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Harvesting Honey; Harvesting Change

Santon Chen

Santos Chen in Cimientos de la Esperanza, Ixcán, Guatemala

Santos Chen lives in the community of Cimientos de la Esperanza (in English: Foundations of Hope; one of our favorite village names of all time!). Cimientos de la Esperanza is located in remote, northwest Guatemala in a municipality called Ixcán where EcoLogic supports community-led conservation via strategies including watershed management, sustainable agriculture, fuel-efficient woodstoves, and sustainable livelihood development (e.g. honey production).

Five years ago, Santos began producing honey in hopes of finding a sustainable income source for his family (sustainable both in environmental and economic terms). He started out with two hives and received start-up materials and training from EcoLogic. Now, after further investment and growth of his colony, he has 30 hives, and he expects this year’s harvest to yield 25 gallons of honey! Later this summer, Santos will sell his honey for the first time to COPIASURO, a Guatemalan cooperative that specializes in exporting honey to European markets. EcoLogic brought COPIASURO on board in 2014 in order to ensure that the 180 beekeepers involved in the project in Ixcán would have a reliable market and receive a fair price for their honey. So, 2016 will be crucial year for Santos and his beekeeping compañeros (and for us at EcoLogic!) in order to determine just how viable honey production and sale can be as a sustainable income source that promotes both biodiversity and fair trade.

As some of the honey is starting to get harvested, EcoLogic’s Project Técnico, Elmer Urízar, was able to snap a few photos of Santos in action:

scraping honey

Scraping honey collected in the hive. Santos harvests his honey once in March, twice in May, and once in June. By that time, he should have 25 gallons of honey. Each harvest is about a day’s worth of work.

beekeeper opening vat

Santos running the honey through an extractor, following protocols to meet COPIASURO’s standards.

Pure honey flowing from the extractor, getting ready for storage and sale. Santos projects to receive about US $350 for his total harvest. When asked what he plans to spend this extra income on, Santos’ answer was humble, yet still profound: “Grains, corn, beans, and other things for the kitchen. It will help me so much.”

Photos: Elmer Urízar 

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