Beekeeping: an unexpected lifeline in Paraguay

July 8, 2020

Indigenous communities have lived in the Gran Chaco region of Paraguay for centuries. And for most of that time, families had lots of ways to earn a living. They hunted, fished, ate local fruits, consumed local honey and made crafts. This lifestyle was largely possible because they could move freely across the vast region. It wasn’t an easy way of life, but it gave these families a high level of resilience. If there was a drought or disaster, for example, they could move to another area and other livelihood opportunities.

Then the borders and fences started going up.

Much of the land fell into the hands of corporate and private landowners. Over time, that freedom of movement went away. The indigenous families were forced to adapt. While they still do some fishing, hunting and gathering of local fruits where they can, they are also cultivating vegetable gardens and raising livestock. Some community members work in nearby towns, when there is one close by. With support from Growing Hope Globally, CWS and our local partners are supporting families as they pursue these new activities. (This story tells you more about gardens in these communities.)

Part of this program includes beekeeping. Honey has been in families’ diets for generations, but raising bees is a relatively new practice here that we’re helping families pursue. By the end of 2020, our goal is to help 75 people in 10 communities in Paraguay take up beekeeping. We’re helping them learn about bee-raising, honey production and marketing. 

These communities faced prolonged drought in late 2019, which took its toll on crops and pastures. And then a dengue outbreak and the coronavirus pandemic added extra challenges in early 2020. We’ve heard from the communities that the beekeeping was a lifeline during these challenging times. Families sold honey to non-indigenous neighbors and earned vital income that they could use to meet their basic needs. 

We knew, of course, that the honey would help families add to their income and ultimately build resilience. We never imagined that we would see it make a life-changing difference so quickly, though. Join us in 2020 as we reach more families.

All photos courtesy of Pastoral Social Benjamin Aceval.