Hope can be found in the Smallest of Places
For these Indigenous Amazonian Villages
it may be seen in the Tiniest of Bees
Lack of tourism from the Pandemic hit many places hard, but for Rurrenabaque, the challenges keep coming.
Flights have been canceled, down from daily flights to two a week. In this town on the edge of the Bolivian Amazon that now entails a 10-12 hour drive down some of Bolivia's most dangerous dirt roads, including a section of the Death Road (named for the many lives it has taken). A town once thriving with tourists off to explore one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet now sits quiet.
Logging and mining companies have moved in, contaminating the river that provides nutrients to the indigenous communities that live along the upper Amazon River basin. The river is full of mercury and people whose main food source is from fish are dealing with more illness and the need to find other resources for food. Electricity has been cut off to communities further down the river, with the excuse that money is needed, and the electricity has been sold overseas. Park rangers have had their wages held for months at a time, leading to an increase in animal trafficking and exploitation of the Madidi National Park.
“I think it’s the plan of this government to prevent the airlines from coming here to suffocate us. Because if people here don’t have a job and they don’t see a reactivation, they will end up accepting these irregular exploitations”.
- Raul Navi from the Uchupiamona community
Amid of concerns for the land, the water, and creating sustainable income, communities travel from all over and join together to learn how to protect native bees. These bees are not only responsible for the pollination of 70% of native forests but can also provide income from the harvest and sale of their delicious honey.
An animal sanctuary, La Senda Verde, focused on rewilding Bolivia has reached out to the communities and sent one of South American's leading native bee biologist's to all corners of Bolivia to help teach this sustainable revenue source.
There are around 500 species of bees that belong to the tribe Meliponini (stingless bees).
There are projections that 450 of those species, live in South America.
"Populations of pollinators in Yungas are in fast decline and are under threat due to human actions.
The fragile world of these magnificent creatures has drastically changed, and they are fading from our forests. We are working to bring them back, and it will inspire communities to be part of a beautiful fabric of healing that will emerge."
~La Senda Verde
These trips to the communities, while emphasizing native bees also highlight other pollinators, teaching people how to spot and care for caterpillars.
Professor Oscar Javier Amaya (Rupa) has his degree in Biology at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia specializing in Sustainable stingless bee keeping in Brazil. Since 2018 Rupa has taught rural/indigenous communities from Bolivia and Brazil why and how to preserve native forests, using meliponiculture as a vehicle to renew lost connections between people and their environment, creating new sustainable job opportunities in vulnerable regions.
Stingless bee honey has medicinal properties for eyes.
It acts as an antibacterial and moisturizing agent and has been proven to cure cataracts, pterygium, and conjunctivitis. Although it does sting at first.