and he received all the information he needed, from someone within his own family.
“The knowledge is there, we just bring back interest towards that type of knowledge”, de Lima added.
To learn more about Meli-Bees please visit: https://www.meli-bees.org/
Article Photos Provided By: Ana Rosa de Lima, Meli-Bees