This article was originally written and published by Partners of the Americas.
On Friday, October 27, Partners of the Americas had the distinct pleasure of hosting Dr. Ethel Villalobos for a presentation on her recent Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) volunteer assignment in the Dominican Republic.
Dr. Villalobos is the Director of the Honeybee Project at the University of Hawaii – Manoa. During her decades-long career of working with honeybees, she has led groundbreaking research on varroa treatments, mite-bee interactions, colony health assessment, as well as hygienic behavior. Moreover, she has also been developing a series of outreach programs for underserved Costa Rican farmers in need of pollination services. In fact, it was her passion for empowering impoverished farmers with practical beekeeping skills, which inspire her to sign up as a volunteer with Partners of the Americas’ F2F program.
In May 2017, Dr. Villalobos and her UH graduate student, Scott Nikaido, traveled to several rural communities in the northeast of the Dominican Republic. The objective of this F2F team assignment was to provide hands-on training to banana producers on the development and implementation of apiculture projects for honey production. As part of this assignment, Dr. Villalobos and Mr. Nikaido worked alongside staff and farmers associated with Banelino, a national association of banana producers. During their visit, the team led multiple workshops focused on production techniques and technologies for honey bees and queen rearing. The volunteers also assisted Banelino by identifying the best set of endemic flowers for beekeeping and ways that local farmers could improve their apiculture management practices in order optimize honey production.
In addition to speaking about her recent F2F assignment, Dr. Villalobos also granted Partners of the Americas HQ staff the opportunity to learn more about the Dominican Republic’s emerging beekeeping sector. According to Dr. Villalobos, there is a serious of challenges afflicting the country’s honeybees. These issues include:
- Hunger - Starvation
- Poor Location Of Apiaries
- Poor Equipment Condition
- Little Understanding Of Bee Management
- Limited Knowledge Of Honey Plants
Despite these obstacles, the Dominican beekeeping community has also made significant strides to improve the well-being of honeybee colonies and the management of income-generating honey production. This success is evident in the number of successful hive operations and the quality of the honey that is being produced across several rural communities in the northeast of the country, such as this one: