What’s All the Buzz About?

COPIASURO bees 3In 2013, EcoLogic partnered with Heifer International to bring beekeeping to 100 families in the communities we serve in Ixcán, Guatemala.

As a result of this initiative, EcoLogic formed linkages with the Integral Production Beekeepers’ Cooperative of the Southwest in Guatemala (COPIASURO is its Spanish acronym), an award-winning cooperative of fair trade honey producers. This March, EcoLogic’s Guatemalan technical staff was invited to learn more about COPIASURO and to discuss the possibility of partnering with the organization. A partnership would allow COPIASURO’s international resources and market opportunities to support the communities we work with in Ixcán. Dave Kramer, EcoLogic’s Senior Manager for Impact, Learning, and Innovation, joined the field staff in Guatemala for the meeting.

Antonio Gilberto Paz de los Santos, one of COPIASURO's apiculture technicians, shows bees from inside one of the hives.

Antonio Gilberto Paz de los Santos, one of COPIASURO’s apiculture technicians, shows bees from inside one of the hives.

Donning bee suits, Dave and the Guatemala team visited the demonstration hives and toured the processing facility, where they learned about COPISURO’s surprisingly sophisticated processing operation, which produces high-grade honey. The level of humidity, temperature, and ventilation are very important to the health of the hive. If humidity goes over a certain percent, the honey will spoil, lose its nutritious qualities, and not last in storage.

Our team also learned that a queen bee costs about $100 USD—a lot of money for a rural Guatemalan farmer who lives on only about $4 a day! This bee “mega mom” must have the right temperament and the proper genes to ensure that the beekeeping operation is successful.

COPIASURO also works with Cooperativas Sin Fronteras (Cooperatives Without Borders), an organization that helps to develop, strengthen, and integrate agricultural entrepreneurship around the world based on organic agriculture, fair trade, and quality. COPIASURO exports solely to the European Union, which has strict controls on genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Since bees fly to up to five miles away from the hive to gather pollen, all of the Cooperative’s honey is tested in Germany to ensure that no GMOs exist in the pollen.

COPIASURO now has 300 hives and works with 175 farmers, called “Associates,” who together produce 300 metric tons of honey every year! The company was founded in 1987 with funding of just 300 Guatemalan quetzals—equivalent at the time to only $130. Initial seed capital has both allowed exponential growth and built a bridge between rural Guatemalan farmers and a successful fair trade market.

A few of COPIASURO's hives.

A few of COPIASURO’s hives.

Through conversations with the president of the cooperative, EcoLogic was invited to send 14 individuals from seven communities to a beekeeping school, and we were also offered the opportunity to partner with the cooperative to produce and sell honey.

EcoLogic is now determining the next steps and exploring the possibility of establishing a long-term partnership with COPIASURO. We are buzzing with excitement as we explore the prospect of creating a new market in Ixcán where rural community members can sell their high-grade honey on a competitive, international market to both supplement their income and nutrition.

The departments of Huehuetenango and Quiche are situated in the western highlands of Guatemala and cover nearly all of the Cuchumatanes mountain range as well as the lowland plains. EcoLogic works with local partner, the Northern Border Municipalities Alliance (MFN), a coalition of municipalities along the border with Chiapas, Mexico, which we helped establish. The MFN collaborates with communities to manage and restore degraded areas, demarcate and protect water sources, train forest guards, construct fuel-efficient stoves, and promote the adoption of agroforestry practices, among other activities.

Learn more about our project in Huehuetenango.