Living in central Iquitos has been an amazing but overwhelming experience. Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city it is easy to forget that we are deep in the Amazon Jungle. When La Restinga informed us about their honeybee project in three communities along the Nanay River, we jumped at the chance to spend a night in the jungle and witness another one of La Restinga's many projects.
We were fortunate enough to visit two of the three communities along the Nanay River where this project has been set up. The first community we visited was in the process of searching for the bees that dwell inside hollow trees. We were graciously invited into a community members home to have lunch. Everyone in this community was friendly and welcoming. After lunch we got back in the boat and went down the river further to the community of Misashanna, where we would be staying. Misashanna is a beautiful little community that houses about 18 families, and we were thrilled to spend the night there.
These communities are so secluded from the busy city life of Iquitos that they have a different way of life, which is quiet and plaseant. However, this seclusion makes it very difficult for these people to support themselves and their families. The honeybee project creates a way for the community to work together, to produce a high-quality product. The first step of the process is for the villagers to find a tree that contains a hive. It is then cut down, and the section with the bees is separated from the rest. The hive is then brought into the community, and the nest is relocated into a box designed to house the hive, with a seperate section for the bees to store their honey. Normally the trees would be cut down and the honey already inside would be all that was gained, a system that requires felling a tree everytime the community needs honey. La Restinga's project makes it so only one tree has to be cut to create a long lasting, renewable supply of honey. Beekeeping also provides the communities with extra honey, which can be sold in markets, thus creating an innovative and evironmentally sustainable income.
We visited Miashanna because the bees nest was ready to be seperated from the tree and La Restinga needed to bring the supplies to teach the women of the community how to start one of the hive boxes. The women are motivated to participate in this project as it offers them an income, and the men have more opportunities for jobs outside of the home. The bees chosen for this project are non-stinging bees, so the process is safe for all those working. The three communities are located in the gateway between Iquitos and all the communities further down The Nanay river. La Restinga chose them hoping that they will pass on the knowledge to the other communities, giving them a way to support themselves. It was amazing to witness a sustainable development project first hand, and we all came out of the experience filled with new knowledge and excited to begin our own project, the rafts.
Words by Nicole Kilistoff