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20 May - World Bee Day: on the role of bees and other pollinators in agriculture, food and women's empowerment

Rome, 20 May 2019 – World Bee Day is being celebrated throughout the world; the UN General Assembly declared it in December 2017 upon Slovenia’s initiative. This year's main event marking the World Bee Day was organised by Slovenia and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at the FAO headquarters in Rome. Slovenia was represented by Minister Aleksandra Pivec, President of the Slovenian Beekeepers' Association Boštjan Noč, Vice-President of Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers' Associations, Peter Kozmus, and Head of the Beekeeping Academy of Slovenia Damjana Grobelšek. At Slovenia’s invitation the event was also attended by experts and other representatives of the various organisations dealing with bees and other pollinators at the FAO, the Coalition of the Willing on Pollinators and the International Federation of Business and Professional Women. The participants were addressed by Director General of the FAO José Graziano da Silva via video call. The main theme of today's event was the role bees and pollinators play in agriculture and food.

In her address, Minister Pivec emphasised the importance of bees and other pollinators; they ensure food security and vitality of agriculture and are also indispensable from the environmental and economic point of view. "Pollinators are a good bioindicator for the health of the environment, so I am very concerned about the warnings on their endangerment and the decline in the population of bees and other pollinators. There are many factors resulting from human activity that influence them, for instance bees are susceptible to pests and diseases, and their habitat is shrinking due to the rising global population and climate change." Minister Pivec called for joint action at the international level to protect bees and pollinators, as this would contribute to tackling global issues – the transition to sustainable agriculture and the elimination of poverty and hunger in developing countries. 

She drew particular attention to the contribution that beekeeping could make in empowering women in rural areas. "In developing countries, pollinators and free pollination services are essential for a varied and rich harvest. Women play a crucial role, as without their careful management of family income and resources, many families would see their food security seriously threatened." Despite women’s significant contribution, the inequality and obstacles to accessing natural and production resources and knowledge remain a major challenge. The empowerment of women and women beekeepers offers extraordinary development potential, particularly for sustainable agriculture and rural development, and the production of varied, high-quality food. On this occasion, Minister Pivec thanked FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva for his personal support, which contributed significantly to the declaration of World Bee Day. In acknowledgment thereof, he was awarded a decoration by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor; this decoration is to be conferred to him on Tuesday at the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Rome.

FAO Assistant Director-General Bukar Tijani thanked Slovenia for its efforts regarding World Bee Day and protection of bees. He stressed that access to food is a fundamental human right and pollinators have to be protected as they are vital for food production and, hence, the elimination of global hunger. 

President of the Slovenian Beekeepers' Association Boštjan Noč called for bees and pollinators to be declared endangered and for action to be taken against forged honey, suggesting the transfer of knowledge and investment in research be increased; Vice President of Apimondia Peter Kozmus warned that many parts of the world see a decline in pollination leading to reduced agricultural production. 

Head of the Beekeeping Academy of Slovenia Damjana Grobelšek presented the pilot project Beekeeping in Bangladesh, which sees the Beekeeping Academy of Slovenia and their project partners Medex and BRAC transferring knowledge in practice. The objectives of the project include the development of beekeeping to help improve the quality of life of the Bangladeshi families in financial straits and to improve the existing beekeeping technology in Bangladesh. The project partners also pursue a special challenge to refresh the existing genetic material of honey bees in Bangladesh by bringing in the Slovenian honey bee. Currently, training of the selected candidates is in progress in Bangladesh, along with intensive beekeeping with the Carniolan Honey Bee (Apis mellifera carnica) that arrived in Bangladesh in January 2019.

Cleophas Cervancia Rodriguez, the University of Philippines, presented the scientific research on bees and pollinators in Asia, while Josephat Kiemi presented the Tanzanian Beekeeping Villages Initiative, which created 1,700 new jobs for young people.

On the margins of the event, the Minister met with the representatives of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, who had contacted Slovenia and expressed their desire to cooperate. The Federation brings together about 30,000 members from 110 countries and is currently implementing a number of programs concerned with bees and pollinators in America and Africa. They recognised World Bee Day as a project complying with sustainable development goals related to women’s empowerment and therefore want to cooperate in its promotion and celebration this year and for years to come. 


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