A sweet alternative to preserving tropical dry forest

This publication is also available in: Español

Translated by: Ariana Hernández

It’s 10:10 a.m. on a Friday in September. The sun sets over a farm located in the Paso del Mono Aullador (Howler Monkey Passage) Biological Corridor on the outskirts of Canas.

Daniela Robleto, 26-year-old entrepreneur CanasHe points me where we must walk while using the nobility of the only shadow we can find.

At first glance, we don’t fully appreciate it, but when we look closely, we see several green and white boxes in the distance. They are home to thousands of bees and the real reason we are here.

Daniel found it in the bees a method of obtaining material advantage from nature while conserving natural resources.

Founded in 2021 Miela, a bee honey brand inspired by the biodiversity of the tropical dry forest, and the first initiative with the seal of the Paso del Mono Aullador Biological Corridor. This award is given by the local committee responsible for the corridor. its design is in line with the corridor’s goals to serve as a connection point between ecosystems.

He graduated from Earth University Guacimo campus in 2017 as an agricultural engineer and has since returned to his hometown of Kanyasa with one idea: to use what he learned to be part of the sustainable development of his community.

University education has always been about being a local agent of change, but to go back to the reality of a rural area where there are very few opportunities, I think that’s quite a challenge.” Robleton explains as we walk down the path that leads us to his apiary.

Despite the difficulty of returning to Canas, after a few months Daniela started producing organic bells together with two other producers to sell throughout the country. However, they could not continue the project due to production costs.

Nevertheless, it was in these cultivated fields that his fascination with the work done by bees blossomed.

“I observed that the lives of plants and their pollinators are so closely related that they cannot live without each other. I said, ‘Well, what if I start developing a different enterprise that’s related to the type of environment I’m in to get differentiated products from the ecosystem?'” Robleto adds.

Smokers should be used to calm the bees when inspecting the hives of apiaries.Photo: Rubén F. Román

More than satisfying the palate

Bees are the invisible hand of nature, says Daniela as she prepares to open the 20 hives on the property. He has 20 more on another farm.

It is a silent reality as Daniela comments: Bees pollinate 70% of the 100 plant species that provide 90% of the world’s food.This is stated in the information of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In other words, the food on your plate probably got there thanks to these insects.

Each bee collects enough pollen for both its own food and the needs of the hive. A single bee can visit thousands of flowers in a day, collect nectar and pollen, and spread the granules on other flowers.

Now Daniela lights the smoker with coyol seeds. The device emits smoke and helps reduce bee flight and stinging behavior. A good part of them even leave the place for a moment.

Then we put on a protective suit and Daniela continues to open the lid of the hive.

Immediately audible buzzes create the first rush of adrenaline that is hard to explain. The endless number of bees that begin to surround us are both scary and completely peaceful.

This time, Daniela limits herself to checking her hives and showing them to me. At other times, he collects the honey he collects in the production room, where he packages it for later sale from home.

Two years ago, Daniela founded Miela, a beekeeping business that uses the bounty of the tropical dry forest.Photo: Rubén F. Román

Harnessing the power of bees to benefit forests

Daniela chose the Paso del Mono Aullador Biological Corridor as the ideal location for her project. The corridor covers part of Cañas, Abangares and Bagaces and is the key to connecting the tropical dry forests of Guanacaste.

Besides having a rich floral diversity, the main purpose of corridors is to provide connectivity between protected wildlife areas, landscapes, ecosystems and habitats, ensuring the maintenance of biodiversity and ecological processes.

Paso del Mono Aullador is just one of them 44 biological corridors across the countryNational Program of Biological Corridors created by the System of National Protected Areas (Spanish abbreviation: SINAC).

But there is a whole socio-economic dynamic within them. They are not like protected wildlife areas, which are mainly devoted to conservation and research. People live in corridors and much of the area they cover is private.

Steven Fernández Cabezas, an agricultural official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), explains that the threats facing this biological corridor overlap with those of bees.

“In short, the main problems currently affecting these insects and the corridor are climate change, pesticide use and wildfires,” he said.

Despite the difficult conditions for the ecosystem, Fernandez believes that beekeepers are great allies in protecting and sustainably benefiting forests.

“Sustainable development consists in the fact that we can use resources without exhausting them and without affecting future generations,” the expert adds.

Robleto explains that he wanted to focus not only on the products that bees give us, but also on those around him to try to protect it.

“I wanted to help against these threats to ensure the survival of not only the forest and the bees, but also ourselves,” he said.

According to the 2022 National Beekeeping Census of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, there are 1,749 apiaries in Costa Rica.Photo: Rubén F. Román

Integrate the community

One of the questions he always asks himself when he decides to start a business is how to start if he doesn’t have a farm or a large place to house the hives.

“One of the limitations of rural youth is access to land. “Land ownership is not in the hands of young people or women,” says Daniela.

Frustrated by the situation, Daniela decided to approach two farmers from Canas.

“I talked to them not only for my benefit, but also about the ecological importance of bees to their farm. They agreed to lend some of their land after explaining to them a little more about what pollination does in itself and what the conservation project for these native flora species in Guanacaste is all about,” he said.

According to Fernandez, this type of contract is very common among farmers in this ecosystem.

“People who agree to lend their land can benefit from the pollination of their trees and more biodiversity on their farm, and in turn the beekeeper can benefit because the honey will be produced here,” he said.

According to the 2022 National Beekeeping Census of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, there are 1,749 apiaries in Costa Rica.Photo: Rubén F. Román

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