Beekeeping As a Way Of Empowering Mine Victims
In line with our belief that the greatest things are done in collaboration with a shared purpose, we have teamed up with Beekeeping Academy of Slovenia and Organisation UDAS, a non-governmental organisation that gathers mine victims, amputees, and members of their families to exercise their rights and to integrate its’ members into the community. With this in mind, three members of Organisation UDAS, who are driven beekeepers from Bosnia and Herzegovina and are also landmine and UXO victims, were able to join the three-day training program organised and conducted by the Beekeeping Academy.
The main purpose of the training, which took place this past week in Slovenia, was to upgrade the participants' understanding of breeding of queen honeybees and the process of producing their own bee products. Through practical and individual approach, the participants were able to improve and upgrade their knowledge, which will give them a chance to spread gained beekeeping knowledge among other members and friends back home.
At ITF we are glad to have been able to enable the participation of beekeepers, as we recognize its enormous opportunities for empowering the personal lives of these individuals. Not only is beekeeping beneficial for our environment as it is the key to the conservation of biodiversity, but it is also a great way to establish a stable household income for vulnerable social groups as it requires minimum start-up investment, but it has significant importance with respect to psychosocial rehabilitation. By including mine and UXO survivors in the process of producing bee products, they are given the opportunity to be part of a community where they can connect, socialize, and share experiences.
Željko Volaš, who has been working in activities focused on supporting mine victims for more than 20 years, has said that out of all activities, beekeeping has proved to be the most fulfilling for mine victims. As one of the participants has said, “Ovo nije hobi, ovo je ljubav” (“This is not a hobby, it’s love”), their aim is not only to empower mine victims, but also give them a common hobby in which they come together, educate one another, and most importantly have fun. The first aspect is still psychosocial. For now, more than 40 members of the organisation are already involved in beekeeping but lack proper knowledge. By conducting a series of workshops and improving their expertise, they will hopefully one day be able to establish their own cooperative where they could sell their own products such as honey, propolis, beeswax candles, etc.
We believe that this pilot project represents the first milestone in our much larger mission, within which we aim to reach other countries as well and we are pleased we have the support from everyone involved. “It’s more than just an ordinary project, as it is also about social responsibility and for a really good cause. At the same time, our goal is to spread Slovenian beekeeping knowledge, which is considered one of the best, abroad. So, we couldn’t be more excited about future steps,” said Ariana Ferfila, the Head of Beekeeping Academy of Slovenia.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the funding and the generous support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea. We are hopeful that this is more than just a project, but really a start of a beautiful cooperation that can cross borders and become a truly lifechanging story for everyone involved.