Romana Sustar reports from the Slovenian Initiative at Conway Hall

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH BEE MIDTOWN, Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia Tadej Rupel and his team opened the doors to the World Bee Day on 21 May 2019. Sold out days in advance, Conway Hall resembled a busy hive of international and local visitors tasting liquid gold from all over the world.

Around 30 countries joined the event introducing their beekeepers, producers, distributors and Beekeeping associations.  The occasion dates back to 2017 when the UN declared 20 May ‘World Bee Day’ at the initiative of Slovenia and the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association. The initiative was supported unanimously by all UN states. The date was selected to honour the birthday of Anton Janša (1734-1773), a Slovene beekeeper and the world’s first beekeeping lecturer appointed by the Empress Maria Theresa of the Habsburg Empire.

“We are delighted by the response and feedback we received. It is especially pleasing to hear that so many of the participants would like to be part of this initiative in the future,” says Ambassador Rupel. “The framework of this initiative doesn’t only raise awareness of the importance of bees and beekeeping, but it also introduces Slovenia –one of the world’s most sustainable countries – actively campaigning to protect its environment, climate, authentic communities and biodiversity.”

Given its pristine nature and its ambition to protect its flora and fauna, it is not surprising that Slovenia is focused on becoming the world leader in the development and innovation of beekeeping. In 2018, the Beekeeping Academy of Slovenia was founded within the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia.

Beekeeping is part of almost every country’s tradition, and all attendees were aware of the need to improve the environmental situation. At the Slovenian stand, products included Medex, founded in 1954 to export honey and supply beekeepers with beekeeping tools and accessories. Today, they also produce food supplements and supply the cosmetic market. Medica, schnapps flavoured with honey, was also on offer.

Janis Kronbergs from Latvia noted that urban beekeeping became popular among younger generations in recent years. Forest covers over half of the Baltic country and is therefore an ideal home for pollinators. “For all your illnesses, a bee will make you a cure,” states a national proverb, noted Dr Branislav Novosedlík, who is proud of the 20,000 beekeepers in his home country of Slovakia.

Mr Djurin’s company, Bee&Well, was started by his grandfather. A Serbian military pilot, he flew over Fruska Gora mountain, fell in love with its natural beauty and decided to dedicate his life to beekeeping and preserving the surrounding natural resources. Just steps away, representatives from the Embassy of Montenegro explained how the Union of Beekeeping Organisations of Montenegro plays a vital role in creating a policy of developing beekeeping in their country. As the top European players for honey production, there are almost half a million beekeepers in Ukraine. Ninety per cent of Ukrainian honey is sunflower honey due to Ukraine’s large sunflower production,” explained Mr Krukun from the Ukranian Embassy.

On the African continent, beekeeping presents the possibility of a sustainable future among disadvantaged families in undeveloped rural areas. Zambia’s beekeepers, represented by Mama Buci, have provided help to families from agricultural, underdeveloped regions for the past decade. In Uganda, beekeeping is an integral part of the rural landscape; it generates additional income for farmers while improving yields through pollination. Farmers need to strategically place beehives to deter large animals like elephants trespassing into vegetable gardens and ruining the hives. Presenting eco-sourced honey from Uganda, Ebrah Ssali was pleased to see a great diversity in the room. “It’s an example of how to be united, and what Slovenian bee diplomacy stands for.”

Across the ocean in the Caribbean, beekeeping is gathering momentum due to its positive implications for climate change. The Belize Jewels brand makes sure that the beekeepers get paid fairly, which helps them to expand the apiaries.

Representatives from Iraqalso joined the event; their thousands of years old tradition continues today.

Hugely popular with long queues, the South American stands were offering honey-based cocktails. “The bees are the flying companions of eagles and condors,” explains ProChile, who are proud of their bee species.

Georgia also had some surprising tales when it comes to the business of bees. During the construction of Baku-Cayhan oil pipeline, the tomb of a noblewoman was discovered by chance. Archaeologists found clay pots containing honey that was approximately 5,500 years old, possibly the earliest example of honey so far.

The attractive Welsh Honey Cluster stand was quick to catch visitors’ attention. In recent years there has been a revival in the popularity of beekeeping thanks to the Welsh Government Action Plan for Pollinators. Wales was the first nation in the world to DNA barcode all of its native flowering plants and conifers, through work led by the National Botanic Garden of Wales. The Aberystwyth University Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences and the Bangor University School Of Natural Science are conducting ongoing research in the beekeeping sector.

There were plenty more stands with equally important information to be shared, including Greece, Poland, Cyprus and Cuba amongst many others, who contributed to the visitors’ unique experience of bee diplomacy.







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