Where Beehives Thrive
About 500 million bees were reported dead in the first quarter of 2019 alone in Brazil. And the numbers kept rising. Bees are disappearing all over the world. Agrochemicals, deforestation, diseases, climate change, fires and nutritional deficits are some of the threats and causes of its collapse. Is there a world without bees?
In Paraíba Valley a collective created and led by women is dedicated to beekeeping and agroecology, increasingly affirming their protagonism in environmental and social issues, fighting for their rights and for the right of the land to be cultivated with respect and responsibility.
As the first rays of sunlight appear behind the mountains dispelling the cold morning fog you can soon hear the buzz of honeybees. This is the best time for managing the hive, says Mara. She received her land over 15 years ago, after an unproductive farm was designated for agrarian reform in Paraíba Valley - an important region which connects São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Amidst the mountains of the Atlantic Forest she plants peanuts, manioc, avocado, cambuci and countless other species. As she likes to say, her production is not only organic, it is more than that, it is agroecological. All the environment and its biodiversity are taken into account, seeking not only a good harvest, but also the recovery and preservation of natural resources. Even a spring that was once gone, has returned to gush in her productive lands. Here her bees thrive. Now she shares what she knows with her mates from the collective she helped create.
The Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra known as MST, of which the collective is a part, is a social movement created in 1984 that fights for agrarian reform in Brazil. Their rural communities are spread across the country and in several states they are not only the main producers of agroecological food, but also the main agents of forest recovery and regeneration, especially in the Atlantic Forest and Cerrado biomes. During the pandemic, while the price of rice exploded on supermarket shelves, the MST, one of the largest rice producers in the country, was responsible for donating tons of agroecological food to communities severely affected by the impacts of the pandemic. All this while preparing and planting seedlings as part of a MST national plan called "Plant Trees, Produce Healthy Foods", which foresees the planting of 100 million trees during this new decade, focusing specially on recovering degraded areas.
This movement goes on the contrary of the current Brazilian policy that, in a way, encourages large-scale agropastoral production. For the past couple of years fines for infractions and environmental crimes, such as illegal deforestation and burning, were forgiven and the designation of land for agrarian reform, as well as for indigenous territories and protected areas, retreated. In 2019, more than 350 pesticides were released for use, many of which already banned in Europe and other parts of the world. The year 2020 broke a new record surpassing 490 pesticides and industrial components released for use in Brazilian agriculture.
We have entered the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and it is crucial to talk about soil regeneration and the relationships between sustainable food production, family farming, agroecology, biodiversity and environmental and restoration.