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.   

 

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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.  

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“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.  

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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.  

"We have been to seven communities teaching these courses. This is a way to protect our forest. Although it’s a learning process for the indigenous people, we will continue because in many communities there’s a lot of interest in continuing this training because it’s a way of generating income without damaging the forest, the jungle. And it’s also focused on children, women and older people because you don’t need to make big physical efforts... if you can sell the honey of the bees and buy food with that money then no deforestation is needed."

- Raul Navi

"Bolivia is a country with great biodiversity in flora and fauna. However, this abundant biodiversity is currently endangered by different causes like deforestation, increase of agricultural areas for monocultures like soy, cane, sorghum, etc., pesticide overuse, burnings created for new cattle grasses, gold mining, and other activities often accompanied by environmental and human rights violations.


One of the main reasons that have promoted less diverse and ecofriendly agricultural activities in rural areas, is the absence of new economically profitable prospects in regions distant from main trade centers. Compelling people to focus on non-sustainable activities stimulated by a well-established value chain, like cattle raising, mining, and coca leaf production, which have been strongly encouraged by public policies in recent decades."   

    -Rupa

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"Madidi is considered one of the most biodiverse national parks in the world.  It has different ecological elevations from 4000 to 200 meters above sea level. But this slogan is being more and more forgotten by the government. It’s a problem because they keep bragging about Madidi being the most diverse park, but they are exploiting for gold, trafficking wild animals, trafficking jaguar fur, and building dams. We know that. But for the outside world they say that they are protecting Madidi National Park, but here in Bolivia we know the truth. It’s very serious for us. For the ones that want to work with tourism, for the indigenous people, which were born here, things are turning more and more dangerous.​

For us, the indigenous people, a good life is not a house in the city.  A good life is to live where we were born in a big and healthy land where our families make use of these natural resources for subsisting." 

-Raul Navi

Uchupiamona Community

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Hope is sometimes found in the smallest of places, and in this case, in the tiniest of bees.  

Photos/Video/Text by 

KRISTI ODOM

Conservation Photographer/Filmmaker

Nikon Ambassador

Associate Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers

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Photo by Jen Waicukauski

 

Collaboration is the key to ultimately saving the natural forests,

one pollinator at a time. 

 

To see more of my work please visit my website, Kristi Odom Photo

Contact me by emailing info@kristiodom.com