The women in the first cohort of the “Women for Bees” entrepreneurial beekeeping programme began their training at the OFA (French Observatory of Apidology) in the Sainte-Baume hills of Provence on June 21.
This month-long training programme enabled participants to acquire the theoretical and practical beekeeping knowledge required to mount and manage a sustainable beekeeping operation. As new entrepreneurs, these women will become members of a worldwide community of women beekeepers, who along with their stocks of bees will strengthen local biodiversity and pass on their own knowledge.
On the final day of their programme, the graduates spent time discussing their work with UNHCR Special Envoy and Guerlain muse Angelina Jolie. Angelina Jolie has spent twenty years working on refugee and conservation issues and has witnessed first-hand the impact of environmental destruction on human security and on local communities. Her Foundation in Cambodia works to conserve the tropical rainforest and wildlife in the Samlot Protected Area. She has funded schools for girls over many years, including in Afghanistan and Kenya, and believes strongly in the power of educating and training women who then go on to share their skills in their communities. During her visit to OFA she met the first cohort of women graduating from the “Women For Bees” programme. She will continue to connect via online meetings with female beekeepers who will take part in future iterations of the training, but who were unable to travel to France on this occasion due to the pandemic.
“Women for Bees” creates an international network of women beekeepers who can share their scientific knowledge and local expertise on the crucial role bees and pollination play in maintaining the planet’s food security. It already includes women beekeepers from Europe and will be extended to China, Russia, Cambodia Ethiopia, and many other countries over the next 5 years to 2025.
“We think of a future without bees as science fiction, but bee populations are declining globally, due to human activity,” said Angelina Jolie. "The implications for our food supply, for biodiversity if we continue on this path, are apocalyptic. As I started to work with Guerlain we spoke often about bees, and then we really started to talk about what could we do to improve the situation – what could we do for both for the bees and also for women. This global sisterhood that is forming with this “Women for Bees” programme is very exciting."